Will Sehwag save India with another special in Adelaide?
Virender Sehwag doesn't need to look anywhere for inspiration when he leads India in the fourth Test against Australia. His persevering innings the last time he played at the Adelaide Oval, says Bikash Mohapatra, is enough to give his batting the fillip it desperately needs.
Virender Sehwag must be a worried man. He has enough reasons to be.
The flamboyant batsman's poor form in the ongoing series Down Under is cause for concern for him and his team. And before he could find a way out of the same, he was handed an additional responsibility.
MS Dhoni being banned for a Test -- owing to Team India's poor over rate in Perth -- means, come Tuesday, Sehwag will lead the squad in the fourth and final Test in Adelaide.
If the swashbuckling opener's form was a worry for Dhoni (himself out of form) in the first three Tests, all of which Team India went on to lose by considerable margins, the pressure accrued to an underperforming team will worry Sehwag in the next few days.
Additionally, there will be the pressure of trying to stop his team from suffering a second straight whitewash overseas -- Team India was thrashed 4-0 by England not long back.
As things stand, at present, no matter what explanation is given by the management for the dual disasters (in England and Australia), it won't appease even the staunchest (and totally biased) Indian fan.
Sehwag's recent record overseas is disappointing
Sehwag, who more often than not gives Team India a flying start, has flattered to deceive in the ongoing series.
Save his 67 in the first innings of the opening Test in Melbourne, the opener's subsequent run of scores would put even his own record to shame.
Have a look yourself. Sehwag's contribution to his team's cause in his last five innings has been thus: 7, 30, 4, 0 and 10. In the three Tests so far, he aggregates only 118 runs (@ a paltry 19.66). How the team has suffered as a result needn't be said.
What is more worrisome is the fact that this is the third successive series overseas where the 33-year-old opener has underperformed. While he failed to assert his authority during India's tour of South Africa at the start of the year, scoring 144 runs in three Tests (@ 24.00), he was a disaster in England.
Having missed the opening two Tests for not being fully fit, Sehwag was drafted to an injury-hit Indian squad for the final two Tests. He achieved a king pair in the third Test at Edgbaston -- for the first time in his career -- and scored precious little in the final Test at The Oval.
Where is the consistency?
It is not only overseas that Sehwag has underperformed. His form otherwise isn't spectacular either.
The veteran has not scored a Test century on home soil since November 2010 -- when he made 173 against New Zealand at Motera. In the series against the West Indies, preceding the ongoing tour of Australia, he did get a few starts but couldn't convert any of those into a significant score.
In fact, last year was a failure in totality for Sehwag. He aggregated 384 runs in sevens Tests (@ 29.54), a measly figure considering he opens the batting.
A failure to adapt to the conditions and bat as per requirement can be attributed as reasons for the drop in form. Many argue that there is only one way how Sehwag can bat, and that is being aggressive and dominating the opposition.
But isn't Test cricket all about adjusting to the situation and playing accordingly? Any player can, and should, control his personal whims for the benefit of his team, more so, if his style of play is not producing the desired results.
Adelaide can serve as an inspiration
Sehwag doesn't need to look anywhere else for inspiration. His persevering innings the last time he played at the Adelaide Oval is enough to give his batting the fillip it so desperately requires.
Flash back to January 2008, when Sehwag was dropped from the Test team after a forgettable 2007. He missed the opening two Tests (which India lost) before being drafted into the squad on incumbent captain Anil Kumble's insistence.
The opener justified his captain's faith by scoring 63 in the first innings of the fourth and final Test in Adelaide. However, it was his knock of 151 in the second innings that was quintessentially anti-Sehwag.
The batsman curbed his natural aggression considerably, batting with great control and occupying the crease for six hours to score a century that was patience personified.
That innings not only saved the match for the team, but also marked a renaissance in his Test career. In the three years that followed, Sehwag scored runs aplenty -- 1462 in 14 Tests (@ 56.23) in 2008, 631 in six Tests (@ 70.11) in 2009 and 1422 in 14 Tests (@ 61.83) in 2010, winning the ICC Test player of the year in the last instance.
Captaincy is no curse
When he leads Team India on to the field in Adelaide, it will mark the fourth time that Sehwag will take over the captain's mantle in a Test match. And if one goes by his record, he has done a commendable job.
In his previous three Tests as captain, he led Team India to wins on two occasions -- by 259 runs against Sri Lanka at the Sardar Patel stadium (Motera) in December 2005, and by 113 runs against Bangladesh at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium (Chittagong) in January 2010.
The only other instance when Sehwag captained India -- in the second Test against New Zealand at McLean Park in March 2009 -- the match ended in a draw. Which means, he is yet to lose a Test as captain!
The burden of captaincy has, to an extent, affected Sehwag's batting -- he aggregates only 173 runs in his six innings as captain. On a positive note, though, in his last Test as captain (against Bangladesh) he made useful contributions with the blade, scoring 52 and 45, in leading his team to a resounding win.
A lot at stake
However, Sehwag's unbeaten record will be up for a serious Test in Adelaide, against a supremely confident and rampaging Australian side.
In his lone Test in charge on this tour, his team risks the ignominy of suffering a series whitewash, coming close on the heels of the disaster in England. Not since the 1999-2000 series (under Sachin Tendulkar's captaincy) has Team India been blanked Down Under.
Sehwag's responsibilities are two-fold
The 33-year-old has the task of not only galvanizing a demoralized team but also leading them from the front, by focusing on getting his own form (simply put, scoring runs).
Should India avoid defeat in Adelaide, Sehwag will keep his unbeaten record as captain intact.
And should India lose, what would be their eighth straight loss on foreign soil, rest assured, Sehwag won't look for excuses like his many predecessors.
Sehwag, the captain, is known to be blatant leader, who is neither afraid to take criticism on himself nor will defend any of his players who underperform.