An Open letter to Virender Sehwag expressing anguish and disappointment

Virender Sehwag © AFP

Dear Mr Sehwag,

 

I write to you as a fan of the game and a fan, more pertinently, of your refreshing approach to batting. At a time when India badly needed impact from the top order, you, not a natural opener until then, changed the dynamics of opening back in 2001. The philosophy of “seeing off the new ball” changed to “see ball, hit ball”.  Your irreverent aggression won many fans in Australia, even former greats like Ian Chappell, and that is one heck of a ‘certificate’ for a cricketer to receive, if I may say so, because the Australians applaud a great cricketer.

 

With this warm opening, I must regretfully inform you that I now find my fandom severely tested. Lately, it appears as if your prowess in firing verbal volleys has surpassed that of putting away the juicy half volley on the field. As you can probably tell, I am not an old fart. I don’t really disapprove of some verbal gamesmanship or “mental disintegration” as Steve Waugh put it. But I am perplexed and aghast to see that your verbal volleys now target me, the fan.

 

Let me draw attention to parts of your recent statement after India lost the Border-Gavaskar Trophy: “Now is the time we need the support from fans and everybody. They should back their own team. Which [is what] every media did. Even England media or Australia media or South Africa media, they back their teams. They criticise in such a manner that the player will not go down. They criticise their performances but they don’t criticise in such a manner that the team will go down when they read the articles and see the television.”

 

Is it just me or do I hear you grumbling a bit there? Mr Sehwag, the fans will support the team and have supported the team. That is why they turned out in droves through the 90s when India was a mediocre-to-decent team and no more, relying on home series to shore up its records. But you seem to demand and urge that we back the team, and that makes me a bit uncomfortable.

 

I should hope you have not taken the fan for granted or presumed his support to be your birthright. The fan will wait patiently for the team to bounce back…but his patience is not infinite. I hope the Indian team and the cricket establishment have observed and learnt from the story of Indian hockey.  Once the top sport in India, it has been in the doldrums for a long time. Because, after some time, the fans just go away and find something else to watch.  Back then, that something else was cricket.  It may be football, it may be tennis, it may be Formula One.  Or…nothing. India is not really a sporting nation, which you should bear in mind.

 

Interestingly, then too, in some quarters, the decline of Indian hockey was blamed on astroturf with the implicit assumption that on grass, the Indian team was still invincible. Now why does that sound so familiar?

 

Because you seem to have a similar view about the whole business of winning abroad?  At least, your statement suggested as much.  Here we go again:

 

“We also won 2-0 in India.”

 

Yes, Mr Sehwag, and I am sure you are aware that from 1990 or so onwards to the present day, India has lost precisely two series at home – against South Africa in 2000 and against Australia in 2004. So while I commend and applaud the team’s performance in that home series against Australia that you refer to, it is – to put it bluntly – no great shakes. We thought you were the No.1 ranked team in the world? Oh, but I guess we had forgotten that you guys don’t care about rankings. Something you have so admirably proved in these last two away debacles.

 

In saying this, let me add that I agree with the thrust of your argument: that every team has a tougher time abroad and Australia too did not give a good account of themselves in their last two visits to India. But now is not the time to bring that up, Mr. Sehwag. The fans want to know what exactly went wrong and what do you propose to do to avoid a repeat. Why was the combination persisted with so rigidly even as the team floundered in match after match?  Why does it always seem to be too early to find replacements for the ageing seniors? On that count, all you have given us so far is deafening silence. What you gave us instead is exactly what we didn’t want to hear.

 

Mr Sehwag, I was watching the men’s semi-final of the Australian Open 2012 between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray the other day at the Rod Laver Arena, with the legend himself in the box. You may or may not be aware of this, but the heavy baseline domination of recent years has been the subject of much criticism by those who lament the ‘death’ of serve and volley. On winning the semi-final clash in a five-hour epic, the exhausted Djokovic apologised publicly to Laver for not volleying because “they didn’t know how to and were trying to learn”.  That, Mr Sehwag, is called humility in victory as those humble words were of the world No 1.

 

The least that was expected of the Indian team was humility in defeat, not insolence, whingeing and cribbing. I sincerely hope that you will take these defeats to heart and work on connecting with those half volleys better. Your verbal volleying skills, if I may say so, will not win you too many fans.

 

Yours faithfully

 

Madan Mohan   

 

(Madan Mohan is a 26 year old chartered accountant from Mumbai. The writing bug bit him when he was eight and to date, he has not been cured of it. He loves music, cricket, tennis and cinema and writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake. He also writes a blog if he is not feeling too lazy at http://rothrocks.wordpress.com/)