December 12, 2007

Selectors punt on Sehwag

Any which way you look at it, the inclusion of Virender Sehwag for the tour of Australia is an interesting one
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Virender Sehwag is a surprise inclusion for the Test team to Australia © AFP

Any which way you look at it, the inclusion of Virender Sehwag for the tour of Australia is an interesting one. The selectors pulled one surprise asking Munaf Patel to play more domestic cricket before he would be considered for international duty, preferring the largely untested Pankaj Singh instead. But it was the inclusion of Sehwag, not in the long-list of 24, that merits most discussion.

It was only three days ago that Ian Chappell wrote, in a column on Cricinfo asking where Viru was, suggesting that India had made their first mistake in their tour of Australia before even reaching antipodean shores. Chappell quoted that gambling adage: "You've got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em," and then wrote, "Now was not the right time to give up on Virender Sehwag."

Well, it seems India haven't. It's as yet unclear how Sehwag made the cut, not being among the reserve openers, but there are few likely scenarios. The first is that the selectors' hand was forced by Gautam Gambhir's shoulder injury and that though they included Aakash Chopra in the 24 probables, he was never seriously in their plans. But having just scored big runs in domestic cricket, they felt obliged to include him in the probables.

The second scenario is that Anil Kumble specifically asked for Sehwag to be included, and the selectors acquiesced, but this would seemingly leave Kumble in quite a spot come the first Test in Melbourne. Will the team play an out-of-form Sehwag as an opener and leave out Yuvraj, who is in the middle of a purple patch? They can't even contemplate dropping any of the other middle-order batsmen. As it is, there's a log-jam for batting spots, and one school of thought was that Rahul Dravid would be persuaded to open, Dinesh Karthik left out, and Yuvraj could play in the middle order.

Leaving Karthik out is one thing, but it makes little sense to take Sehwag all the way to Australia - after all he is not a promising youngster to be taken on tour to gain experience - and not play him. Sehwag is a little over 29, not in very good form, and not the most enthusiastic man on the bench. If Sehwag is a starter as opener, alongside Wasim Jaffer, then there's no place in the XI for Yuvraj Singh.

The name of another makeshift opener, Irfan Pathan, is doing the rounds, and that's more than just a bit odd, given that two Tests ago Pathan was not even in the Indian squad.

 
On the bouncy pitches and hard outfields of Australia a batsman can get serious value for shots, as Sehwag himself showed the last time India toured, almost scoring 200 in a day in Melbourne. If Sehwag can play just one innings like that this time round, the gamble would have paid off. If he can't, it might just be the end of the road for Sehwag.
 

But all this is secondary to Sehwag's selection in the squad. He's clearly not been picked for what he has done in domestic cricket since being dropped, which is scores of 16, 0, 9, 32, 9. He's been picked for that X-factor, that something special he brings, or more accurately, once brought, to international cricket.

It was only Twenty20 that gave Sehwag a foot in the door, and even he acknowledged that playing low-profile domestic matches was not going to get him back in the side. "When I get back I'll try and play with controlled aggression and score big runs," he had told Cricinfo in August. Neither happened in the three one-dayers that he was picked for.

What is worrisome is what Sehwag did in his last few international innings. Against Pakistan he made 25, 43 and 10 in the three outings he got. While it's not always a good idea to look at one-day form and assess a player for Tests, this was a time when Sehwag was batting for his place in the side. And in each of those knocks a Sehwag flaw revealed itself. In the first game, after getting a start, he made room to cut Shahid Afridi, a loose shot at best; in the second he was run out where a dive would have saved him; the third was a flash outside off to the left-arm angle of Sohail Tanvir. Just where was that hunger to perform and regain a place in the side?

Imran Khan, the former Pakistan captain, made the point recently, that conditions in Australia, unlike England where the ball swings quite a bit, could suit Sehwag's minimal footwork style of play. What the selectors, and presumably the team think-tank, are hoping for, is the Sehwag of old. On the bouncy pitches and hard outfields of Australia a batsman can get serious value for shots, as Sehwag himself showed the last time India toured, almost scoring 200 in a day in Melbourne. If Sehwag can play just one innings like that this time round, the gamble would have paid off. If he can't, it might just be the end of the road for Sehwag.

Anand Vasu is an associate editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • aditya16_2006 on December 18, 2007, 5:02 GMT

    I feel, we definitely have a pool of talent, and what needs to be done is try and play Pankaj Singh, Viru, Yuvi, Dravid and Pathan in the upcoming match against Victoria. Pathan whould do the opening just to gauge his potential and not to try and squeeze him in that slot. I feel that Yuvi should be in the middle order of the playing 11 and make either Viru or Dravid open the innings, depending on who clicks. If Pathan clicks as an opener then he could be tried in the 1st test with Dravid in the middle and Pankaj (if impressive on those pitches) coming as a fifth bowler. It will make sense to play 5 bowlers with "Dada" and Yuvi providing additional bowling option. I dont see a sense of including another batsmen if top 6 fail to perform; also in that case we atleast have a 5th bowler to bowl the opposition out. All this is easy to say but will be very hard to put in action. But overall the Aussies will have a tough team to deal with. Shreesanth will be badly missed for his Antics.

