By Kushan Sarkar
Gurgaon: Mar 18, 2013
They have walked in together at the start of the innings on innumerable occasions but on Monday, at a nondescript ground called Teri Oval, long time opening partners Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir began the second and inarguably the toughest innings of their cricket careers.
While MS Dhoni's India were inching towards a 3-0 series win over Australia, Gambhir and Sehwag, clad in their yellow Delhi jerseys, were getting ready to chase down a 161-run victory target against Punjab with not even 100 people in attendance.
This was a battle not to chase down a stiff target but to save their international careers which have been affected by 'Cyclone Dhawan' and 'Operation Vijay'.
Nearly five years of stupendous success, one could have hardly imagined that both will be in their cricketing gears but around 450 kms away from Mohali where they would have ideally liked to be.
So how was their performance on the day? On paper, certainly impressive as they added 76 runs in a little more than eight overs with Sehwag cracking 36 off 26 balls, including five boundaries, and Gambhir anchoring the chase with a 54-ball 68.
Looks like good preparation for IPL but there's more to that.
Beyond the numbers, their performance certainly wasn't something to write home about. Sehwag started by lifting seamer Sandeep Sharma over mid-on for a boundary but the next couple of fours were streaky shots.
Sehwag was playing without those spectacles but the manner of his run-out will again put questionmarks on his casual approach.
Trying to steal a quick single, Sehwag didn't bother to either ground his bat or enter the crease as Punjab glovesman Chandan Madan whipped off the bails in a flash.
Gambhir, was scratchy from the beginning. Even medium pacer Siddharth Kaul was able to hurry the left-hander into his shots with short-pitched stuff as he was never in control of his pulls. On two occasions, the 'butter fingered' Punjab fielders dropped dollies.
In fact on the second occasion, Gambhir's slog off Rahul Sharma's delivery was dropped by long-on fielder but the batsman didn't even go for a single. The only time he looked in his elements was when he smacked two sixes over deep mid-wicket.
Great players will tell how difficult it is to motivate oneself in the confines of domestic cricket having 'been there and done that' at the international level.
Gambhir and Sehwag at times did look out of place while fielding. As the other Delhi boys were wearing DDCA caps, Gambhir was seen in a Red Bull cap (he's a brand ambassador) and Sehwag in a red baseball cap.
It will be one hell of a battle to get back to the national team as an opening pair. One can only hope that Viru-Gauti duo has what it takes to prove Sunil Gavaskar wrong.
First Published: March 18, 2013, 7:33 pm