India A v WI A, 2nd unofficial Test, Shimoga, 2nd day October 3, 2013

Gambhir and Sehwag fail for India A

The hosts' two batting stars tried to force the issue too early against spin and perished as they looked to make an impression on the selectors

A distinct lack of patience cut short the start of what Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir must hope is a road to an India comeback. Gambhir was bogged down at the start of the innings, survived because what he had edged was a no-ball, and just went after the first sign of spin to hole out in the deep. Sehwag didn't stay long enough to get "bogged down", he didn't have to wait for spinners, and was out stumped trying to square-cut.

VA Jagadeesh and Abhishek Nayar, two different batsmen inhabiting a completely different state of mind, scored half-centuries to take India A to within 66 of avoiding the follow-on after West Indies A ended up with 406 and then reduced the hosts to 114 for 3.

For Jagadeesh and Nayar, Miguel Cummins and Fidel Edwards were quite possibly the quickest men they have faced. For them there is no end in sight, they are not looking at anything they want to particularly achieve through this series. They are on a journey into the unknown; their heads are clear. Which is why they played like you would on a slow, benign track with no mischief around.

Sehwag and Gambhir have seen much better and quicker attacks. They have played and succeeded in much more difficult conditions. Their minds are not free, though. Unlike the successful batsmen of the day, they are at a stage where they can contemplate the consequences of this match. They are running out of time. They won't get too many such chances before the next India Test squad is announced. They know this is a lucky break that has come their way because other batsmen are away on Champions League and Duleep Trophy duty. Yet, the bowling and the conditions are not challenging enough by themselves.

With so much riding on these innings, not only was yet another big crowd drawn in, you could somehow feel batting had become difficult for the 81 minutes they spent at the wicket. Gambhir's struggle was more drawn out: 44 balls for 11 runs scored over 70 minutes. Sehwag lasted only 11 minutes for seven runs.

Over the last two days, Gambhir has looked like a man with just batting on his mind. At almost every dead moment when West Indies A batted, he began shadow-practising. At the end of the first day, he went in for a long net. During the second day, which West Indies A began six down, he would check the batsmen's bats out during over breaks. When the innings ended, lunch was taken immediately, giving him 40 minutes to eat and get ready. Sehwag didn't get ready along with him because he is now batting at No. 4.

Gambhir's stay in the middle wouldn't last even twice that amount of time. The first ball he faced he tried to pat Edwards to leg. Then he left one alone. In the first over itself, though, he went to drive a widish delivery, away from the body. He kept it down, but couldn't beat cover. The taller and in-rhythm Cummins then hurried him up, hitting him high on the pad. There wasn't much from Cummins to hit away, but there wasn't enough that made him play either. You could see he wanted to feel the bat-ball connection as he went for another drive to a wide ball in the first spell. He kept this down too, but found the fielder again.

Comeback man Edwards was struggling for rhythm. He bowled nine no-balls in four overs, and was taken off. Before doing that, though, he drew a wide drive from Gambhir, and the edge and the catch at the wicket too. Except that it was one of his nine no-balls. Gambhir hadn't yet opened his account, and this was the 17th ball he was facing.

Veerasammy Permaul looked like relief for Gambhir, who got to face him only in the 13th over. The first ball was flat; he went back and cut it for two. The second was flighted, and he came down the wicket to loft it over mid-on. His score had more than doubled in these two balls: 11 off 52. He expected the next ball to be short, went back early, but had to defend because it wasn't short enough.

What followed could have been an ego thing, or the pressure of having been made to stay quiet, or a mix of both because a second-string attack had kept him quiet on a benign surface. He jumped out of the crease again, wasn't close to the pitch of the ball, and ended up dragging another loft towards deep midwicket. Edwards ran from mid-on to take the skier.

Sehwag had to wait for the captain Cheteshwar Pujara to have a 'Rahul Dravid moment': that when your wicket is cheered because of the identity of the No. 4 batsman. This is not a situation Sehwag is accustomed to. The agenda of the innings has already been set, it is not a clean slate, and he now has to react to it: to find the best way ahead from 104 for 2 in the 40th over. In his ear was an intimate crowd that was cheering his singles as if they were boundaries. And he had spin to face.

Sehwag's response was tentative. He began by defending, but in the first over itself he faced a huge lbw appeal and a near played-on. In the next he managed to tuck one away for three. In the following over he got one short and wide, which he cut away for four. Then he came down the track, but hit it back to the bowler. He defended the next ball, but you could sense another attack around the corner.

Sure enough it came the next ball. He pressed forward, but stopped because the ball was flat, short and wide. The back foot had subconsciously been dragged, but he went to cut it. He missed, and Chadwick Walton broke the stumps. Sehwag hadn't tried to push the back foot back, because he didn't have the time. He looked back to see its position, saw it was over the line, looked at umpire Suresh Shastri, who raised his finger.

