March 1, 2012

A time for Sehwag to reflect and plan

The break from the Asia Cup is a chance for Virender Sehwag to look back at his game, reassess his targets and prepare for the challenges ahead

Virender Sehwag has played two World Cup finals and won one. He has been a key component of a side that stayed No. 1 in Tests for 18 months. Always a better Test batsman than in ODIs, he has played some of the most awesome knocks in Test cricket. In a matter of sessions he has changed games, and in doing so the game itself. He has made batting seem like a simple, joyful activity more than any other batsman of his era has done. Greatness has, for the last few years, seemed a slashing bat's length away.

Like the ball does in England, South Africa and Australia, the greatness has bounced and seamed away after pitching, and taken a thick edge. It is a tribute to this metaphoric thick edge that it has produced several great and wonderful innings, but Sehwag is still left with unconquered challenges he won't get to face again before the end of 2013, when India tour South Africa.

Sehwag will be 35 by then, an age that will test his hand-eye co-ordination, the soul of his batting. Already he is not a desirable fielder in ODIs - he has got great hands but his slowness can be exposed on bigger fields where twos and threes become as important as boundaries. His fitness has been suspect for about a year now. After the World Cup he delayed his shoulder surgery, played the IPL, missed the West Indies tour and turned up not ready halfway through the England tour. Towards the end of the Australia tour he has had back spasms, which have forced the selectors to rest him for the Asia Cup.

That much we know. What we also know is, had he been fit, Sehwag's place would have made for a bigger debate in the selection meeting. Why, in typically blunt fashion, he himself said of Ricky Ponting: "If you don't perform for six-seven games, get ready for the sack. So I am not surprised [Ponting has been dropped]." When Sehwag last perfomed is not more than just six-seven games ago. Apart from the failures on this tour, he has gone without a Test century outside the subcontinent for four years. In ODIs outside the subcontinent he last dazzled in Hamilton in 2008-09, and before that against Bermuda in the 2007 World Cup.

On this Australia tour Sehwag has been a bit of a batting zombie, neither a free spirit nor a buckler, somewhere in between, seemingly not sorted mentally. In Tests he scored 198 in eight innings, and 65 in five in ODIs. He is a better batsman than that, even in more testing conditions. Who knows what is going wrong. The inner game is too difficult to understand for those sitting outside. The fitness will perhaps be as big a question as the mental state. The conditions were bound to be testing, but not so overwhelming.

Out of the team now for the Asia Cup, Sehwag will have time to look back and look ahead. To possibly reassess his targets, reassess his endurance and fitness, to even see if he wants to drop down to the middle order, where he originally started his career. He will also realise greatness won't give him a second chance for the next two years. He will have to work hard to maintain the skill, the fitness, the strength, and the hunger until that time arrives. On evidence of the short stints he has had, he will do well without the added responsibility of captaincy.

The batting revival will be as much about ambition as it will be about skill. After a certain age in sport, it comes down to how badly you want something, but for Sehwag it will also mean working his game out. The revival will also have to be long-lived, long enough to face the test of the bouncing, seaming ball. There is nothing to suggest Sehwag won't have that ambition, that drive to keep pushing himself, but it won't be any easier than some of his difficult tours away from the subcontinent.

This break will help him plan that final stretch of his career, which in theory could even begin this weekend, if Australia beat Sri Lanka and give India three more possible games.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shakti on March 4, 2012, 22:10 GMT

    Virender Sehwag is a master of the conditions he encounters in the sub-continent,similar to Mahela Jayawardene.Both struggle in conditions that bounce,seam & swing.Sehwag's wild technique is a huge flaw away from home.He shouldn't just be forgotten by India in test cricket,he should be offered an oppurtunity in the middle order.Ajinkya Rahane is technically very good,except for some footwork issues he is a capable opener or #3 batsmen.Sehwag has played too few successful innings away from home to be regarded great.Rahul Dravid or Sachin Tendulkar,they are great(if not legendary) as they have been very successful away from the sub-continent.With batsmen like Virat Kohli,Ajinkya Rahane,Cheteshwar Pujara,Abhinav Mukund & Manoj Tiwary all ready to take over,India don't really need to hold on to Sehwag.

