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Is there a way back for Virender Sehwag?

Last updated on: March 8, 2013 22:32 IST

Is there a way back for Virender Sehwag?

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can ill-afford to just give up on this swashbuckler. Virender Sehwag needs to be given one more a chance, at least in the middle order, says Harish Kotian.

Virender Sehwag's exclusion from the Indian Test team was hardly a surprise. His decline was rapid over the last couple of years and it came to such a point that he left the selectors with no alternative but drop him despite the team registering comfortable back-to-back victories against Australia.

The dashing opener is going through the worst phase of his career. Not only has he struggled to score runs, but failed consistently at home too. The latest axing could well turn out to be the final one of his career.

All of Sehwag's big scores have come at home, or Sri Lanka and Pakistan, where conditions are pretty much similar.

His Test score of 319 was scored against South Africa in Chennai in 2008, while his other triple century (309) was against Pakistan, in Multan, four years earlier.

Two of his four hundreds were scored in India, while he registered one each in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

His highest score outside the sub-continent is the 195 against Australia, in Melbourne, in 2003, while his second-best is 180, against the West Indies, at Gros Islet, in 2006.


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Plundering hundreds at home has become a rarity

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In the past, Sehwag made up for his moderate showing overseas by plundering big hundreds on familiar pitches at home. Sadly, now even that has become a rarity.

Soon after being dropped, he was quick to quash all rumours about retirement with a Twitter post that read: 'Will continue to work hard for my place in the team. I trust my game and am confident that I'll be back.'

But is there a way back for him?

The selectors have made their intent clear by not seeking a replacement. Which means, another Delhi batsman, Shikhar Dhawan, will probably get a chance to prove his worth at the international level following a fantastic domestic season.

Murali Vijay erased all doubts about his opening slot with a timely century against Australia in the second Test in Hyderabad and cemented his place.

Interestingly, Ajinkya Rahane could also be another option to open the innings if Dhawan or Vijay don't live up to expectations. He was touted as one who could take over the opening slot before being suddenly considered for the middle order. But, in the midst of all this confusion, he is cooling his heels in the dressing room for almost a year or so now.


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Sehwag's century on debut was at No 6

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Thus, the only chance of Sehwag returning to the side is if either of them fails to fire, and the selectors decide to bring in an experienced player for the difficult tour of South Africa later this year.

But hold on.

Sehwag has another option to stage a comeback, and that is force his way into the middle order, though that will require long hours of practice in the nets and gym, something that has helped Sachin Tendulkar defy his age and continue playing at his best despite his reflexes slowing down considerably in the last couple of years.

Before he started opening for India, Sehwag played his first five Tests in the middle order. Don't forget, he hit a century on debut against South Africa in Bloemfontein in November 2001, batting at No 6.

He was promoted to open only because that was the only slot available then. It is a different matter that the move yielded instant results, as he started with a top knock of 84 against England at Lord's in 2002 in difficult conditions before hitting a century in the next Test in Nottingham.

With Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman having quit last year, and Sachin Tendulkar in the last few laps of his career, India is desperately short on experience in the batting department. Sehwag's presence in the side can prove beneficial.

He is 34 and still has a few years of cricket left in him. He had openly expressed a desire to play in the middle order in the past and the switch could be a chance to prolong his career.

'No, not in this team because, you know, we have a very good middle order; so when they retire then I'll think about it. It depends on the combination, and who's the captain, and who's going to retire,' he had said in Adelaide last January.


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Realistic possibility of Sehwag coming into the middle order: Dravid

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Former India captain Rahul Dravid, who played a lot alongside Sehwag, and is now a keen observer of the game since retirement, is of the view that the middle order option can be explored.

'If they are going to look ahead, I think there could be a realistic possibility of Sehwag coming into the middle order. You know if opportunities open up at some stage, maybe Sachin is going to move on, then I think Viru is the man with the experience to be able to come in and bat in the middle order. He has said in the past that he would like to, and that could be an option,' he said.

Of the 103 Tests Sehwag played, India had a success percentage of 40.78, with 42 wins, 27 losses, 34 draws. Without him in the side the success percentage dropped to 34.78.

Certainly, India can ill-afford to just give up on this swashbuckler. He needs to be given one more a chance, at least in the middle order.

This snub could well see him take his cricket seriously and return a fitter and better batsman.


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