Can Virender Sehwag cash in on this opportunity?

Virender Sehwag is probably facing the sternest test of his illustrious career. Ever since the second Test against Australia in Hyderabad in March, the Delhi opener has fallen out of favour with the national selectors. To make matters worse, a poor Indian Premier League season for Delhi Daredevils (except for 95 not out against Mumbai Indians) ensured Sehwag remained sidelined from national reckoning.

Virender Sehwag
Virender Sehwag leaves the field after being dismissed during the Adelaide Test against Australia in early 2012. PIC/Getty Images

The rise of southpaw and Delhi teammate Shikhar Dhawan as opener was another deterrent to Sehwag’s prospects of reclaiming his place. However, there’s fresh hope for Sehwag after Sandeep Patil & Co included him in the India ‘A’ squad for the West Indies ‘A’ series. Sehwag will be a part of the second and third four-day games against the visitors. Apart from Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan have also been handed a lifeline.

Gauti, Yuvi can wait
While Gambhir (31) and Yuvraj (31) can afford to wait a bit longer, this opportunity could well make or break Sehwag’s international career as he will be turning 35 on October 20. Keeping the South African tour in mind, the swashbuckling batsman will have fewer opportunities to impress the selectors.

“It is too early to talk about the South Africa tour. I pray he goes to South Africa though. Firstly, how he performs against the West Indies (‘A’ team) is important.  “This opportunity will give him a chance to revive his career. It will certainly have a huge role to play in taking his career ahead,” Sehwag’s childhood coach AN Sharma told MiD DAY from New Delhi yesterday.

Now that Sehwag is included in the ‘A’ team, coach Sharma has sent a clear message to his ward. “It is a good thing that he is back. But he needs to stay for a longer period at the crease as the competition is a lot tougher. I have told him this,” said Sharma.  Late last month, Sehwag shifted his base from Delhi to Chennai to train at the MRF Pace Foundation which is headed by Australian pace great Glenn McGrath. “He has shifted to Chennai to avoid rains in Delhi. He would get to face quality bowlers there,” Sharma said.

Consistency, the key
Former India selector Madan Lal felt Sehwag would have to prove his consistency. “It is not just about one or two games. He will need to perform consistently for at least three to six months. You just cannot drop youngsters who are performing well. “Sehwag’s hunger to play at the highest level will also be one of the crucial factors (in getting back into the team),” said the 1983 World Cup-winning member.

Sehwag isn’t new to comebacks. In January 2007, the Nawab of Najafgarh was dropped from the ODI and Test teams. He made a remarkable return to form a year later to re-establish himself as one of the best batsmen in the world, and was also reappointed vice-captain for Tests and ODIs.  However, this time the pressure is immense, said Madan.

“When you are out of the team, you have to perform three times more to return. Making a comeback is always difficult. It depends how strong he is mentally. It also depends on what the captain thinks. There are many other factors that go into a selection. Performance, however, is the No 1 criteria,” he signed off. 

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