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Sehwag should open
by Sunil Gavaskar
Dec 15, 2007
Sunil Gavaskar says Sehwag should open.

One of the tricks that invariably thrills us in a magic show is the one where the magician pulls a rabbit out of the hat. All of us despite our ages clap at what truly is a spectacular trick. The Indian selectors have done something similar and pulled a rabbit out of their collective hats by picking Virender Sehwag for the tour to Australia. And all of India is excited at the decision. It could well turn out to be one of the most inspirational decisions taken by this Committee.

Even Ian Chappell, who knows more about cricket than many others, had earlier questioned the omission of the Delhi dasher from the list of probables to go to Australia. Ian Chappell was one of the greatest captains in the world and he knows that to beat Australia you need to fight fire with fire and Sehwag‘s selection gives India just that. The question though is, will he find a place in the eleven at Melbourne, where the first Test is going to be played?

With Tendulkar coming back in the team and Yuvraj having grabbed his chance with a strokeful century, the Indians have a surfeit of batting talent to choose from and whom to leave out, rather than who to pick is the pleasant dilemma for the tour Selection Committee. To pick Sehwag in the squad and not choose him to open the batting in the first Test itself will defeat the very purpose of selecting him in the first place. Irrespective of how he does in the warm up game before the first Test, Sehwag has to be penciled in at least for the first two Tests.

After all, he has been taken, despite a horrible lack of runs in all forms of Domestic Cricket so far and his lack of confidence was evident when having failed in the first innings of the recent Ranji Trophy game against Maharashtra, he opted not to bat when Delhi needing some 50 odd runs for a win were three wickets down. But now that he is in the squad, he must be given the confidence to go out and bat as only he knows and assure him at least 4 innings to take the attack to the Australians. The South African Series last year showed that they had planned how to bowl to him and restrict him, and the Australians will be no different but this is where Sehwag can upset the opposition for once he gets going the best laid plans of men and mice come to naught.

India has to go in with two regular opening batsmen, for Australia’s strength is in its new ball, and for that to be countered a pair that plays the new ball regularly has to be sent. It may be unfortunate on Yuvraj or VVS Laxman, for one of them may have to be left out to accommodate Sehwag but if that’s in the team’s interest then that call has to be made.

The Selectors also showed good sense in reposing trust in Dinesh Karthik, for here is a player who has done a myriad of roles for his team with a smile on his face. The sheer positivity that Karthik brings to the team is worth its weight in gold. He may find himself out of the playing eleven to accommodate Sehwag but that will not dampen him and he will still be out there giving his 100% to the team effort, be it running out energetically for drinks or coming in and standing in the silly short leg position for a few overs till one of the seniors come back after a bite or two and a bit of a leg up in the dressing room. It was hard on Parthiv Patel who in Domestic Cricket has been as heavy a scorer as Ganguly has been at the Test level.

The moot point for the selectors would have been if Patel’s keeping has improved. By all accounts, it has, but still the old flaw of not being able to gather cleanly the ball from around the knees is still there and that was what had let India miss a chance of putting it across to the Australians the last time around. Still it is good to have those in possession of keeping the gloves on their toes, for that is what will ensure that there is no complacency and no let up in performance.

India has a good chance if it can get going straightaway in Melbourne itself and in that respect, it is probably a good thing that there is not much of a gap between the end of the Pakistan tour and the start of the Australian Series. If the Pakistan series had been a hard fought one then it could have drained the Indians mentally but this Series was a virtual walk in the park for the Indians and so they would not have expended too much mentally which is good news for the forthcoming tour. That they have a real gritty fighter like Chetan Chauhan as the Manager, is also a good thing because he is one who will not hesitate to take charge when it is required and with his experience as a media man in India, he will be able to handle the support staff of Australia [the Australian media] quite easily.

We in India keep speculating about how there are so many who aspire to lead the team and so there are camps within the team and all that but recent happenings after Michael Clarke was made skipper of the Australian 20/20 team, has indicated that India has stiff competition there too. Adam Gilchrist went on record to say that Clarke was not an automatic choice to take over from Ponting and that there are other candidates too including himself and then surprise surprise. Andrew Symonds threw his hat in the ring by saying that he would love the chance to captain Australia in the One Dayers and thought that he would do a good job too as he had learnt so much and so much of his observations were being taken on board by Ponting. If such talk had emanated from the Indian side then the Indian media would have had a field day and there would have been stories flying around every minute but the Australian media is almost like an extension of their team and so there will not be questions asked if their players express their ambitions.

Those from India who have to give a different angle to their stories and which is invariably and unfortunately how there are camps within the Indian team, based on who eats dinner with whom and who goes out shopping with who, should take some time out from that and follow the Australian team and see that they too have some players who are more comfortable with each other, so hang out together. It does not mean that there are camps in the team. The Australian media will not make a song and dance or special programming around this but then as said earlier, they are almost an extension of the support staff of the team. We keep being told to follow the Australian system but should it only be the players or also all those who have a stake in Indian cricket?

More Views by Sunil Gavaskar
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