'It's time to play for Virender Sehwag'
Virender Sehwag has admitted he was "disappointed" when Delhi Daredevils did not buy him at the IPL auction. Sehwag, whose run of bad form has stretched to nearly two years now, has made it clear he will not use the IPL as a platform to prove a point to the Indian selectors or anyone in the team management. Despite the absence of credible innings in the recent past Sehwag said he had "two to three years" of shelf life still left in him.
Sehwag, who was an icon player and a former captain at Daredevils, was not retained by the franchise, which also did not utilise the right-to-match card during the IPL player auction in February. Sehwag, who is part of the top-ten run-makers in the tournament was eventually bought by Kings XI Punjab for a bargain price of INR 3.2 crore at the auction.
"I am okay with that because that decision on Sehwag was a professional one and not personal," Sehwag told ESPNCricinfo on Tuesday, during a phone conversation organised by Kings XI Punjab. "They [Daredevils] wanted to build a team of new players. Yes, I am disappointed a little bit because you know I played six years for Delhi Daredevils. I became an icon player. But things happened and things change."
Sehwag had experienced a wretched loss of form during the Ranji Trophy, and managed only one half-century in seven matches (13 innings, 234 runs, average 19.50, highest score of 56) as Delhi failed to progress past the league stage. In the zonal stage of the Vijay Hazare Trophy (domestic ODI tournament) Sehwag once again failed, scoring 25 runs in two matches for Delhi.
"The season was not good for me because we played on green wickets, little damp pitches," Sehwag said. "I was not able to score big runs (although) I was getting starts and just got one fifty in seven games. It was disappointing."
Sehwag, however, said he had not lost hope and the IPL would provide him another opportunity to bounce back into form. "You have to keep fighting," he said. "Keep hoping that the next match I play I will score runs. I am just hoping the IPL this year will be good for me."
Sehwag disagreed that he needed a successful IPL to prove anything to the Indian selectors and team management . "I don't have to show to anybody because it is time to play for Virender Sehwag or for Kings XI Punjab," he said. "If I perform well people will watch and discuss my name again. But if I go with this mindset that I show to the selectors and management then I don't think I will be able to perform. Then I will be putting pressure on myself. I played enough matches to show (what I can do) to the people, to the world. It is time to play for myself. It is time to play the IPL well. My job is to win the games for my franchise."
Sehwag denied that his explosive style of play might have contributed to his failures. "Style does not matter," he said. "The important things is how I use my experience to score runs, how I weigh up the conditions, what kind of wicket I am batting on, how I am shaping up are factors that matter more. But style of my play does not matter because if there is a ball to hit I will try to hit it as I have been doing for the last 15 years."
During the home Test series against Australia, shortly before he was dropped, Sehwag was diagnosed with astigmatism and wore glasses while batting. His eyesight, Sehwag said, was posing his batting no problems.
"When I was playing a Test against Australia I had a lot of headaches and pain," he said. "I met a couple of doctors and was told to wear glasses or contact lenses because I have some minus .5 number which is cylindrical. If you have a cylindrical number you have to wear glasses otherwise you will get high pain, so I was not able to concentrate. I played IPL with contact lenses, but now the issue is not eyes. I am okay with that."
Sehwag is 35 years old and critics have started to cast doubts about his future. But the man himself remained confident. "I should not regret anything," he said. "The amount of matches I have played, more than 100 Tests and more than 200 ODIs - I don't regret anything. I have 2-3 years left. I can play 2-3 seasons and I am working towards that."
Sehwag said it was not just experience he had to offer to the teams he would be part of, be it India or his IPL franchise. "The batting and the kind of style I have, that I can offer to any team," he said. "I have scored two triple centuries and six double hundreds so I know how to score big runs. It is just a matter of one big innings and after that I hope I can keep scoring big runs. In T20 there are only 120 balls of which you get to bat 50-60 at the most, so how many runs can you score in that time."
In his time out of the national side, Sehwag says he has been watching India matches "like a spectator".
"I keep praying that we will do well and India wins the games rather than be worried about myself," he said. "At the end of the day, India winning is what matters rather than being worried about who should play."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo