Nowhere to hide
Nowhere to go, nowhere to hide and more of the same to come, the Indian team is in disarray and maybe, just maybe, this will be the catalyst for change.
Sehwag’s was the seventh name to be read out when the Test team for the three-match series in South Africa was announced in Delhi on Thursday. Usually, his is the second after skipper Rahul Dravid.
If the pecking order on the chief selector’s team sheet reveals little about the fortunes of a player, then being sacked from India’s third most high-profile posting must rankle even the carefree and free-spirited batsman.
Sehwag is still the deputy to Rahul Dravid in the one-day team and will lead India under the tutelage of Greg Chappell in the Twenty20 game and the final ODI against South Africa at Centurion. But VVS Laxman’s elevation as vice-captain of the Test team must be treated as a memo to Sehwag.
Chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar made it clear on Thursday that no player must take his place in the side for granted. With a wealth of experience in leading South Zone and Hyderabad in first class cricket, Laxman is more than a capable vice-captain to Rahul Dravid. But read between the lines and it is clear that the team management and the selectors want Sehwag to find the match-winner in him again.
“If you look at his past 25 games or so it is clear that he has not been at his best. Hence it was decided to relieve him of the post of vice-captain so that he can concentrate on getting his form back up to the mark. He should realise that much more is expected from him in terms of runs,” a selector told DNA.
Sehwag has not had the best of runs since the West Indies tour, where he scored 97 and 95. His batting card reads 9,8,1,10,9,17,65,0,18 in his last nine innings.
But more than the numbers, it has been his inability to dominate bowlers and give India a great start at the top that has upset the Indian applecart. It has also been noted that he is repeatedly playing with too much abandon with very little returns. Fifty three games without a one-day hundred in spite of opening the innings and having all 50 overs at his disposal.
With fellow Delhi opener Gautam Gambhir finding a place in the Test squad for South Africa and Mumbai opener Wasim Jaffer already in the team, the clamour for the spots at the top of the batting order in Tests will be more vigorous than ever before.
The recent move to make him bat down the order in one-dayers didn’t yield any heartening results for the team or for Sehwag.
Never afraid to play his shots (he reached his triple hundred, the first by an Indian, with a six) or speak his mind, trying to rein in Sehwag can be a fruitless and counter-productive exercise. His approach to batting is as simple and effective as it is incomprehensible at times. What is loud and clear, however, is what the selectors implied in Delhi on Thursday. Shape up or else …
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