M A I N   N E W S

Sehwag dropped for last two Tests with Australia
Rohit Mahajan
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, March 7
Five years after he made a triumphant return to the Indian Test team on the tour of Australia, Virender Sehwag has been axed. The selectors have named a 14-member squad for the final two Test matches of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, opting to not pick up a replacement for Sehwag. It’s an emphatic statement from the selectors -- they ignored the option of retaining Sehwag in the 15-member squad and then replacing him for the Mohali Test with Shikhar Dhawan. That would have softened the blow a bit, but it turned out to be the sack for Sehwag.

Sehwag’s Delhi teammate Gautam Gambhir may have fancied his chances of making a comeback into the squad, but he was ignored for the last two Tests. Gambhir was dropped after the defeat to England, though he had been third on the batting averages table for India. Last month, Gambhir made 112 for India A against the Australians in a tour match, and followed it up with 44*, 69 and 5 in the domestic limited-over matches in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.

Dhawan, Sehwag’s and Gambhir’s Delhi teammate, is the forerunner to debut and open the innings in the third Test in Mohali with Murali Vijay.

However, Mumbai’s Ajinkya Rahane could be the dark horse in the second opener’s sweepstakes. Rahane, who also is yet to play a Test match, has been selected as a middle-order batsman. But there’s no room in the Indian middle order for Rahane: Mahendra Singh Dhoni currently occupies the No. 6 position while Ravindra Jadeja’s utility as a bowler has made him a fixture at No. 7.

Jadeja has been greatly useful as a spin bowler in home conditions. This factor, and the high number of left-handers in the Australian team, has resulted in Pragyan Ojha -- India’s most successful bowler in the series against England -- being dropped from the XI.

Jadeja, who’s scored three triple centuries in domestic cricket, could turn out to be a fine allrounder for India; however, his three Test innings in home conditions inspire little confidence about his ability to handle top-class bowling, more so in foreign conditions.

Thus, the selectors and the team management might decide this is the best time to test Rahane in Test cricket, even if it’s at home, even if it’s against a beaten Australian attack -- and even if would be extremely cruel on Dhawan.

Rahane is already an opener for India in the shorter versions of the game, which really are not his best formats. His first class average is 62.04 and List A (limited-overs) average is 36.10. He has opened for India 16 times in One-day Internationals and seven times in Twenty20 Internationals.

However, his forte is the long-form cricket, for which he’s yet to get an opportunity for India. Rahane has been waiting for a chance to play Test cricket for over 12 months after travelling to Australia last year.

Rahane’s credentials in domestic cricket are impeccable. He made his debut in first-class cricket as an opener in 2007 but moved into the middle order to make way for Wasim Jaffer in the Mumbai team.

Interestingly, Rahane’s average of 62.04 is the highest among all batsmen playing first class cricket around the world; the current first class average of Cheteshwar Pujara, India’s stellar batsman over the last one year, is 60.35.

It’s difficult to see how Sehwag could return to the Indian team. India play very little cricket at home over the next two years. Their next three tours are to South Africa, New Zealand and England, where Sehwag’s record is less than encouraging. In 19 Tests in these three countries, he has only two centuries. His average in South Africa is 25.46. He had scored a century on debut there in 2001; after that innings, he averages 19.78 in 14 innings in South Africa.

Five years ago on his comeback in Australia, Sehwag made 29, 43, 63 and a brilliant 151 in Adelaide. But after that over five years, he’s made only 523 runs in 12 Tests outside Asia, with a best of 67. In that duration in Asia, he’s made a staggering 3622 runs at 57.49.

But in recent times, he’s been struggling even on home tracks, with 532 runs in 11 Tests over the past 12 months, for an average of 28. 

Performance issue

  • The squad was trimmed to 14 with the selectors deciding against picking a replacement for out-of-form Sehwag, who has scored just 27 runs in his three innings during the ongoing series
  • Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who has also been struggling to regain his peak form, was, however, retained in the squad announced by BCCI Secretary Sanjay Jagdale
  • Barring the 34-year-old Sehwag's sacking, there were no other changes in the squad for the two matches to be played in Mohali and Delhi, respectively





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