September 22, 2013

Sehwag must resist middle-order temptation

His request to move down the order may not necessarily be beneficial for him or the team

Despite his early history as a middle-order batsman, Virender Sehwag's request to finish his career there, rather than opening, may not necessarily be beneficial for him or the team.

For starters, Sehwag is ignoring his own advice. He once told the dashing young Australian opener David Warner he would eventually become a better Test player than a T20 batsman. Warner, playing for the aptly named Delhi Daredevils, seemed surprised at the suggestion and asked for his reasoning. "Because," replied Sehwag, "in a Test match the field is 'up' for the new ball and there are plenty of gaps to hit through."

That situation also means there are fewer infielders in position to take catches, and for a player like Sehwag, who hits the ball in the air regularly, that's a major consideration.

Then there's the not-so-minor matter of Sehwag setting the pattern of play at the top of the order. When you come in lower down, the rhythm of the innings is already established, and with a few wickets down, a batsman's approach may need to alter. He no longer starts on an equal footing with the bowlers.

Take the way Sehwag plays spinners, for example. In the past he has shown little respect for spinners and, upon their introduction, he has set about trying to drive them into oblivion via the farthest reaches of the grandstand. As an opener, when he has already pummelled the faster bowlers for a quick-fire 60 and got the team off to a flying start, Sehwag is afforded some leniency when he then holes out in the deep.

However, when Sehwag is dismissed in the middle order for a low score and sets off a batting collapse by attempting an outlandish onslaught on a spinner, it's likely to test the selectors' patience.

Sehwag will have to take these and other matters, like having to wait to bat, into account if he returns to the middle order. Nevertheless, the most important aspect of any experienced player looking to slide down the order is his mental state; such a request is generally an admission the player is starting to have misgivings.

Ricky Ponting made that mistake late in his career and his move was only minor, going from No. 3 to No. 4. Nevertheless, it was a major move mentally and sent a signal to the opposition that Ponting, for so long a dominant batsman, was feeling vulnerable.

The most important aspect of any experienced player looking to slide down the order is his mental state; such a request is generally an admission the player is starting to have misgivings

Like for Ponting, much of Sehwag's aura as a batsman is bound up in his aggressive approach to the bowling. Once that is diminished with a move down the order it's like being a wounded animal; the predators smell blood.

Sachin Tendulkar, on the other hand, has never wavered; he has batted at No. 4 for the bulk of his career and has remained resolute in not moving lower down the order. In his mind he's a No. 4 and that's the way he wants to finish his career.

Part of being a long-term Test player is knowing where you want to bat. The captain may not always see things the same way, but a batsman must be clear in his own mind what position he thinks suits him best. The Australian selectors of the time had the misguided idea that I should open, and skipper Bill Lawry asked me for my thoughts. I replied: "Bill, you're the captain and if you tell me I'm opening then I'll do it, but if you're asking for my preference then it's to bat at three." In my mind I was a No. 3 and I wanted to remain in that position until I retired.

There have been suggestions that India will need some experience in the middle order when Tendulkar retires, and that Sehwag may provide the answer. India already have plenty of talent and not inconsiderable experience in Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli.

That makes a strong top four when Tendulkar decides to retire. To then replace a middle-order player in his 40s with one in his mid-30s, who is struggling as an opener, doesn't sound like a progressive move.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator for Channel 9, and a columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Android on September 25, 2013, 15:23 GMT

    Nobody from the Now Left Out Or Struggling Members Of The Team Deserves and Demand A Respectable Comeback Than The Maverick & Charismatic YUVRAJ SINGH. No Doubt KAPIL Won Us The 1st World Cup But Would That Have Been Possible Without MOHINDER AMARNATH. Likewise DHONI Conquered It Again for Ur Homeland But Would That Have Imagined Without YUVRAJ. Its A Payback Time And Definitely The Right Time To Acknowledge Our WARRIOR PRINCE Enjoys A Long Run In Tests. If He Had A Temperament To force Us In Conquering The Game He Definitely Has In Him To Guide Our Youngsters In The Era When The final Wicket Of The 'FAMOUS 4' Falls. He Has Been Understudy To All Of These 4 Since Long And Has Proved Himself Again And Again As Their Trusted Lieutenant. With Him Re-inventing Himself Proves His Desire And His Attitude Towards The Game. A Fighter By Attitude (Remember His Catch In His Debut Series) .. He Has Lived Upto It Till Date. Reflexes Gone .. The Heart & The Attitude Still Stick To Him !!! WHY ???

