Virender Sehwag and Delhi Daredevils are in a big slump © AFP
Virender Sehwag and Delhi Daredevils are in a big slump © AFP

 

By Jamie Alter

 

Virender Sehwag is aware of the thin line separating success and failure: “Half empty or half full; a cover-drive for four or disaster. Praise will come when you do well. So, be prepared for brickbats when you fail. You are learning from both. Success prepares me well for the failures,” he once said when asked if he would consider changing his maverick ways.

 

Currently, Sehwag and his Delhi Daredevils (DD) are in a big slump. The team languishes at the bottom of the league table, with one win from four matches, and it has been a disappointing run for Sehwag. He has only managed 72 runs at 18.00 and has struggled to get starts.

 

For all his greatness in Test cricket and success in one-day cricket, Sehwag has remained an average Twenty20 batsman. In 14 Twenty20s for India, he averages 24.07 with just two fifties. As a strike-rate of 153.43 indicates, he doesn’t waste much time. In all Twenty20, Sehwag averages a marginally better 25.86, at a strike-rate of 158.88, and with 11 half-centuries. Those numbers just don’t add up to arguably the most devastative batsman since one Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards.

 

Considering his swashbuckling ways, it’s odd that Sehwag has been unable to strike fear in opposition bowlers in Twenty20 the way he has in Tests and ODIs. It is almost as if the lesser the time, the harder Sehwag tries to hit and that has resulted in muddled innings. When playing for India, Sehwag has rescued his team out of many a hole, but not so in the IPL. And that is hurting DD badly.

 

Twenty20 doesn’t lend itself much to analysis, but what stands out is the half-hearted ways in which Sehwag manages to dismiss himself. It is rarely a good ball that gets Sehwag out. He doesn’t seem to be enjoying batting the way he does in Tests. In Delhi’s first match, against Mumbai Indians, Sehwag found himself playing out a maiden over against Man-of-the-Match Lasith Malinga in an attempt to shield the newcomers. He succeeded in playing out six scoreless balls, but was run out moments later attempting a risky single off the fourth ball of an over when, considering DD were 27 for two. A bit more watchfulness wouldn’t have been amiss. Sehwag knew it too, looking skywards and shutting his eyes before he trudged back to the dugout.

 

Against Rajasthan Royals, Sehwag cracked his first ball for four and then hopped back and slashed at the second to edge to slip. Thirty-seven off 23 balls followed as DD ultimately chased down a stiff 188. But, again, after getting a start, Sehwag perished to a half-hearted shot – that too against Jesse Ryder.

 

In the last match, against Deccan Chargers, Sehwag slammed three consecutive fours and then, trying to blaze his way out of a slump, slashed one to cover. It was frustrating to watch because having just hammered three boundaries he could have afforded to not chase that particular delivery.

 

So what’s gone wrong? Sehwag’s story is he’s been playing in the same fashion for 12 years and isn’t reading too much into his form and his team’s woes. If that is the case, his recent slump isn’t a very big deal and he could still come back as strong as ever.

 

But Sehwag’s poor run of form in the IPL isn’t a new matter. In the 2009 edition in South Africa he managed just one half-century. He then decided to step down from the captaincy having led Delhi to two semi-finals (2008 and 2009), with the team qualifying for the inaugural Twenty20 Champions League. The idea was to relieve some pressure and find form with the bat.

 

In 2010 he was the team’s highest run scorer, but only managed three half-centuries in 14 matches. Overall, DD were very poor in IPL 3. Then Gautam Gambhir was bought by Kolkata Knight Riders and Sehwag was the only player retained by DD. He had to become captain again. It clearly isn’t working.

 

As one of only two batsmen – fellow opener David Warner the other – who have played for DD previously, Sehwag has a responsibility to lead the new-look side out of trouble. Until Sehwag finds form, DD will struggle. Such is his impact. It is still early days, what with DD having ten matches to play, but getting Sehwag to peak form is their biggest test.  

 

(Jamie Alter is a freelance cricket writer, having worked at ESPNcricinfo and All Sports Magazine. His first book, The History of World Cup Cricket, is out now. His twitter feed is @jamie_alter)