Just over a week ago, Virender Sehwag was ruled out of the Champions League T20 after straining his ankle during a Super Eight game in the ICC World T20. However, in a sudden change of events, he was declared fit and soon flown to South Africa to join the Delhi Daredevils. Will this hasty return cause problems, yet again? Karthik Parimal expresses his thoughts on the issue.
India’s openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag have two things to worry about – form and fitness. While Gambhir’s form post the 2011 World Cup depicts a sinusoidal waveform, Sehwag’s report card reveals a steady decline. However, injuries have perhaps had a role to play in the latter’s downward spiral. After the 2011 World Cup, Sehwag chose to postpone a shoulder surgery as he intended to lead the Delhi Daredevils in the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The repercussions of that decision are well known. Sehwag missed the West Indies tour and a considerable leg of the English series. Post that IPL, he averaged 30.60 in Tests, 36.76 in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and 16.20 in T20s. If his knock of 219 against the West Indies is discounted, the average in ODIs falls to an appalling 21.58.
Now, 18 months later, Sehwag finds himself at the same crossroads yet again. Just a few days earlier, during the Super Eights clash against South Africa in the ICC World T20, he strained a ligament in his left ankle and left the field, and was hence ruled out of the Champions League T20 (CLT20), since it was reported that the injury could take at least two weeks to heal. However, just four days prior to the commencement of the main round of the CLT20, Sehwag has been declared fit, because the MRI scan has apparently revealed no signs to be worried about.
This situation is also reminiscent of the time post the forgettable Australian tour that took place earlier this year. Sehwag suffered from a back spasm, shoulder pains and migraines, and yet took field during the IPL 2012. He played all matches except one, and ended the tournament with 495 runs under his belt at an average of 33. However, he requested the selectors to rest him during the Asia Cup, a tournament in which India failed to make the final after a loss to Bangladesh. There were just 12 days between the conclusion of Asia Cup and the commencement of IPL 2012.
Sehwag’s decision to participate in the IPL 5 despite not having fully recovered took many former cricketers by surprise. Navjot Singh Sidhu openly stated back then that the onus was on the Board of Cricket for Control in India (BCCI) to come clean on Sehwag’s injury. But the BCCI chose not to respond. This time, too, the board has refrained from commenting on the opener’s decision of taking part in the CLT20, stating “The BCCI has nothing to do with it. It is a franchise tournament and it is for them to take a call.”
But who’s to blame if Sehwag’s injury, god forbid, resurfaces during the course of the tournament? Moreover, the probability of that happening is high considering there was little time given for the ankle to heel. With a major series against England hardly a month away, is it worth the risk? Sehwag will no doubt cop the blame from all corners if things go haywire prior to the selection of the squad for the series, but can the BCCI afford to wash its hands off the issue? India were faced with a similar predicament a year ago, just prior to the tour of England, and later suffered the repercussions of fielding inexperienced openers.
Currently, there are quite a few things at stake for Sehwag. While it’d augur well for India if he strikes form, considering how quickly he can turn matches on its head, the fact remains that he’s looked far from threatening since the last few months. Captains would still prefer having an out-of-form Sehwag in the side, primarily because he is feared by the opposition. But if his fitness deteriorates, then it certainly becomes a little hard to justify his position in the side, considering the fact that Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan have made strong statements with some emphatic performances in the Duleep Trophy. Ajinkya Rahane is not far behind either and must be waiting to carve a niche for himself on the world stage.
Moreover, Indian openers during recent times have continued to flounder irrespective of the format, and this is one area that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. The last thing India needs before a hectic home season is make-shift openers and uncertainty at the top of the order. A break from the inconsequential CLT20 would have done Sehwag a world of good, but it now remains to be seen if this stint proves to be a boon or a bane for him in a month’s time.
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/