On the apparent, discarded opener Virender Sehwag’s prospects of returning to the national fold looks bleak. The selectors have already made their preferences clear -- youth.
Moreover, the newfound pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay has made the right notes, and though their alliance is still nascent, the selectors are likely to give them a long rope. Then there is Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane. And at 34, with slowing reflexes, a comeback looks less likely for Sehwag.
Most former players including Geoff Boycott reckon he is past his use-by-date. “It’s tough for him, as the new openers have done well recently and he is clearly out of the selectors’ favour. He was not even in the probables’ list for the Champions Trophy and the A tour to South Africa. That said, never say never with Sehwag,” opined former India Test opener Aakash Chopra.
But Sehwag is no stranger to comebacks. Twice has he riposted from setbacks, and both rather convincingly. After debuting against Pakistan in 1999, and failing, he was in the lurch for two years before returning for the limited-over series against Zimbabwe. Two matches later, he picked up three wickets and a quick-fire half-century to herald an exciting career.
However, six years later, on the back of a fallow patch in South Africa, he was again dropped. But exactly a year later, he made a remarkable comeback—warmed up with 29 and 43 in a low-scoring match against Australia in Perth and followed it up with a gritty 151 in Adelaide.
But five years later, after the worst patch of his career, Sehwag was axed midway through the Australia series. Rightly so, since in his last eight Tests, he scored only 408 runs at a middling 31.38, with a highest score of 117. In six ODIs, in the same period, he scored 183 runs at an average of 30.5.
Though many experts reckon his days are over, Sehwag is rigorously working with his coach AN Sharma. “You just cannot keep him out of the team for too long. He will bounce back. He is really hopeful of making a cut for the tour of South Africa," Sharma stated.
Sure that India would draft in a third opener for South Africa, but unless Sehwag sets the domestic circuit ablaze, he would be left in the cold. “Definitely, they will take an extra opener to South Africa, but Sehwag’s chances of making the cut is not very bright. Then there are others like Rohit Sharma. But if Sehwag can hit a few double hundreds, he might return. Let’s wait and watch,” Chopra reckoned.
Sehwag, meanwhile, is fine-tuning his technique, especially his known vulnerability to short-pitch bowling. “Although I do not find any fault with his technique, we are still working to improve on this area,” said Sharma. Former chairman of selector and player Kiran More, too, believes that the doors are not entirely shut on Sehwag. “If somebody is unfit then Gambhir or Sehwag, or (even) Zaheer, can walk in. You need experience on tough tours,” More said recently.