September 13, 2013

How about Sehwag in the middle order?

He has always talked about how he would like to bat lower down. Perhaps he should be granted that wish now

The Indian selectors have done the right thing by including some senior stalwarts of Indian cricket in the India A team against West Indies A. I believe that when you drop players of the calibre of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan for poor form, you should also be keen to have them back when their form returns.

Dropping established senior players can have two effects. One: the player takes being dropped so much to heart that he never recovers from the jolt, and comes back a shadow of himself. Two: the player comes back with the vigour and intent of old, and the team ends up getting a few good seasons out of him.

Sehwag is an interesting case here. We have heard stories about Zaheer and Yuvraj Singh training hard to get back to peak fitness. Gambhir has gone to England, knowing that good performances there tend to make news in the Indian media, thus putting pressure on the selectors to pick him. But what is Sehwag doing? We haven't heard much about his activities. He seems to have chosen to keep a low profile.

This can be easily misinterpreted as him having no desire to return to Indian cricket, unlike his three colleagues, but we must be careful to not draw such conclusions, just as much as we ought not to be too carried away by Zaheer's and Yuvraj's "exotic" training stints in France. In both cases the judgement should be made on pure performance and fitness, based on the players' showings against West Indies A.

Sehwag has always done things differently. He has batted differently and so also prepared for matches differently. Maybe these unique methods happened to suit his general approach to life, but you cannot grudge a player an approach that has brought him success over 103 Tests in 12 years. He has had a hugely successful run and it is natural for him to keep trusting the process that brought him such incredible results.

I heard a story once of how VVS Laxman was having a knock on the morning of the last day of a Test series, though he had no role to play in the rest of the match. So also Sehwag, who asked VVS, "What's the point of this knock when your next match is two months later?" That's how Sehwag thinks. But while you can easily be fooled by his casual demeanour, for him to have played more than 100 Tests, there has to be a burning desire inside along with some god-gifted talent.

Obviously Sehwag fans are excited that he is back in the reckoning and are hoping that he clicks in the two India A games and comes back into the national team. Well, unfortunately for them, even if he gets two hundreds in those two games, the fact is that there is no place for Sehwag as an opener in this Indian team for a while. Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan have done so well as Test openers lately that the selectors will be obliged to give them a long run even if they fail. For Sehwag, who is 34, time is running out. At that age, one year in cricket is like a decade in another profession.

Sehwag deserves another break at Test level only if he has done something about his fitness. He must look a lot more youthful in the field than he did against England

So that brings us to what Sehwag has been saying for many years, even when he was getting runs by the ton as an opener: "I would like to bat in the middle order." It's a desire that he seems to have held forever as a Test batsman. I have held the view that for a natural middle-order batsman, he served India amazingly well as an opener when they desperately needed one, so how about granting him that wish before his career finishes?

If for no other reason, at least because there is a chance of an opening for him in the middle order. With India strongly committing towards youth, an experienced batsman with the cheek needed for that position, where you often have to bat with tailenders towards the end of an innings, may be able to add some value to the team. Sehwag could play the kind of innings VVS did for India in Tests.

Of course there is a possibility that he may find batting down the order after 170 innings at the top not so easy after all, but you cannot deny that this is a tempting idea, one you would like to see tried before he is finally let go.

Having said all this, here is what's really important. When Sehwag eventually arrives on the public stage to play in those India A matches, he must look like a player a selector would want to give that opportunity to. It was embarrassing, to say the least, to see in last year's home series against England, balls edged by batsmen hit various parts of Sehwag's body before he could react at slip. That was a serious fitness issue and it worried me more than his passage of low scores. Sehwag deserves another break at Test level only if he has done something about his fitness. He must look a lot more youthful in the field than he did the last time.

The new Indian team under MS Dhoni is big on fitness. We have seen the difference that has made to India's performance lately. The days where only skill mattered in Indian cricket seem to have gone.

If Sehwag wants another crack, he must know times have changed and there can be room only for a fit Sehwag.

Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar is a cricket commentator and presenter on TV. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Munawar on September 17, 2013, 7:30 GMT

    Well, I don`t think there is a lace for him in the Indian middle order either. Sadly, but I think it is almost an end to his carrier....

  • Dummy4 on September 16, 2013, 15:52 GMT

    @Anvesh Amaravadi, Sehwag was "WAS" a game changer in a positive sense. later on he had become a game changer for India to lose the game. He should not be selected in the team at any cost. If none of the current youngsters are up to seam and swing currently, chances are they may learn. In comparison sehwag has no possibility of learning anything at this age. As Cricketsunami said he is a spent force that has lost his famous hand eye coordination.

