New Delhi: Out-of-favour Indian opener Virender Sehwag on Monday pulled out of Delhi's Vijay Hazare Trophy (North Zone leg) match against Himachal Pradesh in Delhi amid speculation that the decision was prompted by poor form.
While the official reason given was "sickness", it is widely believed in Delhi's cricket fraternity that Sehwag has finally taken a break due to poor form.
"Sehwag has cough and cold problems and that's why he has decided to opt out of this game. He also reported of feverish feeling," Chetan Chauhan, chairman of the selection committee told PTI.
However, Sehwag conveyed his decision to the team's chief coach Sanjeev Sharma at 7:15 am in the morning while the players were instructed to report to the ground at 7:30 am.
"Viru texted me in the morning and told me that he is sick," Sharma said when asked about Sehwag's absence. However Sharma's next statement was even more interesting. "Had he played this match, he would have opened the innings," Sharma said.
Sharma said Sehwag should be fit for the crucial tie against Haryana on Wednesday. "He might not be in great form but remains an integral part of the side."
A senior DDCA official preferring anonymity questioned Sehwag's pullout only 15 minutes prior to reporting time. "Look, everybody knows that Sehwag does have an issue regarding opening the innings. He himself had many a times made it clear that he doesn't want to open. Although that's a negative mentality but people are raising questions as to how he can get this leeway despite repeated failures.
"May be he is now being given feelers by the team management that he should open in the best interest of the team," a senior DDCA official said.
The 35-year-old Sehwag scored 14 and 10 respectively against Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab. Playing with spectacles, his famous hand-eye coordination has gone down considerably.
Unmukt Chand, Jagrit Anand and Milind Kumar struck fighting half centuries in Delhi's five-wicket win over Himachal Pradesh in the Vijay Hazare Trophy (North Zone) at Delhi's Ferozeshah Kotla on Monday.
Delhi played cautiously to get past Himachal's 230 all out in 49.1 overs. Milind (57 not out off 68) played a handy knock to get his team home after Chand (51 off 80 balls) and Anand (61 off 89) set the tone for a successful chase with a 79-run partnership.
The win was Delhi's second in three games while Himachal are yet to taste victory in the premier domestic cricket competition.
Delhi, who had lost to Punjab here Saturday, made three changes in the side with Anand, Yogesh Nagar and Ishant Sharma replacing 'sick' Sehwag, injured all-rounder Rajat Bhatia and pacer Sumit Narwal.
Delhi lost captain Gautam Gambhir (14) early in the chase with the southpaw edging a wide delivery off fast bowling all-rounder Rishi Dhawan. Anand joined Chand at the crease and the duo was tested by Dhawan and his new ball partner Vikramjeet Malik.
A usually attacking Chand had to toil for runs, finding the fence only four times including a six off Gurvinder Singh. The former India Under-19 captain threw it away after crossing the 50-run mark, finding the long off fielder after mistiming an aerial hit off Gurvinder.
Left-arm spinner Abhinav Bali bowled Mithun Manhas (4) to make it 114/3. Anand continued to occupy the crease until Bali held on to a spectacular return catch. Though wickets fell at the wrong time for Delhi, the run-rate was never an issue.
Milind showed the required maturity after Anand's fall and alongside Nagar (31 off 33) saw his team through. The two shared 67 runs for the fifth wicket.
Earlier, Bipul Sharma struck a valiant 57 off 46 to take his team to a respectable total. Prashant Chopra made 49 off 81 at the top.
Ishant, playing his first competitive game since India's New Zealand tour, conceded 38 runs in eight overs and picked the wicket of opposition captain Paras Dogra.