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Virender Sehwag - Gone for good?

Second Test - South Africa v India: Day Two

Virender Sehwag in all his glory was portrayed as the successor to the Little Master, for the charm he exuded and the aggression in his armoury that resembled that of Sachin’s. Most of all, the upper cut and the leg glance, the two shots that bore the trademark of Tendulkar flew from the bat of Sehwag as well, putting Sehwag on par with the Master. But in hindsight, he did not possess the fire in his belly to stay at the highest level – a trick he failed to inherit.

The strength of Sehwag is his ability to take the attack to the opposition in spite of the situation. Be it the first ball, or the last ball, he does not give a damn about conditions and the pitch as he has invariably followed the “see the ball, hit the ball” mantra to great effect. Flair and flamboyance has been both his companion and nemesis as far as his career is concerned. They say “your strength is your curse” and it couldn’t be truer for Sehwag.

The career of Sehwag was a roller-coaster ride. Coming in to the team as a middle-order batsman, he took giant strides to achieve the kind of success that he boasts of today. The 195 at Melbourne and the 201 at Galle that came in hostile conditions spoke volumes of his unique talent. He did not possess textbook footwork and his technique was always under the scanner. Yet, he managed to carve a niche in the talent-filled Indian team, plainly due to the aggression factor.

Then one might wonder, what happened to a career that had really taken off and anointed him as one of the best opening batsmen that India has ever produced? Is it the lack of technique? Is it the lack of footwork? Those aspects suggest the mere lack of technicality. But his predicament contains more hard facts in them.

“What I soon learned about him was that Viru did not want to dedicate himself to taking his talent to its zenith. He was happy to turn up and play and accept what came his way. No amount of cajoling from me could shift him from his insouciant way.” – Greg Chappell, former Indian coach.

The fact that Sehwag was reluctant to put in the hard yards suggests the amount of callousness and inadvertence in his approach.  Greg Chappell had time and again praised the natural talent that he possessed and stressed on the importance to hone his skills. Sehwag’s attitude though is much like the swagger in his walk and the carelessness in his approach. In a nutshell, he had a poor work-ethic.

But apart from all the shortcomings, he had the queer habit of making huge scores whenever he was in form. He has never spared any bowler, nor seemed fearful of any. Having practised cricket mostly on cement wickets, Sehwag has the knack of bludgeoning the ball through the celebrated ‘V’. The body alignment was perfect and so was his ‘hand-eye’ coordination. He came across as a player who was in the mould of a pinch –hitter, though his scores suggest otherwise.

His exploits in New Zealand are well known for the kind of impact they had, especially when he resurrected the team from shambles. He was dauntless as he launched an attack on the New Zealand bowlers and almost led India to a victory. Then he followed it up with his bravado in Australia and West Indies and the selfless effort in Galle. People felt that this new version of Sehwag was here to stay. He was hailed by the public and was a frontrunner to bag the role of skipper, post Dravid’s tenure.

But fate had other plans as Dhoni won the race and Sehwag was sidelined. It was cruel, and the fact that Dhoni dropped Sehwag in the finals of the World T20, 2007 adds more salt to the injury. An enmity was born, perhaps unknown to the fans.

India v New Zealand:1st Test - Day Three

Meanwhile, Sehwag was carrying the team on his shoulders with terrific performances that included a triple century and a host of other big scores. He had a beautiful chemistry with Gambhir that converted their on-field performances to something extraordinary. The team was on a roll as they slowly worked their way up to the top. India was on the brink of world domination and the form seemed authentic. They finally achieved the dream of being the world number one side against Sri Lanka in Mumbai, 2009.

But amidst the well written script, there were a couple of flaws that kept creeping up and the dam of uncertainties began to widen. India won the World Cup and the credits were bagged by the skipper. It did not go down well with Sehwag and a few of his supporters in the team.

Sehwag lost his form and the charm that he carried along with him. The runs began to dry up and the chinks in his armoury began to show itself. India lost its winning capabilities as they were mauled by England.  Sehwag’s presence went without a notice as he notched up consecutive ducks.

From then onwards, the slide in his career was imminent as he was unable to score consistently. He was an utter failure in Australia without a single century. He was dropped for the subsequent Asia cup, before he made one of his many comebacks in the World T20. The differences in opinion between him and the skipper were visible as he was made to warm the bench on more than one occasion.

The rift between himself and his skipper affected his batting as he lost his magic touch. The hand and eye coordination was nowhere to be seen as he struggled to put bat to ball. Barring a lone century against England on placid conditions, Sehwag’s score was a poor reflection of his career as a swashbuckling opening batsman who held enviable world records to his name.

He has been dropped out of the team once again, but this time it might well be his swansong. He is not getting any younger and it is clearly implied by the latest bespectacled look. His career has had lot of stop-gaps in the past, but he has bounced back with more fervour and courage. But he was young then and had the backing of the seniors. The rift with the skipper might have well closed the door on him and the skipper is not being blamed on this occasion.

The reason for Sehwag’s current predicament is Sehwag himself. His lackadaisical attitude and the loss of form have earned him many a critic and they are not too happy with his current form. The selection committee is certainly overlooking the seniors as they are planning on building a new look Indian side.

The next series is far away and having lost his place in the limited overs side already, Sehwag does not stand a chance to make the cut for the South Africa series. Moreover, the general feeling is that Sehwag doesn’t want to change his attitude or his way of batting as he has said in countless interviews, “I would not change my natural style of batting”. That has been the bane of him as he looks at the end of his career. One of the selectors who were responsible for his sacking mentioned that his form outside the subcontinent has been pathetic for awhile now and reasons that “It is unlikely that you are going to pick a batsman looking at what he has done five years ago. Would you?”

Well, it is hard to disagree with him!

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