The speculation has ended with the selectors dropping opener Virender Sehwag from the Indian team for the next two Tests.
As soon as the news broke, the response through his Twitter account came that he is in no mood to call it quits in the format he has enjoyed astonishing success at the top of the order.
Emotions can neither question the decision nor its timing though. At international level, players are expected to perform or they run the risk of being left out. Interestingly, the Sandeep Patil-led selection panel resisted the urge to name a replacement making intentions clear that current form will take precedence, keeping in mind the all important tour of South Africa, coming up later this November.
Sehwag will turn 35 then; a dangerous number, adding pressure to the lack of runs and support the inclusion of younger players who consistently score runs at the domestic level. While it is not the first time Sehwag has been dropped, at this juncture, he will find it hard to make a comeback, with aspersions over form, fitness and more importantly motivation.
The 'Nawab of Najafgarh' as he is popularly known had earlier lost his place in the one-day side against England, after a prolonged slump averaging a mere 21.70 with the bat in One-Day International cricket in 2012, his lowest ever in a calendar year since 2001.
The lean form followed him in Tests too with a lack of big scores. The right-handed batsman accrued just 892 runs in 17 Tests since 2010, the last century coming against England in the first Test at Ahmedabad after two years.
The reason: being unable to capitalise on early starts and the mode of dismissals followed a similar pattern. In the 30 Test innings during the two year span, pace bowlers clean bowled him five times and induced an edge for the wicketkeeper four times, while slow bowlers breached his defense on five occasions.
This points to a clear trend that he is unable to negotiate the good balls and his defence is on the wane. The once so strong hand-eye coordination to judge the length of the ball has become vulnerable. Only Sehwag will know if the pattern of dismissals has anything to do with his eyesight, now that he wears spectacles.
Having aggregated just 198 runs in eight Test innings in Australia, Sehwag’s home record took a beating too. Out of the 23 Test tons scripted by Sehwag, 13 were scored batting in home games. Only Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar and Rahul Dravid have scored more centuries in India.
As a result, India’s enviable home record suffered and they lost their first Test series in eight years on the home soil. Sehwag's omission comes after his long-time opening partner Gautam Gambhir lost his spot due to poor form.
So, where does Sehwag go from here? Rather than sulk about the exclusion, the 34-year-old can hope to do a Sourav Ganguly. One must also remember that Indian selectors have the ability to spring surprise as they did in 2006. Having missed the entire home series against England as well as the West Indies tour, he left-handed batsman was recalled for the South African tour the in 2006-07, after a gap of 10 months.
Bein the big impact player that Sehwag is at the top of the order, he often attacks the frontline bowlers and scores runs at a rapid pace, not only giving a good platform for the middle order to get scores in excess of 400 runs, but also change the momentum of the game in the fourth innings while chasing targets.
This break may well turn out to be a blessing in disguise, giving him an opportunity to iron out the flaws in his batting and take time off away from the constant scrutiny. In addition, the Indian Premier League commences next month, and a good show with the bat can keep the selectors interested.
It is still early to say if Sehwag is finished but being out of the Indian team in all formats of the game, he is at the mercy of the selectors.
© Cricket World 2013
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