  • TrueIndianFan on December 18, 2007, 0:44 GMT

    Can someone explain to me why Sehwag is included? Karthik could have been an ideal opening partner for Jaffer! (should something happen Dravid could fill up the slot temporarily...Anyways it is always the case that he comes to bat in 2nd or 3rd over :-) Sehwag is more like hit or miss type.. Consistency is something Sehwag's game is totally devoid off! Mr.Kumble said "We have the potential to beat Australia because we have the batting line-up to put runs on the board,"... isn't it the bowling that gets the beating everytime we tour down under.... I seriously doubt if there is any bowler who would trouble the aussie batsman.... There is neither raw pace nor disturbing seam in our players arsenal that would provoke aussies... In my view players to watch out for: Sourav, Yuvraj (really glad that there is someone to step into Sachin's shoes when the little master quits!),Laxman [ Australian Specialist :) ] and Irfan (purely for his batsmen skills) But as an ardent fan, I want India to win

  • Shaju.K on December 16, 2007, 15:30 GMT

    Selection of Sehwag is not a blunder. He has the capability and has shown in the past against Ausies. His batting average in test cricket itself speaks for himself. So I don't think a debate is necessary regarding this. Inclusion of younger talents is always welcomed but must not be on the expense of experienced warhorses with proven track records...!!!!

  • Redarrow on December 15, 2007, 10:54 GMT

    Segwag's selection is strange one at present situation where india have the question to play one of six(dravid,laxman,tendulkar,ganguly,yuvraj or dhoni)as opener with jaffer.at the moment it will be unfair to drop yuvi from playing 11,and it will be good if laxman or dravid can open as rest of 4 have no experience in opening in tests.So,what will segwag do in Australia,"esepcially when our board,when dropped ganguly,was saying that it would be not worth to select ganguly and not to play him in 11."Only possibility to include segwag is that if one of opener or other batsman is injured,in that case also it would have been better if selecters had opted for Badrinath or any other emerging batsman ,keeping in view of future as obiviously segwag is not going to replace tendulkar,laxman or dravid at least in tests.any way Ian CHAPPEL will be happy as he made indian selectors to commit "FIRST MISTAKE" even before the tour started.

  • anerudh on December 15, 2007, 7:53 GMT

    India could well play with the following options.... 1)ask karthik to keep and play yuvi in place of dhoni 2)play yuvi for karthik with himself or dhoni to open 3)ask dravid to open and play yuvi in his place in all the cases the axe is ready on karthik or dhoni....and viru does not fit into the picture anywhere......for him it might turn out to be a well paid excursion... The only way to win a test is to take wickets.and India will surely miss the services of sreesanth here...he is a naturally(atleast on the field)aggresive and wicket takin bowler....the best way to is to have 3 medium pacer and kumble as the lone spinner.....zaheer and rp naturally fit in the two pacer slot...and ma be pathan should be played bcos of his battin abilities......vvs, sachin,ganguly and jaffer will be our key batsmen and let us wish dravid and dhoni/karhikstrike form as soon as possible

  • SriKan on December 15, 2007, 6:04 GMT

    Sehwag has in the past shown the ability to fluster the Aussie bowlers rhythm. He can be considered as he is a matchwinner. However, leaving out Murali Kartik is a mistake. He can be a good asset than Harbhajan atleast in Adelaide. I hope Zaheer and one of the fast bowlers hit the stride in the bouncier pitches.

  • PrasadSalgaonkar on December 14, 2007, 16:01 GMT

    I am a Mumbaikar and feel so sorry for people like "TRIC" who remak on basis of region/location. Moderators should filter out such remakrs and look for positive and healthy cricket comments and suggestions. Cricinfo has very good reputation and allowing postings like these will make it look like any other cheap web-sites. Sorry Mr./Ms. TRIC, people like you go no where in life.

  • PrasadSalgaonkar on December 14, 2007, 15:45 GMT

    I feel, we definitely have a pool of talent, and what needs to be done is try and play Pankaj Singh, Viru, Yuvi, Dravid and Pathan in the upcoming match against Victoria. Pathan whould do the opening just to gauge his potential and not to try and squeeze him in that slot. I feel that Yuvi should be in the middle order of the playing 11 and make either Viru or Dravid open the innings, depending on who clicks. If Pathan clicks as an opener then he could be tried in the 1st test with Dravid in the middle and Pankaj (if impressive on those pitches) coming as a fifth bowler. It will make sense to play 5 bowlers with "Dada" and Yuvi providing additional bowling option. I dont see a sense of including another batsmen if top 6 fail to perform; also in that case we atleast have a 5th bowler to bowl the opposition out. All this is easy to say but will be very hard to put in action. But overall the Aussies will have a tough team to deal with. Shreesanth will be badly missed for his Antics.

  • DevSaha on December 14, 2007, 12:21 GMT

    Sehwag is the past and he should now become a commentator is DD or something. He has nothing to offer to Indian Team. Rather than take a fossil like him, India should take a young opener to Aus.

  • Diwakar on December 14, 2007, 10:43 GMT

    Sehwag should not be a part of the team. As Anand Vasu says, taking him to Australia and not playing him in the XI is utterly useless. He has not done anything in recent memory to warrant a recall to the side.

    Yuvraj should get a fair run. As a bowler he is as good (or mediocre) as Sehwag, his fielding is way better than Sehwag's and most others' in the team and his current form is awesome. Where is the sense in Yuvraj making way for Sehwag?

    I am not wholly convinced, however, that Sehwag should go to Australia. But if he must, and if Karthik is in the XI just because he is willing to open, he is the one who should give up his place to Sehwag. That sounds equally ridiculous. In fact, Karthik should be in the team as the keeper who can bat. Given a reasonably long stint behind the stumps, he can prove as useful as SMH. His keeping is not in the same league but he is young and has the potential to improve. Dhoni, then, should be the one to stick to ODI's and let Sehwag play Tests.

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