The Nawab of Najafgarh’s crown is slipping. The imperious displays that saw him scale numerous summits seem a distant memory as Virender Sehwag has struggled big time. Consistency has been hard to come by since 2011, and the axing of his opening partner Gautam Gambhir has only brought added pressure on him.
During the ongoing series against Australia, Sehwag has looked scratchy in his three outings. Sehwag has started wearing spectacles while batting, which indicates failing eyesight. And that is something very critical for an instinctive player like him who batted and destroyed attacks around the world with his unique style of aggression. History is replete with examples of men who have found it difficult to adjust to play with glasses or contact lenses. Rodney Redmond is a case in point; his inability to come to terms with contact lenses cost him a promising career.
As discussed in a previous article, Sehwag’s returns in Test cricket since the 2011 World Cup have been similar to that of Gambhir. To make matters more interesting, their respective records during the series against England were near identical. Yet, it was Gambhir who was axed, while Sehwag was handed another lifeline. Perhaps, the fact that Sehwag can turn matches on its head worked in his favour. The fact that Gambhir didn’t score a Test hundred in three years probably went against him.
The selectors took the brave call of dropping him from the one-day side and they showed they could make such decisions. However, with the Test side in transition, dropping a senior player — one who has played over 100 Tests becomes a difficult proposition. At the same time, they have to keep the future in mind and groom youngsters for the role. The selectors would be tempted to play either Shikhar Dhawan or Ajinkya Rahane in the remaining two Tests.
There is a clamour for blooding a youngster in the two Tests ahead of the South Africa tour. It wouldn’t make sense to hand a debut to an opening batsman in South African conditions. Rahul Dravid’s views perfectly illustrate the point. He told ESPNcricinfo, “I think it makes sense to try out another youngster, or try out another opener, and give him the opportunity to play at least a couple of Test matches in more familiar conditions, before going to South Africa. I think it will be unfair on any young opener to be asked to go to South Africa straightaway, and play against the likes of (Dale) Steyn, (Vernon) Philander and (Morne) Morkel.”
What this means is that the decision on Sehwag has to be taken right now. Axing him after the Australia series will do no good as a youngster would be thrown in the deep in South Africa. The team management might give Sehwag an ultimatum before Mohali Test, should he be played. If he finds a place in the squad, the third Test could be his major examination and he might play for his place in the side. In case of a failure, a new face may come in for the final Test. That too may not be enough for the youngster to blend in ahead of the South Africa tour. Another pertinent question: Are the selectors ready to take Sehwag to South Africa irrespective of his returns in this series?
In 2006-07, Sehwag went through a very rough patch and lost his place in the side. There was a lot of talk about his failing hand-eye coordination, but he fought his way back and regained his slot with fantastic performances. In his late twenties then, he had age on his side. At age of 34, Sehwag may not have a lot of cricket left in him and his fitness hasn’t been encouraging. Time is running out for Sehwag and blazing performance is the need of the hour.
(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)
First Published: March 7, 2013, 10:01 am