Out-of-form opener Virender Sehwag was today axed from the Indian cricket squad for the third and fourth Test against Australia, paying the price for a prolonged run drought.
The squad was trimmed to 14 with the selectors deciding against picking a replacement for Sehwag, who has scored just 27 runs in his three innings during the ongoing series.
Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who has also been struggling to regain his peak form, was, however, retained in the squad announced by BCCI Secretary Sanjay Jagdale.
Barring the 34-year-old Sehwag's sacking, there were no other changes in the squad for the two matches to be played in Mohali (from March 14) and Delhi (from March 22) respectively. India lead the four-match series 2-0 after thumping wins in Chennai and Hyderabad.
Sehwag's omission comes after his long-time opening partner Gautam Gambhir was shown the door, also due to poor form.
This paves the way for India to have a completely new opening pair featuring neither of the two veterans, who have occupied the top two batting slots since 2004. Together they have scored 4412 runs in 87 innings and are ranked fifth in the all-time list of top opening pairs with an average of 52.52.
In the absence of Sehwag, Shikhar Dhawan could get a chance to open the innings with Murali Vijay, who cemented his place with a gritty hundred in the second Test in Hyderabad, which India won by an innings and 135 runs.
Ajinkya Rahane is another opener who is in the squad but chief selector Sandeep Patil had earlier indicated that he has been chosen as a middle-order batsman.
Even though India registered commanding victories in the first two Tests, the opening partnerships between Sehwag and Vijay could produce only 11, 16 and 17 runs.
The team: MS Dhoni (captain/wicketkeeper), Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, R. Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ajinkya Rahane, Ashok Dinda, Shikhar Dhawan, Ishant Sharma.
Here is are a few Twitter reactions:
Sehwag is trending with #pheeka:)
— nikTwik (@nikhilesh0708) March 7, 2013
Ind.selector didn't pick 15th in squad,r they planning to play with ten,seeing week bowling attack-just joking !s.dhawan enjoysehwag sorry— dalip kumar chhabra (@t7Part) March 7, 2013
Well I remember Dhoni saying 'we need to give more time to Sehwag' well he had 5 days of cricket and we batted only once #sehwag dropped !— Sreehari(@dreampuncher) March 7, 2013
I hv complete trust on Sehwag that he will come back- he has faced similar situation before..no way u can write him off..— Sumanta Chakraborty (@sumanta48) March 7, 2013