Out came Nayar to join Jagadeesh, and out went the weight from the proceedings in the middle. It was, after all, a West Indies A attack bowling on a flat, slow surface.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on October 5, 2013, 14:31 GMT

    Guys lets not forget , Gambhir and Viru have been a great opening pair for India all these years. Every player faces ups and Downs- Form may be temporary but Class is Permanent. I am sure both of them will make a strong comeback. Both of them are working vey hard, training practicing. Gambhir is the guy who played a key role in winning us the World up and Viru has endeared Indian cricket to everyone. What has the new team done - I personally am a big fan of Dhawan and Rohit but I don't think we can take anything awawy from Gambhir and Viru. Those guys have been exceptional for our country, we can not give up on them this soon. Indian cricket owes A lot to them and now when they are having a bad time , lets support them ! Every player has a different style and they should stick to it. They have different problems to cope up with, they require time and our support. ALL THE BEST GUYS WE SHALL ALWAYS SUPPORT YOU AND ARE HUGELY INDEBTED TO YOU FOR GIVING US SOME MAGICAL MOMENTS!

  • Jay on October 4, 2013, 18:36 GMT

    @StraightHit: I been following your posts lately and you criticize simply for the sake of criticizing. The ONLY reason why the WI A batsmen have better strike rates is because they play a lot more recklessly against inexperienced bowlers from the India A team. These WI A batsmen will fail miserably against proper bowlers. This match is NOT the right yardstick to judge or measure anybody's capability. Having said that, I think Sehwag and Gambhir's future with Team India is OVER. Gambhir might play in the ODI team but for Sehwag, it is curtains. He's not fit, he's lazy, he has poor footwork and is a lottery for India going forward. I will still put my faith into Zaheer because for a fast bowler it is about rhythm and the feeling of goodness within. In Zaheer's case I shall reserve my judgement at least after one more game.

  • Seshachalam on October 4, 2013, 9:47 GMT

    Right time for Sehwag, Gambhir and Zaheer to call it a day. Let them not wait for any farewell series!!!

  • Dummy4 on October 4, 2013, 9:38 GMT

    With the current going , i believe rohit-dhawan opening partnesrship is here to stay in both ODI'S, T20'S & TEST MATCHES as well provided murali vijay keeps failing & selectors deciding to push rohit sharma to opening slot in test matches. Though i feel it will be a very hard call on him, particularly when ppl have ear-marked him as replacement for sachin whenever he quits.

  • Dummy4 on October 4, 2013, 9:31 GMT

    This is what pressure to prove a point/ ego clash can do to best of playerS. Honestly speaking both gambhir & sehwag, esp sehwag r themselves to blame for this state. both of them & many others took their place for granted, sehwag even audaciously stating-'nobody needs to retire after 4-0 drubbing down under', typically in his flamboyant batting style. When u dont respect the game, it bites back & u will have to pay. Personally i feel they will have an almost impossible task to make a come back given the competition from younger- lot who would'nt want to miss the bus either.

  • Mohil on October 4, 2013, 8:21 GMT

    This could be their last opportunity.

  • sam on October 4, 2013, 7:22 GMT

    During his peak years int. cricket he made it a quite success with a good record to boot by adopting the Hayden-esque school of bullying -aggression at new ball and by taking adv. of close set fields at start of test inngs. He also made the most,given his risk inclusive approach the flat home pitches and some 'at best avg.' bowl attacks in the world and scored healthy in opening position. Though he conversely struggled om pitches doing a bit esp. abroad and vs good pace attacks like SA and Aus . Now, at 35 and past it he looks clueless vs an 'A' team spinner barely scratch a few runs to be out shortly . It is the end of 1 of attacking opening bats of recent time and time to take 'final call' .

  • Masood on October 4, 2013, 4:42 GMT

    Say goodbye to both players.....

  • Rajesh on October 4, 2013, 3:10 GMT

    Sehwag and Gambhir have found themselves in a position where they have to prove themselves to be able to be only considered for selection, forget getting selected. Playing at smaller venues, without five star hotels and with a set of unknown players around, an alien situation for both of them and they probably could not believe the situation they found themselves in. Probably they just wanted to get out of this situation with guns blazing and show others the level they belong to and the stuff they are made of. I believe that they took their position in national side for granted and did not work hard when the runs were not coming. Everybody loses form but then they equally work hard to get it back. Having played with the likes of Dravid, Laxman and Ganguly, these two players should have known how to get back to scoring runs. Not long ago, when Gautam had to miss a Test because of his marriage, there were worries as to whether India would get a good opening. How fast things change...

  • Dummy4 on October 4, 2013, 2:26 GMT

    A few observations (updated after Day 2):

    1. I was among those, who had repeatedly argued for giving chances to Rasool. This match shows, that though he is good raw material with a lot of potential, there are miles to go for him, to catch up with even someone like Bhatt. Getting wickets is more important than economy; remember Kumble?

    2. Though Zak seems to have developed better fitness (as gathered from the reports & photo), his bowling effectiveness is nowhere near his peak. Time has come For Zak to guide guys like Mohit, Bhuvi, Pandey, Jaydev, Shami, Kaul, Yadav, et al, as a bowling coach.

    3. Gambhir has proved that, we can fully concentrate on Dhawan as our left-handed opener for the future. Even the short county stint does not have made much of a difference.

    4. Viru: Don't bowl or field well any more. Batting is the "same gamble" at No 1 or No. 4. High time for him and another great to bid farewell to international cricket (Without facing the ignominy of being asked to quit)

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