Sandeep Patil has made it amply clear that he is a no-nonsense man. There will be no place for non-performers. The hosts may be enjoying a 2-0 lead in the series, but that hasn’t stopped the senior national selection committee from axing Virender Sehwag for the two remaining Test matches against Australia.
Weeks after showing Gautam Gambhir the door, Patil & Co on Thursday dropped India’s greatest impact player and match-winner for his prolonged dry run with the bat. For Indian cricket, it’s a departure from tradition, for a side that’s winning usually carries one or two out of form players.
“Will continue to work hard for my place in the team. I trust my game and am confident that, ‘I’ll be back.’ Best wishes to the team,” Sehwag tweeted. India’s next Test assignment is in November when they travel to South Africa. And given that India’s domestic season also starts around the same time, it remains to be seen how and where Sehwag would prove his worthiness in duration cricket and reclaim his place. Could this be the end of the road for the one-time ‘Nawab’ who was recently dropped from ODI side as well? Let’s hope not.
The panel did not name a replacement and that means Sehwag’s citymate, Shikhar Dhawan, is most likely to make his Test debut in the third Test to be played in Chandigarh from March 14-18. New Delhi’s Ferozeshah Kotla, Sehwag’s home ground, will host the final Test as India seek to complete a ‘brownwash’.
The Gambhir-Sehwag combo is, by far, India’s most prolific opening pair of all time and among the top five in the history of Test cricket. One can’t remember the last time a Test squad featured neither man from the capital. The selectors are also believed to have debated Harbhajan Singh, but he survived the axe.
Sehwag has been dropped from the Test side for the first time since he made a memorable comeback with a match-saving century in the fourth and final Test in Adelaide five Australian summers ago. Remember it was on then-skipper Anil Kumble’s insistence that Sehwag was included as the 17th member of the squad for the 2007-08 series, best remembered for Monkeygate and Bucknorgate.
Sehwag’s ‘reputation’ had worked in his favour on that occasion. This time, the selectors have looked at the numbers. And they don’t tell a good story. Ever since that unbeaten 151 at the Adelaide Oval, Sehwag has done well in the subcontinent, averaging over 57. However, his overseas record has been dismal to say the least. In 12 Tests outside Asia, he has scored just 523 runs at an average of less than 23 with no hundred to show.
Of late, Sehwag has been a shadow of his dominant self in home conditions too. He had scored a big hundred — 173 — against New Zealand in Ahmedabad in 2010 before scoring a typically aggressive one in the same city against England last year. Since then, he’s returned scores of 25, 30, 9, 23, 49, 0 (versus England), and 2, 19 and 6 (against Australia).
By not naming the extra opener, the selectors have also overlooked Gambhir’s hundred for India ‘A’ in the three-day warm-up game against Australia in Chennai in mid-February. Does that mean we would be flying to South Africa with a completely new-look pair? Looks like. Ajinkya Rahane is another batsman capable of donning the opener’s hat, but Patil had once said the prolific run-scorer from Mumbai was in the squad as a middle-order batsman.