Daily Archives: 19 September 2007

Is Sehwag an opener?

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.

— Mohan

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Probably the best team that could have been chosen?

First up, I think it is a good thing that the selectors decided to delink the selection of captain and vice-captain for the shorter version of the game and the longer version of the game. It is good, in my opinion, that the choice of captain for the Tests will be delayed until after the ODI series against Australia.

M. S. Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh were probably the best choices for captain and vice-captain respectively.

The dropping of Ajit Agarkar and Munaf Patel is also a step in the right direction. The ODI game is not for sloppy cricketers who need to be hidden on the field. Ajit Agarkar needs to be hidden when he is bowling and batting while Munaf Patel needs to be hidden when he is fielding. Unless Ajit Agarkar and Munaf Patel improve, respectively, on their mental and physical approach to the game, they may well have played their last ODIs for India.

Venkatesh Prasad, who was quite open and scathing in his criticism of Munaf Patel’s selection for the ODI tour of England has been heard. The coach, particularly a specialist coach — in this case, a bowling coach — should be consulted on matters of form and fitness. Munaf Patel was just not fit enough and played a very small role in the ODI series against England. After having let India down on her tours of South Africa (broke down midway through a Test after being selected), Bangladesh (had to return home after breaking down) and England (played a bit-role in one ODI), the player needed a kick up his backside and that is precisely what he got.

Ajit Agarkar will remain an enigma lost to Indian cricket. He arrived with a lot of promise, delivered for a while and then, despite a string of no-shows and oh-oh-I-got-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-bed-again-appearances, has continued to hang around like a pimple that will just not go away!

Gautam Gambhir continues to get a spot, perhaps as a result of his 50 against New Zealand in the T20 World Cup. He did play brilliantly in that game. But I continue to be amazed by this persistence in Gautam Gambhir. I am not quite convinced of Gambir’s place and his role in the team. Time will tell.

I do not see the need for 3 spinners — Piyush Chawla, Harbhajan Singh and Ramesh Powar — in the team. That is a luxury in an ODI series, in my view. I am not sure why spinners cannot be rotated in much the same way as batsmen are. An extra bat or an investment in a potential future allrounder may have been a better option. I’d have gone with someone like Badrinath for one of the spinners.

Sreesanth appears to have served his penance and is back in the fold.

Irfan Pathan had two good outings in the T20 series and gets the nod. He appears to have lost a bit in pace and is only bowling at about 130kmph. But his accuracy and swing — his forte — appear to have re-appeared and that can only be good. His fielding also appears to have improved!

Dilip Vengsarkar did talk about a rotation policy. Hopefully, this policy will allow them a look at players like Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, Manoj Tiwary, S. Badrinath, Mohammed Kaif, Rohit Sharma, Joginder Sharma, Ishant Sharma, et al.

The team (in possible batting order):

Sachin Tendulkar
Sourav Ganguly
Robin Uthappa / Gautam Gambhir / Dinesh Karthik
Rahul Dravid
Yuvraj Singh (vice-captain)
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt)
Irfan Pathan
Piyush Chawla
Ramesh Powar / Harbhajan Singh
RP Singh / Sreesanth
Zaheer Khan

— Mohan