  • Dummy4 on March 4, 2012, 8:55 GMT

    Comment by class shows is all non sense, Sehwag is the biggest match winner in 100 yrs we had u dont average 51 just by scorin in home games.. please check out his records.. u will realise Sehwag is all time llegend who plays for country and not individual records..

  • Dummy4 on March 4, 2012, 8:52 GMT

    its so true he is nothing but a flat track bully, he should just play in ipl in india, where he can be a flat track bully and get payed a lot. he doesnt respect his own country, and tries to stay in team when he cant help them. its one thing to play for ipl and make money, but if you know you can't help your country win, just leave the team, be a man. and he has no excuses not to play well in austrilla, when first tour kohli did so well. and maybe kohli will become like sehwag too when he is 33, but then indian cricket board needs to understand, that when bodies get older, they shud be asked to leave the game, and give room for new youngsters. so sehwag, tendulkar should both be out of ODI team for sure.

  • Dummy4 on March 3, 2012, 19:18 GMT

    The writer completely forgot about the 219 Sehwag made in ODIs 2-3 months back.... That is the highest score in ODIs and taking 200 in an ODI when you have -5 overs remaining is not easy !!

  • mukesh on March 3, 2012, 10:07 GMT

    @sriraj gs - agree with you.. i cant believe this kind of arrogance , that too from the most over rated player of last decade.. sorry for the strong words , but players like ponting , sachin , warne , mcgrath , muralidaran etc.. whether you personally like them or not HAVE TO BE RESPECTED..

  • mukesh on March 3, 2012, 10:03 GMT

    Sehwag is the PERFECT EXAMPLE OF FLAT TRACK BULLY , dhoni has backed him more than enough , now what does he need ? almost all international bowlers has figured him out , and he still doesn't think he has to change anything with his game....why should he really ? IPL drama is coming around , get some runs on FLAT PITCHES , against some very ordinary bowlers and bang ! he is back in national team for next 3 years !! WHAT A JOKE THIS GUY IS...

  • mukesh on March 3, 2012, 9:49 GMT

    Its time we throw this guy out of the team , may be that will get something into his 'uncomplicated mind' , this guy has been a consistent under performer away from India , he is not fit enough ,have no technique ,not willing to change and obviously considers himself above captain and team , look at how he commented on ponting , don't even know how to respect a great of the game.. what a loser , please dont insult the true greats by calling him a 'great'...

  • hari on March 2, 2012, 7:40 GMT

    Sehwag is an impact player. He relies heavily on reflexes and little on technique. His defence is like Johnny Lever crying on silver screen. You end up laughing anyway. Over the years, the runs he scored in the subcontinent made him complacent and has not created the need to change his approach. The moment he faced with pace, bounce and swing, his ability suddenly deserted him. Captains knew how to pin him and he often played into their hands. As a bowler Kumble also faced this mid-way his career. He then changed his bowling a little bit, brought in variations and once again rose to the top. Sehwag needs to do that. Whether batting at the top or in the middle, he needs to work out his approach. He should learn to leave deliveries outside off. Should bend his back a little bit while flicking or glancing and stand upright when dirving on the off or straight. As of now he is doing everything only 50%. The day he does them 100% he will be back with a bang. India needs him badly at the top.

  • Varnendra on March 2, 2012, 6:55 GMT

    @zico123. The problem is his mind. People say he keep things simple, straight shooter...etc but the fact is he is a little unintelligent to deal with complications(when bowlers target him he can't keep things simple), honour(he doesn't seem to have any fighting spirit) and honesty else how he could equate this monumental series down under to the 2-0 win India had over Australia before the WC. Respecting Tendulkar is understandable; he is a classy man. Sehwag..HaHaHa. And by the did you see the catch by Hussey against Sri Lanka? Tendulkar is right. If you have the will you can turn back the years but I don't see Sehwag doing it.

  • shareef on March 2, 2012, 5:34 GMT

    It is pretty premature say that Viru won't be sucessful againts the testing conditions. Even technically solid dravid's first tour of australia was not successful. First tour to australia was very successful. Viru fitted himself well in make shift opener role and we all forget the situation he made himself ready to open for india. Undoubtably he is not in his best and I am still believe that he has lot to offer to the indian cricket. I don't understand one thing if India qualify for the tri series final viru will play or not.

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