Virender Sehwag smashed his first hundred in over two years to set the tone for India in the big Test series against England. It wasn’t the typical Sehwag knock – one that is full of intent and exuberance – as he mixed caution with his typical aggression to get the runs on the board. Despite the contrasting approach, he managed to score quicker than a run-a-ball and raced to his ton. There were those belligerent strokes, but one could see that he was showing better application and cutting out the risks – something that one wouldn’t associate with a player like him.
For almost two years, the once prolific Gautam Gambhir-Sehwag partnership has struggled to give India good starts on a consistent basis. During India’s surge to the top of the Test rankings, it was their remarkable consistency that helped set foundations for a number of victories. Their very decline coincided with India’s steep fall in the Test rankings with the ignominious defeats in England and Australia. The pressure was evident and the selectors’ move of including two back-up openers in the squad showed that the management was concerned – perhaps a step away from taking a tough call.
Arunabha Sengupta, CricketCountry’s Chief Writer, pointed out in one of his recent articles that since July 2011, the Sehwag-Gambhir partnership has averaged only 31.06 – which is more than 20 short of their overall figure of 52.69. What was alarming was that the 31.06 was a sharp fall from their average of 60.69 from 2008 to May 2011. In overseas conditions, it got even worse as they averaged a paltry 13.60.
Keeping these numbers in perspective, the opening partnership of 134 on the first day at Ahmedabad is a huge boost for India. The duo needed to spend time in the middle and that is exactly what they did. Gambhir in particular was dodgy and worked hard in the middle. While Sehwag picked up pace as the innings progressed, Gambhir was circumspect and cautious. One can say that it was much needed given the numbers presented above. The best way to get back into good touch is to spend time in the middle. You may have to work hard, but runs under the belt always gives one confidence the next time one walks out to bat.
Interestingly, Sehwag’s last Test hundred was at Ahmedabad – against New Zealand in November 2010. It came in a year when India was doing well and defending their No 1 status. Personally, Sehwag too was in good form and had scripted a number of remarkable knocks through the year. Things are a lot different this time around. India are in a transition phase with the retirements of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. One doesn’t know how long Sachin Tendulkar would continue and the youngsters Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli are gradually establishing themselves in the Test line-up.
In such a scenario, India desperately required their established and experienced openers to fire. It not only helps set the tone, but would also help the youngsters settle into their respective roles. India need that experience to steer the ship through this transition phase and the good thing is that both have a few good years of international cricket ahead of them. Having recorded a good partnership in the first essay of the series, it is imperative that they maintain the intensity and regain consistency. Perhaps, this is the start of redemption.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)