  • Andrew on September 24, 2013, 10:32 GMT

    The reason I still think Sehwag has it in him to make a strong comeback is because of his fearlessness. Even if India are 40/4 and struggling he might be very capable of a counter-attack and get India to a comfortable position, say 200-6. MS Dhoni had so many critics regarding his batting in Tests but he has silenced his critics by playing his natural game. No more does he look tentative with the moving ball and plays to his strength and limitations.

  • Andrew on September 24, 2013, 10:27 GMT

    Sehwag has all the talent in the world to make a comeback. He has been a far better player of spin than most Indian batsmen. Eg :- His 201* against SL in Galle while the rest of the batsmen fell apart by the "mystery spinner" Mendis. I think the ideal spot for him would be at No.4/ No.5

  • Dummy4 on September 23, 2013, 23:43 GMT

    Yeah he wants an easy served dish, let him play in middle order in few First class matches, I bet he will soon demand to play as a tail-ender.

  • karthik on September 23, 2013, 23:27 GMT

    A nice one by Ian but Sehwag's problem is existential..the ONLY spot he can fit in now is in middle order. So its almost a courtesy if selectors do pick him there coz as an opener he's had far too many failures to be even considered esp since Dhawan and Rohit are starting to be a solid,reliable pair. I still can't trust Vijay abroad we need Rohit there to stabilize the inns just like he did in WI. And since it would be unfair and ridiculous to just pick him for ODIs and dump him in tests,selectors should see him as a long-term option for both formats.But Sehwag's importance in middle order is being under-estimated..after SRT retires (hopefully soon) Viru will have a role to play in balancing a young but talented middle order. Dhawan Rohit Pujara Kohli Sehwag Tiwary Rahane will make a formidable batting unit with a bit of experience shielding the rollicking young guns!

  • Ananth on September 23, 2013, 23:00 GMT

    IC should resist writing or commenting about indian cricket

  • Shiv on September 23, 2013, 17:55 GMT

    The current openers Vijay and Dhawan have done a good job so far and deserve to get a long shot. Even if there is any problem, Rohit is also there as an alternative. So either Sehwag, has to wait or give him a shot in the middle order. We have seen in thast few years, he has been a big flop at the top so taking him there again at the expense of the current openers is not fair. I think if he gets a chance, then it should be in the middle order as a last chance before he is dropped forever.

  • uncle bob on September 23, 2013, 16:29 GMT

    Good article but sehwag should get first in the team. It is highly unlikey that either he or gambhir will be able to get in. Youngsters have all cemented their places. Only Yuvraj may be able to be in at no.6 in current team.

  • Dummy4 on September 23, 2013, 16:08 GMT

    I think major concern is Sehwag's fielding. Even if he come out of batting form, he should be aiming for one of top 5 fielders in the side. A batsman should not be a liability if he fails in the batting. That is the reason the 30+ players like Robin Singh, Dilshan, Ponting or Afridi had better chances of coming back/staying in team even when they had lean patch in batting. It is always how much add value a player can give to the team - which indirectly affects his form and confidence. Good luck Sehwag.

  • Kalyan on September 23, 2013, 14:57 GMT

    a quick 40 from sehwag the opener means the shine is taken off the new ball, the openers have setup a 50+ partnership and the middle order of pujara, kohli etc can settle play the game their way. if sehwag lasts longer, all the better. however, a quick 40 from sehwag the middle order bat does not mean that much; middle order bats are expected to stay longer and push the score to a competitive total (or push for a considerable lead if batting second) demands staying power, something sehwag isn't exactly known for. I agree sehwag in the middle order will not fit with india's plans. I am rooting for sehwag to rediscover his mojo and partner dhawan at the top of the innings and end his career with a flourish, unlike the other has-been legend who'll probably have to be brought to bat on a wheelchair in his 200th test.