Bangalore: There are very few openers in the history of Indian cricket who have had as much impact on a cricket match as Virender Sehwag.
Back in his days, the name Sehwag was good enough to give nightmares to opposition bowlers even when they had the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman to deal with. Sehwag was always an impact player and his stay at the crease for a couple of hours would put India in the driver’s seat, be it a Test match or an ODI.
Technically not the best, Sehwag changed the way most of us looked at an opener. His feet movement was never really great but his hand-eye co-ordination more than made up for his lack of it, so much so that at times, at the end of first session of a Test match he would sit pretty batting close to a century. He made us believe that scoring quick runs is also important in the longer format of the game.
Sehwag’s attitude was his great strength. He always played the ball and not the bowler and it is that attitude that has fetched him 8,000 odd Test runs at a healthy average of just below 50 (which has gone down because of his poor run with the bat in the last couple of years) second to Sunil Gavaskar, not only in terms of runs but also as an opener when we look back at what India has produced over the years.
However, Sehwag’s form has been the talking point for quite some time now and it has not improved in the past year or so. Infact, it has gone from bad to worse, as he has only managed to score 234 runs at an average of less than 20 in 13 innings in the Ranji Trophy this season.
Sports unlike any other profession can be really cruel at times. As we grow older, we tend to find it even more difficult to believe that a player no longer remains the same with time and age. It is like depreciation of an asset which we only realize when it no longer serves the purpose. Age does become a factor after a certain point where the reflexes are no longer the same, body does not respond that well and mental fatigue creeps in.
But with experience, a player tends to change his game and all those years spent under the sun, makes him more matured which in turn increases his longevity in the game. A classic example would be Sachin Tendulkar who started off as a flamboyant stroke maker and with time, curbed his natural instincts and even played second fiddle to players like Sehwag and Yavraj. The role of a player changes with time but not his effectiveness if he is ready to adapt.
However, the problem with Sehwag is that all his life he has learnt to hit the ball. His mantra is - See the ball and hit the ball. He isn't the one who has been blessed with a sound technique as was the case with Tendulkar. For him, changing his game is like comprising with his unique selling point, which made people throng the stadium to see him playing. But his hand-eye co-ordination is no longer the same and the rub of the green is not going his way either.
The situation has gone to a stage where Viru’s comeback into the side now not only depends on the number of runs he scores in the near future but also on how the likes of Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane perform, as their failures can only open the door for Sehwag.
There is a long season ahead with a lot of overseas tours lined up in the next year or so and Sehwag has to find out a way to get back to form which will at least help him to make a case for himself. The road ahead is tough and bumpy but you never know with players like Sehwag. They are always one knock away from getting back to form.
What a sight it would be to see Virender Sehwag saying good bye to the grand stand with his head held high and not just fading away like a setting sun!...