June 16, 2007

A summer without Sehwag.

It's not as if Saurav Ganguly or Sachin Tendulkar has been dropped. It's only the floundering Virender Sehwag. And in many ways, it's not too different from when Pakistan drops Shahid Afridi. For whenever Pakistan drops Afridi, the reaction is, he's young enough to make a comeback. Which he does. To be dropped again. To make yet another comeback.

It's ironical that not too long back, Afridi after one of his drops whined that his game was very similar to Sehwag’s, only Sehwag (Veeru) had been handled far better by Indian cricket - and that's what made him produce better results. Q.E.D.

Off late though Veeru has not produced those better results. While Afridi's equity in Pak cricket rose, Veeru’s nose-dived. While Afridi tossed a coin to decide what form of cricket to play, Veeru continued to be tossed around.

It didn't help matters that more often than not, Sehwag had the gift of the garbled - whatever he said was misconstrued. Often what he didn't say was also misconstrued. He erred in backing his old captain and taking on the new coach. And when all that blew over somewhat reluctantly, for once, he backed the right horse - his new captain.

But that too was not incident free. Sehwag became so loyal, he even squealed about a misdirected sms to his latest mentor. And while it’s easy to blame technology, it was getting even easier to blame Virender Sehwag.

He all but lost it in South Africa. And even though he played a cameo in the 1st innings of the last test (as a middle order batsman) being promoted to open again, backfired in the 2nd innings – India lost the test and with it the series. Sehwag had the makings of a fall guy. He was ready to fall.

But somehow he didn’t. He made it to the World Cup. But in spite of a hundred against Bermuda, his cricket world started to fall apart. He was dropped from the tests v/s Bangladesh, but played in the ODIs on Rahul Dravid’s behest.

Few cameos and disappointments later, Virender Sehwag now finds himself sidelined from the England tour, from both teams.

As if preempting the announcement, Sehwag tried many a last ditch effort – he appeared for his employers in loony noon June matches. Followed by his new mantra-chirping avatar for the farcical Asia vs. Africa series. Do these games count?

Strangely they do in a player’s international averages. But in games where Shaun Pollock plays solely as a batter, and the Kenyans and Zimbabweans, and some obscure South Africans make the numbers – is anybody going to take Sehwag’s nearly there 50s seriously? That too, when he threw it all away in nonchalant Veeru fashion. Who cares if he’s striking at 100+, he didn’t make the big hundred that MS Dhoni did.

So now Dhoni, who also had a dismal World Cup, but has performed better off late, is Dravid’s deputy for the one-dayers. And yesterday’s vice captain is today’s vice.

Looks like it’s going to be a long summer without Sehwag. And India sans Veeru might just have a longer one. Because, like him or lump him, there’s this indefinable quality that makes him, if not a great player, very close to one.

To use numbers and averages make it too simple. The argument is clear – how can you drop an opening batsman with an average of 50 (rounded off) from the test team. That too, when he strikes better than every player in the team – including MSD.

Logic has never been the selectors’ strongest suit. Too often one-day bloomers translate into a test drop and vice versa. Ask Mohammed Kaif. For heaven’s sake, ask Virender Sehwag.

And if one has to find fault with Sehwag’s one-day form, then you are turning a blind eye to his strike rate of 97. Or for that matter, Yuvraj’s less than consistent career.

How else does Adam Gilchrist get away with a similar average–strike rate combo to that of Sehwag’s? One team’s merry meal is another’s diet coke. And while Gilchrist’s off days go unnoticed as Australia hardly lose – they can revel in the knowledge that Gilchrist has in him a magical innings that can win them the World Cup.

Meanwhile, India is oblivious that only 2-3 of the present lot (Sehwag, Yuvraj, Dhoni) can win games single-handedly. The others can play second fiddle or watch from the third row in the dressing room in awe.

Look around the cricketing world and there are few players as prolific as Sehwag. Being impatient with him is one thing. Dropping him now, is a case of better late than never.

So, what will the Indian team be without Sehwag? For one, it’ll be a lot duller in the dressing room. And on top of the order.

The new openers, whether it’s Jaffer, Gambhir, Karthik, or Uthappa will find it difficult to pull off a Sehwag. What, even Sehwag can’t do that kind of thing anymore.


Soulberry said...

Well said gaurav. Those are the words I used in the rather "involv ed" discussions over the past two years and more.

He needed patience but crazy things happened. Afridi may be right you know!

Naked Cricket said...

and now, afridi down, sehwag's up. i'd like to hear boom boom's take on the latest.