Virender Sehwag came out to bat for Delhi at 7/2 and punished India Blue bowlers with a 38-ball 59 in the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy on Thursday. (PTI)
There was no sign of Virender Sehwag when the Delhi openers came out to open the innings against India Blue in the NKP Salve Challengers Trophy. A wicket went down early, and Virat Kohli stepped out. Still no sign of Sehwag. Kohli went as quickly as he strode in. The score read 7 for 2 and out came Sehwag - at No. 4.
Not too long ago a given in India colours, bad form coupled with now-and-then niggles forced the selectors to axe the veteran, asking him to oil his bat and limbs in domestic cricket. Months later, Sandeep Patil & Co decided to give a fresh lease to Sehwag's career by naming him in the four-day India A squad to face West Indies A. That sprung Sehwag into action.
A middle order batsman by nature, Sehwag had a dream debut and run as an opener who intimidated bowlers round the world since making his Test debut in 2001. And on Thursday, at the Holkar Cricket Stadium in Indore, he decided to return to where he made his international debut in 1999 against Pakistan - the middle order.
Batting at 7 for 2 is almost like coming in as an opener against the new ball, and Sehwag batted exactly like he has been doing throughout his career. The Delhi batsman blasted a 38-ball 59, putting Delhi on their way to overhauling the 271-run target before falling by the wayside to lose by 18 runs.
Forty-two of Sehwag's 59 belligerent runs came off boundaries - 9 fours and a six, taking Delhi to 85 by the 13th over. But left-arm spinner Iresh Saxena had the last laugh by accepting a caught and bowled chance to end what was turning into a match-winning knock.
The veteran India opener, according to media reports earlier this month, has intimated the BCCI about his preference to bat in the middle order after being dropped from the Test squad after the Hyderabad Test against Australia last year. But what's interesting is that the selectors have picked him as an opener for India A, which leaves it to the team management to decide if they want to slide him down to the middle order.
Sehwag scored just 27 runs in his last two Tests, which were against Australia at home. He, along with Gautam Gambhir, was dropped after those failures - with the selectors deciding to put their faith in young Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay, who have been performing exceptionally well since then. That has forced Sehwag to re-think his future as an opener.
But for Sehwag, who turns 35 next month, life won't be easy in the middle order - especially after opening for the majority of his 104 Tests. However, what boosts the Delhi batsman's chances to prove himself in the middle order is the inconsistency shown by Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma in the longer version, though Sharma has shown signs of maturing ever since being asked to open in the limited-overs games.
Sanjay Manjrekar, former India opener and now an accomplished commentator, has urged the BCCI to grant Sehwag his wish. Writing in his column on Cricinfo, Manjrekar said, "It's a desire that he [Sehwag] seems to have held forever as a Test batsman. I have held the view that for a natural middle-order batsman, he served India amazingly well as an opener when they desperately needed one, so how about granting him that wish before his career finishes."
Will the selectors grant Sehwag his wish? Only time will tell.