Sehwag begins middle-order audition with quick fifty
A leaner Virender Sehwag emerged to play for Delhi in the Challenger Trophy, batted at No. 4, and scored only his second fifty since being dropped by India in March this year. The runs he scored - 59 off 38 balls, treating the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, R Vinay Kumar and Piyush Chawla with scant respect - are incidental. Sehwag made two statements: like Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh he has come back fitter, and more importantly he might have finally made his mind up to present himself as a middle-order Test candidate, something he said he wanted to do even when he was at the top of his powers as a Test opener.
A big crowd built around noon at Holkar Stadium in Indore with the prospect of watching Virat Kohli and Sehwag batting. There was disappointment in store when Sehwag didn't come out to open. Further disappointment arrived when Kohli went chasing a wide delivery in the third over, and edged it through.
At 7 for 2 out came Sehwag, beginning what looks like a longish audition at No. 4. In attendance was chief selector Sandeep Patil, sporting the mo' and rat-tail that is the trademark of Sehwag's replacement as Test opener - Shikhar Dhawan. After this Challenger Trophy, the clean-shaven and follically less-blessed Sehwag has two first-class games against West Indies A and the start of the Ranji season before the selectors pick India's next Test squad.
Albeit against an average attack, Sehwag came out with most of his trademark strokes intact. The first three balls he faced - from Bhuvneshwar - were typical Sehwag: a driven four through cover to widish delivery, a cut to third man for two, and then a flick through midwicket. Then came Vinay for his dose: a cut for four and a loft over extra cover for six.
The crowd in Indore was getting post-lunch delicacies, and it made its pleasure known through loud cheering. Sehwag pushed their vocal limits with shot after shot of authority. The run-out of Unmukt Chand didn't slow him down, but a familiar foe soon turned up: spin. Sehwag decided Chawla and Iresh Saxena were not to fit to bowl to him, and fell to Saxena after taking 19 runs off 11 balls of spin.
He was down the pitch, beaten slightly in the flight, but went ahead with the drive, and provided Saxena a return catch. It was an interesting end because he will have to face a lot of spin - at least in India - if he wishes to move down the order.
Delhi lost by 18 runs with 13 balls still to go. Will Sehwag be thinking a little more discretion against spin might have won them the game? Will he be thinking a little more discretion against spin might help him in the future if he indeed wants to be an India middle-order batsman?
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo