Former India selector tells mid-day how he had to push for Sehwag's inclusion in the ODI team in 1999
The odds were always stacked against Virender Sehwag even before he made his India debut on All Fool's Day in 1999 against Pakistan in Mohali.
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Sehwag was not the first choice of any selector. However, it was only at the insistence of one selector — S Madan Lal — that Sehwag was drafted in the squad for the tri-series which included Sri Lanka.
"I knew Sehwag was a gifted cricketer. I saw him bat a couple of times and was amazed with his confidence. Besides talent, I also take into account attitude and temperament of a player. He was fearless from the beginning. Such was his confidence that he was always sure of clearing the boundary rope fielder. He only required a little backing, and I did just that," Madan Lal told mid-day yesterday after Sehwag decided to hang his boots.
Batting at No 7, Sehwag was out for one, adjudged leg-before to Shoaib Akhtar. His next match for India was 20 months later, against Zimbabwe. A couple of years ago, former Board of Control for Cricket in India Secretary, the late Jaywant Lele revealed how Madan Lal urged the Baroda man to convince Chandu Borde.
"Madan used to bring up Sehwag's name at every selection committee meeting chaired by Chandu Borde. But he was never considered. Madan came to know that Borde and me share a good equation so, he tried to push Sehwag's case through me. I persuaded Borde to give Sehwag a chance. Chandu agreed on the condition that I back him in case there are questions from the media," Lele said at an event at the Cricket Club of India in March 2013.
A young Virender Sehwag
Madan Lal explained what went into picking Sehwag. "I was convinced that India needed a player like Sehwag and that's why I forced my choice on others (fellow selectors). Every selector backs some player because of their performances and certain qualities. I did the same. There was strong opposition. I don't remember why now, but they had to ultimately give in," said the 1983 World Cup-winning member.
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During the 2001 SA tour...
Madan Lal revealed that his co-selectors wanted Sehwag to return home from the South Africa tour in 2001. "He had not performed well in the first few matches of the tri-series and there was a lot of discussion on calling him back. But I put my foot down. Sehwag was a match-winner.
The team needed a guy like him with the way he would win matches for us. He could dominate any attack and seeing him hit the bowlers fearlessly also gave confidence to other players in the dressing room," Madan Lal said. Sehwag stayed back, scored a magnificent 105 on Test debut against South Africa at Bloemfontein and the rest is history.