Sanjay Manjrekar, in his opinion piece on M. S. Dhoni’s ODI captaincy, comments about the Indian ODI selection. He says, “I don’t think Virender Sehwag has been able to convince the selectors that he is in top gear. Also with Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa, you already have four openers in the side, so it was always going to be difficult for Sehwag.”
The first statement that Manjrekar makes is probably right. Although Sehwag did make a quickfire 40 in the match against New Zealand, he did not look totally convincing. In the previous match against Pakistan, Mohammed Asif found him wanting with a ball that nipped back in. Sehwag has not looked totally convincing.
However, Manjrekar’s second statement is the one that had me raising eyebrows. Classifying Sehwag as an opener just because he has opened in several ODIs is a bit of a furphy, in my view. An opener in an ODI is anyone who can give the ball a bit of a tonk. Sehwag can. He opened in ODIs. And he was successful enough at it that it gave him the right of passage into the Test team as an opener — the only route that he could use to gain entry into the Test team which, by then, had acquired a somewhat impregnable middle order. Let’s not forget that Sehwag is, indeed, a middle-order bat who converted himself into an ODI opener and, later, a Test opener. I am surprised that Manjrekar lost sight of that fact.
I do believe that Sehwag is a useful ODI player and should be part of the mix even if he does not open the innings. He contributes solidly with the bat on most occasions, he can be entrusted with a few overs of tight off spin and he is a reasonably competent outfielder. He also has that Dean Jones effect in ODIs where opposition teams try hard to get him out.
India should also be preparing for a post-fab-four Test team and in this team, in my view, Sehwag would occupy the middle order — perhaps occupying Sourav Ganguly’s position in the batting order. So, even for Tests, I think that the best route back for Sehwag is as a middle-order batsman.