  • Cricket on September 16, 2013, 1:50 GMT

    It's Deja-Vu of Sunny, Kapil saga. Few years back when these two players played together and when Sunil was "interested" in playing in middle order. This is ridiculous. Is India really running short on talent where they have to squeeze Sehwag just because he is Sehwag in the team. Come on guys I am sure India has talent and they don't need to go out of the route to bring him by allowing him to play in the middle order. So what's next if he gets little older in few years have him play lower order or even a tail-ender so opposition would be worried that there is Sehwag yet to come on number 11. Sanjay please don't float such ideas where people may start taking it seriously. I hope Sandeep Patil's selection committee will overlook his request to play in middle order. On the same lines we should include Zaheer as an offspinner bowler because now he can not run as he could in the past. No I am not even comparing him with Kapil about whom people used to say same along with Sunny's request.

  • Ashok on September 15, 2013, 20:58 GMT

    Sanjay, In connection with your comments on the Yuvraj & ZAK working on an intensive fitness program in France, I had a comment to share.I was so impressed to read about Yuvraj's century in First ODI- India A Vs. WI A, that this fitness program is worth following by all Cricketers as an excellent model. Here is a guy who lost his place in the Indian Team to Jadeja because he no longer had the stamina to be the All Rounder which he was during the Indian World cup Victory. Beating cancer for any human being needs lot of luck, mental & physical strength. Yuvraj did this first & then was determined to make his way back to the spot he had lost. His supervised Fitness program under an expert in France helped him to get back into peak physical shape. He hit 7 Sixers & 8 fours in his century @ a S/R of 138. Why not other senior Cricketers like Sehwag, take a page out of Yuvraj's program to prove their form, if only to justify the Selectors' faith in them. Way to go Yuvraj!

  • Alex on September 15, 2013, 19:47 GMT

    Sehwag needs to given few more chances. But can he play conservatively and not throw away wicket like he does in ODI and T20 because ball is old and he can hit out from first ball?. I think Its tougher to play patient game for him. For me sehwag needs to learn patience. if he is patient and just collecting runs he can do wonders for india in TEST level and even india can come back to number1. But for me sehwag is not listening type. he could have fixed all his problem by being patient. He threw away his wicket against team's own interest. People get tired of him throwing his wicket easily. You have to bring something new every time. People can not select you on your past reputation , you have to show what you got now. Sehwag has to make century to get selected again. Thats min. If he is not out that will show me he is ready for middle order.

  • Alex on September 15, 2013, 19:08 GMT

    Sehwag has all the talent to play anywhere. Its his moods that caused him problem. he needs to think positively but bat conservatively. :)

  • ESPN on September 15, 2013, 17:12 GMT

    There is no point in investing in a 34 old player in the highly talented Team India middle order.Moreever I do not agree with Sanjay it is neither pay back time by the selectors nor he can challenge the youngsters.MSD is the person along with selectors can decide whether they really need viru if so where . It is not intention of the player alone . He has to fit into Team India scheme. I do not have much faith in Viru as of now either in his form or commitment towards Team India.He always has got grudge against MSD with Gauti it is better both of them should be guarded by selectors if they want to make comeback.Especially Mr.Gauti has to be cautioned towards making silly comments about team strategy and finishing style of MSD .Hope team gels together towards larger goal retaining World Cup and regaining the no 1 spot in test matches than giving more importance to Viru 's statements and sanjay's opinion.

  • Dummy4 on September 14, 2013, 23:27 GMT

    He could do what Gilchrist did for Aussies lower the order for another two years....provided he has good attitude and fitness and leaves the "did u see my catch" stunts at home....

  • Shakti on September 14, 2013, 21:03 GMT

    Virender Sehwag's 'Flat Track Bully' exploits only actually began later in his career.He was actually a very competent player on very green & bouncy pitches.He has a hundred at Trent Bridge on a quick surface & a hundred on debut at Bloemfontein on a green top also.He has played classics against spin in tough conditions also.A flat track bully relies on others to do the tough work for them also,Sehwag has taken tough jobs & done them successfully too.Flat Track Bullies bat best when a series is lost,yet Sehwag often sets up a series by helping India to an early test win.Sehwag even scored a couple 50s in Australia in 2011/12 in some bouncy conditions too.He doesn't have the discipline or technique or sheer brilliance in tough conditions of Rahul Dravid or Sachin Tendulkar,but Sehwag has been almost as important for India.

  • Shakti on September 14, 2013, 20:53 GMT

    @MrRahulDravid.Virender Sehwag has a test average in excess of 49.