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Sehwag's last chance
by Gulu Ezekiel
Dec 14, 2007
Few cricketers have been given so many opportunities based solely on past record and reputation as Virender Sehwag. Not included in the provisional list of 24 for the tour to Australia announced last week, he now finds himself back in the squad after Gautam Gambhir failed a fitness test, apparently on the insistence of captain Anil Kumble.

His Delhi teammate and fellow-opener Aakash Chopra has been left fuming, considering his own excellent form in the current Ranji Trophy season in which Sehwag has been a notable flop. Sehwag has been a miserable failure over the last two years and more despite being given repeated chances. In the last 10 Test matches (20 innings) his lone century was against the West Indies at Gros Islet in June 2006.

In ODIs, he has been in even worse form—one century (against Bermuda in the World Cup) in the last 20 innings. He was back for the recent ODIs against Pakistan. Once again he was unimpressive in his three matches.

In the inaugural T-20 World Cup too in South Africa he was a surprise inclusion considering all the other ‘seniors’ had been dropped/rested. He had one half-century in the tournament but was excluded for the final, ostensibly on fitness grounds. In reality, he was an embarrassment in the field. That one brave decision may have made all the difference in the final against Pakistan.

This time around he has made it based on his spectacular success when India last visited Australia in 2003-04. His blazing 195 on the opening day of the Melbourne Test had the experts shaking their heads in awe at the audacity of his strokeplay. But three years is a long time in the life of a sportsman.

This looks like his last chance to come good. But his sluggish footwork and inability to learn from his repeated failings while slashing outside the off stump may come to haunt him again on the bouncy tracks Down Under.

Then again, the pundits wrote off Sourav Ganguly last year and he has come storming back. Under such circumstances, it might be unwise for anyone to stick their necks out again and express an opinion on any one player!

The biggest dilemma facing the tour selectors before the opening Boxing Day Test at Melbourne is how to fit Yuvraj Singh into the playing XI now that he has sealed his place with that fantastic century in the Bangalore Test.

Yuvraj got in through the back door due to injuries to MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar, both of whom will be back at Melbourne. It now appears certain that a stopgap opener will have to be used to accommodate Yuvraj and the onus it appears will fall on Rahul Dravid. There cannot be a place for Dinesh Karthick despite his 50 on the final day of the series.

Considering the embarrassment of batting riches, at least for the first two Test matches it is doubtful Sehwag will get a chance to play.

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