Can Virender Sehwag find his way back from wilderness?
Virender Sehwag seems to be a pale shadow of the player that he once was © PTI
As India-discard Virender Sehwag faces an uphill battle against poor form and fitness issues by trying to slug it out in the domestic circuit and get some runs to his name, the heart goes out to a man who was not very long ago one of the mainstays in the Indian batting line-up. From his triple-hundreds against Pakistan (Multan, 2004) and South Africa (Chennai, 2008) to his explosive double-hundred against the West Indies (Indore, 2011) in a One-Day International (ODI), Sehwag’s current predicament looks a stark contrast to his glory days of yore in the Indian team when he literally used to pick apart the opposition bowling thanks to his destructive stroke making and prodigal hand-eye co-ordination. Vineet Varma takes a look at what Sehwag can do to make it back into the Indian team and probably even provide the much needed catalyst that he desperately needs to kick start his golden career towards a glittering end.
India were facing Pakistan in the first Test of the ‘Friendship series’ in Multan in 2004 and maverick opener Virender Sehwag was on the verge of creating history by becoming the first Indian batsman to score a triple century in the longer format of the game. Sehwag was on the crease batting at 295 and was facing the crafty Saqlain Mushtaq who was playing his last ever Test series for Pakistan. While most men on nearing such a landmark record would have preferred to slow things down and ease on towards it with carefully picked ones and twos, Sehwag showed why he exactly was a special talent as he treated Saqlain with disdain and slammed a six over long-on to reach his triple hundred. To add to the near-absurd approach, he had also hit a six to reach his hundred, and a few months back, he had got out in an effort to do the same while trying to reach his double-hundred.
Thus was born the legend of Sehwag and Indian fans had a new hero who they could probably worship alongside the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, and Sourav Ganguly. Such audacity and daredevilry when you are inches close towards a milestone became Sehwag’s hallmark and more such knocks followed from his blade. Sehwag went on to establish himself as one of the pillars of the Indian batting thanks to his virtuoso performances over the years and joined the ranks of the others in the pantheon of great Indian batsmen.
Another triple-hundred followed against Graeme Smith’s men in the drawn Chennai Test in 2008 when Sehwag hammered 42 fours and five sixes in a knock that had fans cheering on for more whereas history was created against the West Indies three years down the line when he slammed a fantastic 219 and became only the second player after Tendulkar to score a double hundred in ODIs.
So what went wrong with Sehwag who has such a multitude of records against his name and now finds himself on the fringes of the Indian team short of runs and confidence? His situation is such that forget even the regular Ranji Trophy bowlers seem to have sorted him out: his abysmal recent record (224 runs from nine matches) in the domestic tournament bears testimony to that.
To add more worries to his already burgeoning woes, Sehwag has become myopic and wears spectacles while batting which may be another factor contributing to his wretched run with the bat as it may have affected his hand-eye co-ordination. Though selectors have ignored him for the Asia Cup 2014 and he is not even anywhere close in the T20I selection radar, does this mean the end of the road for him since he is already 35 now?
That, however, is far from likely. In all probability he still has a good couple of years at least to prove his mettle and can probably take inspiration from the man who he adores most, Tendulkar, who had retired at the age of 40 after breaking almost each and every batting record under the sun. Sehwag is a batsman who relies more on his hand-eye co-ordination rather than the use of the feet to good effect like Tendulkar used to, and though things may look bleak in the present moment for him still a good knock here or there may do wonders to his sagging confidence levels. With the ICC World Cup 2015 in Australia and New Zealand still very distant on the horizon, Sehwag can still get his act right and try to push for a place in the Indian team considering that he scores runs by the bagful in the domestic circuit.
And that may only happen if he puts aside all worries about his poor form and eyesight problems by turning a deaf ear to whatever criticism he is copping up at the moment. His biggest inspirations apart from Tendulkar may of course be Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj; as both men have faced adversity far greater than the dashing batsman and have brilliantly come out trumps by battling aside the odds.
Zaheer, who has a history of breaking down on a consistent basis thanks to his fragile body has made umpteen comebacks for India over the years and has shown all and sundry that he still is not a finished product as of yet; Yuvraj, on the other hand battled cancer and came out trumps in a victory which symbolizes the indomitable nature of the human spirit.
So as this article ends there is no doubt in the writer’s mind that Sehwag can brush aside all questions of his age and ‘fading’ reflexes back into the shadows and himself emerge from what may be one of the most testing periods of his great career. And of course apart from the Ranji Trophy there is a lot left on the plate of the Sultan of Najafgarh, starting off with the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 which may just prove to be the ideal platform for him to rediscover his lost form.
And if Sehwag indeed does go all guns blazing for Kings XI Punjab (KXIP)and justifies his INR 3.2 crore price tag in the annual extravaganza then a call up to the Indian team once again may not be a distant dream at all!
(Vineet Varma is a writer at Cricket Country. He can be followed @Vinfire19)