If asked to connect Virender Sehwag to World T20 tournaments, most Indian fans will be prompt in their answers - fitness issues. And probably, real and perceived controversies. So it wasn’t a surprise when rumours first set in that Sehwag was to miss at least the first game of the Super Eights because of a thumb injury.
In the 2007 World T20, Sehwag was a reluctant exclusion out of the final due to a groin injury and missed the chance to be a part of the 11 who won the cup.
The 2009 edition descended into a farce around Sehwag’s injury situation with neither captain MS Dhoni nor the manager clarifying the issue around his shoulder injury. A few days earlier, Dhoni had paraded the entire team in front of the media in a show of unity after reports of rifts had surfaced.
2010 was no different but at least Sehwag’s injury issue was clearer this time. He was ruled out of the tournament before it even started. There were murmurs of Sehwag getting hit by the injury during the IPL that season where he had gone on to play all the games for Delhi Daredevils.
Which brings us to this season’s World T20 where Sehwag, along with a couple of others, was dropped from the playing 11 against England.
While Sehwag was hit on his thumb in one of the practice sessions before the match, skipper Dhoni, when asked about this decision in his post-match conference, made a curious remark: We requested the three of them, Sehwag, Zaheer and Ashwin to make way in order to allow everyone a chance because we had already qualified.
This was followed by a day off batting practice in the nets; Sehwag refrained from facing up to the bowling for the three hours that he was in the practice. The media hue and cry around another rift within the team was unnecessary but expected in the absence of any clarification from the Indian management on Tuesday around this issue.
There was no explanation forthcoming on Wednesday either but the sight of Sehwag at the P Sara Oval, battering the net bowlers would have acted as a relief.
He practiced on Thursday as well but what thickens the plot further is the announcement that MS Dhoni made in the pre-match conference. In what was a deviation from normal, Dhoni stated that they had earmarked on five bowlers to play in their first Super Eight game against Australia, which increases the likelihood of Sehwag missing out.
In another breath, he was effusive in his praise of the Indian openers, a move that breathes suspicion around the selection of at least one of them.
Revealing the playing squad a day before the game is akin to giving away your strategy. What is, however, most surprising is that Dhoni’s and the Indian management’s reputation to do nothing to prevent the rumour-stoking around the Sehwag issue. There is ambiguity and speculation in the media about whether or not he was actually injured, rested or dropped from the England game.
Despite Dhoni opting to reveal his five-bowler strategy, two questions still remain unanswered going into the game. Will he actually stick by this idea and which batsman will make way for the fifth bowler? That’s apart from the bowling combination, which is another poser.
Makes for an interesting sub-plot then, doesn’t it?
Suneer Chowdhary is a Mumbai-based sports writer and his Twitter handle is @suneerchowdhary