The curious case of Virender Sehwag
First things first- I am huge admirer of Virender Sehwag and have written on several occasions in the past that India's ascent to the number one position in Test cricket in November 2009 would not have been possible without Sehwag at the top of the order. It is impossible to forget the 284 he scored on a single day at the CCI against Sri Lanka in 2009 in the match that made India the world number one test team. He was eventually out for 293 in this innings, missing out on his 3rd Test triple hundred. Sehwag, for the record, is the only Indian to have scored two international triple hundreds. And to think that such a player is nowhere in the selectors radar at the start of 2014 is somewhat impossible to believe. But that's the reality and that's why this piece.
For Virender Sehwag it was always in the mind. Having known him well for years I am aware of how he kept things simple. When speaking to me on how he prepared for Dale Steyn, Sehwag had famously said, Whether it is you or whether it is Dale Steyn, the ball will remain a ball. If it is there to be hit I will hit it. And hit he did. Two consecutive hundreds against South Africa in February 2010 and India retained the world number one test ranking.
So what exactly is wrong with Sehwag? The perception is he isn't interested any more. His body language is lazy and negative and Viru isn't trying hard enough or has perhaps given up. Deteriorating reflexes has contributed to his downfall and by going down the order he is no longer in his comfort zone. Not scoring in the Ranji Trophy has added meat to this perception.
Is it all downhill for Sehwag then or can he buck the trend and make one more miraculous comeback like he had done when India toured down under in 2007-08? Does he have the hunger left in him to make it back to the team that tours Australia end of the year? Is it possible for him to get a little of the magical hand eye coordination back?
If Sunil Gavaskar and Saurav Ganguly are to be believed, yes he can. For champions like Sehwag it is foolish not to say never say never. More than these words of inspiration, the answer lies in his mind. Does he still want to hit the ball hard for India? One can only conjecture he does. For if he did not he'd not stick around to play Ranji trophy and take all the flak coming his way. The most carefree cricketer that India has seen in recent times, for Sehwag the hunger to make a comeback is as important as scoring runs. May be the two are related. Frankly, he needs to give the selectors something to justify picking him on gut like they had in 2008. Unless he does that the man who redefined the norm of opening the batting might soon be a player from the past.
In my heart of hearts I tend to believe Sehwag still has a last spark left in him. He can still tonk the ball and do it for India. He can make up for his lost reflexes with experience and just like Sachin had reinvented himself at age 35 in 2007-08, Sehwag can have one final hurrah.
It wouldn't be a bad idea for Sehwag to pick and choose his games. Perhaps T20 is not for him any more. Perhaps not being retained by Delhi isn't a bad thing for him altogether. Not being the most agile, he might well decide to focus all his energies on Test cricket and opt to play county cricket to get his touch back. The rigour of playing every day in England might work to his advantage and the more time he spends in the middle the better it is for him.
While remembering the magical 83 he scored against England at Chennai in the first Test match after 26/11, one is forced to think this is not the exit a champion deserves. We need a romantic end for one of the true batting greats that India has produced. We need him to believe that there is still one final push left in him and we need the selectors to once more pick him on gut when India tours Australia in December 2014. Emotion is perhaps getting the better of me for Sehwag is now five years older since 2008 and his reflexes five years slower. But as I mentioned earlier on in the piece, for champions like him one can never say never.