IPL 2013: Crucial tournament for Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir

It is imperative that Virender Sehwag (right) and Gautam Gambhir (left) get the runs in the IPL, a performance that would tell the selectors that they mean business and are far from finished © AFP

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, the once feared opening partners, find their cricketing career at crossroads. Both men have lost their Test spots, with Sehwag losing his one-day berth as well. During India’s rise to the summit of the Test rankings and their build-up to the 2011 World Cup, such a scenario would have been unimaginable as they often laid solid platforms. However, their fight and skills are now under test as they chart out a comeback — the 2013 Indian Premier League (IPL) being their first shot at redemption.

The IPL will not help them get back into the Test side, but a good performance here could do wonders to their confidence. Gambhir has already stated that the tournament isn’t a comeback platform, but its importance cannot be understated. It certainly provides a platform and there is more visibility when compared to other domestic tournaments. Shane Watson’s brilliant performance in the inaugural edition fast-tracked his comeback into the Australian one-day team and he hasn’t looked back since.

Sehwag will come into IPL season six with less pressure on his shoulders. Mahela Jayawardene has taken over the reins of captaincy and that allows the Delhi dasher more freedom. Knowing Sehwag’s typical uncomplicated mindset, the responsibility wouldn’t have affected his batting as such. But, with that gone, there is always a sense of a lighter load.

IPL 2013 will help Sehwag plot a comeback into the Indian one-day side. His last T20 International was during the ICC World T20 2012 and his last One-Day International was against Pakistan in December. India’s first assignment after the IPL is the tri-nation tournament in the West Indies and Sehwag should target that. If he can replicate his form of IPL 2012, he would be a serious contender for a berth for that tour.

Back-spasms have ruled Sehwag out of the first game and Delhi have to wait for him to enter the field of play.

Gambhir is still in the mix for the one-dayers, but needs to rediscover his fluency and form. In the last few ODIs, he has gotten off to starts, but failed to convert them into significant scores. During the IPL 2012, he unleashed a previously unknown side to his batting. The usually stable but attacking Gambhir shifted gears and was more aggressive. He combined that streak with his ability to stay in the middle to anchor numerous innings for Kolkata. His efforts were a major factor in Kolkata’s title triumph.

Coming into the latest season, Gambhir will continue to carry that air of dependability around him. Kolkata have good batsmen to back him, but Gambhir is their trump-card up front. The pressure on him may be a little more this time with the expectations sky high after the last success. In the past, he has always thrived under pressure and has the temperament to get through. Indian fans would hope the tentative prods outside the off are a thing of the past and that he plays with his natural flourish.

The Indian selectors have sent a clear message in the recent past — perform or perish. Gambhir and Sehwag are tested performers and cannot be written off. It is imperative that they get the runs in the IPL, a performance that would tell the selectors that they mean business.

(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)