The crushing defeat at the hands of the Australians was soon correlated with MS Dhoni’s move of keeping Virender Sehwag out of the team. The conventional and social media are abuzz with mockery, ridicule and criticism of the decision. Arunabha Sengupta writes why it is preposterous to assume that Sehwag would have definitely made a difference.
In the aftermath of disasters, everyone suddenly becomes wise. And obviously, the one bold move carried out takes the shape of the biggest blunder that is apparent to everybody.
Hence, as the Australian team played distinctly better and thrashed India by nine wickets on Friday, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s decision of leaving Virender Sehwag out of the playing eleven was variously criticised, mocked and ridiculed by the Indian cricket followers, including some rather big names.
Suddenly it seemed that keeping such a destructive batsman out of the team is the height of stupidity, inexplicable error and a sign of arrogant complacence.
Even respected cricket voices joined the chorus, commenting that Australians would have been happy not to be dealing with Sehwag first up.
Come on! One does not expect criticism to be rational, but do we really have to be so fact-blind?
It is quite significant that Akash Chopra, former opening partner of Sehwag, was incensed enough by these reactions to tweet, “(The) thing about such a defeat is that whoever didn't play in the XI suddenly becomes the best player in the side.” Adding the hashtag #ficklefans. As a cerebral analyst of the game it is no wonder that Chopra feels stifled by the largely ignorant sensation-seeking voices that clamour in the chaotic sound-space of Indian cricket.
Let us turn our attention to the man in question, forgetting for a while of the 309 he scored at Multan in 2003-04.
Sehwag has played three Twenty 20 Internationals this year, and has scored 35 runs at 11.66, with a highest of 23. In the 17 T20I matches he has played in his entire career, he has crossed fifty just twice. The second and last half century was scored way back in 2009. His average reads a paltry 21. He has played Australia five times in this format, managing 41 runs at 8.20. The two occasions he played against them this year brought him four and 23.
While his highest score against Australia in T20I remains 23, the last time he had scored a half century against them in an One-Day International was six years ago, in 2006. Besides, the recent Test series Down Under – in which he scored at 24.67 – is still very much fresh in the Aussie memories.
Only four members of the Australian team that played on Friday had started their careers when Sehwag had scored his last T20I half century.
In view of all these, is it not preposterous to claim that he would have turned the game on its head for India and the Aussies were thankful not to see him opening the batting?
The modern cricket world is smarter than that. Given his performance in every format in recent times, every team would fancy their chances against him.
Not only has he been unproductive with the bat for ages, he bowls less and less with time and, never quite the greyhound, he has not really become faster with time. Would teams really be worried if he played? I have my doubts. I would not be surprised if whispers suspiciously sounding like “blast from the past” are heard around the wicket as the fielding side prepares to bowl to him.
Criticism of the Indian captain is unavoidable. There are entire livelihoods that are earned that way. And then there is the increasingly important matter of social wellbeing in the form of the red pop ups of Facebook ‘likes’ or the “RT” count on Tweeter.
Yet, don’t such facts merit even a cursory check?
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)