Slump in form proves costly for Sehwag
Given his sustained dip in form, Virender Sehwag’s axe was imminent, a sort of no-brainer for the selectors. But as with the removal of any athlete of his lofty standing, it couldn’t have been an uncomplicated decision to arrive upon.
The apex for judging any player is the present, and even if the criteria be the recent past, Sehwag’s place in the side seemed more questionable with each of his compressed outing. Correlation doesn’t necessarily connote causation, but since his shoulder surgery in 2011, Sehwag’s ability to contribute, let alone define matches, had been diminishing. And one needn’t wear specs or seek an optometrist to detect the conspicuous.
The Birmingham Test seemed a precursor as he picked the first pair of his career and since has tallied an unflattering 29.73 in 28 innings. The hundred against England in Ahmedabad was his only three-figure in that span, apart from sporadic sparks of his folksy genius, as against the West Indies and in Melbourne and Adelaide against Australia.
If his exclusion was long overdue, his 27 runs from three innings against Australia provided additional evidence. Sure Sehwag would consider himself unlucky in the first innings in Chennai, when the ball bounced inside the crease and dipped to dislodge the leg-stump bail. He was caught at slips in the second innings, unusually edging an off-spinner’s benign offering. His against-the-instinct approach didn’t help in Hyderabad, and his reluctance to leave the crease after nicking to the keeper suitably portrayed the sort of strife he was in.
The selectors would have also ruminated on the future — the South African tour later this year. Had Sehwag been persisted with in the remaining Tests against Australia and if he still didn’t score runs, they would be facing an awkward scenario when drafting the team for South Africa. They can’t go with an experienced but out-of-form opening batsman to counter Dale Steyn and Co. And they can’t straightaway throw in a rookie like Shikhar Dhawan either. Murali Vijay, too, is alien to those conditions. Hence, the practical way out was to drop Sehwag, give Dhawan (Ajinkya Rahane, too, has an outside chance) the debut in Mohali and see how they deal with the pressure. In case, he pathetically falls short of meeting international standards, they have the fall-back options of Gautam Gambhir, who creamed off a hundred for India A against Australia, and Sehwag himself.
But then Sehwag’s returns in South Africa aren’t inspiring. In eight Tests, he aggregates 25.46, and his only hundred came when batted at number six, in his debut Test. Reverting him to middle-order isn’t a quick-fix solution either, as has been suggested in various circles and he himself has expressed a desire. It could have been a pragmatic decision had Virat Kohli failed. But with the middle-order showing signs of stability, more so with Mahendra Singh Dhoni also batting up the order, Sehwag wouldn’t fit into the middle-order scheme either.