Beware England! Sehwag is still dangerous

Updated: Aug 26, 2011, 18:12 PM IST

Nishad Vellur

More than the world number one Test spot being at risk, the famed batting line-up is also under fire with the below par performance by the Indians in England. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s leadership, which attracted applause all over until the start of England series, is also under scrutiny.

Experts started questioning his captaincy and more importantly his performance – as a batsman and a wicketkeeper. The criticism has even gone to the extent of questioning India’s world number one Test status.

Former greats blame Dhoni’s captaincy, shoddy glovework and poor batting for India’s disastrous show in the first two Tests against England, putting him under more pressure than ever before.

The question is: Is it too early to pass any judgment or write off a captain, who has led the team to World Cup glory after 18 years? Does Dhoni deserve better treatment during this rough patch of his career?

In Wasim Akram’s words, rather than calling it as a failure, it would be fair enough to call it as a wake-up call for Dhoni. Before passing any judgment, one must look into the possible reasons for the team’s cataclysmal performance. Firstly, the absence of pace spearhead Zaheer Khan when the team is playing in a pace-friendly pitch has had a huge impact on India. It was evident from the two Tests that young Indian pacemen, in the absence of Zaheer, struggled to challenge a strong England batting line-up, which is poised to take the top spot sooner than later.

And more importantly, dashing opener Virender Sehwag’s unavailability in the first two Tests was a huge blow for Team India. In his absence, newcomer Abhinav Mukund failed miserably as an opener and was unable to give India a perfect start. To add to the visitors’ woes, Gautam Gambhir suffered injury in the first Test.

The Delhi dasher might not have played since May 7 when he appeared for Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League, but he has finally turned up in England in the form of a saviour for India in the ongoing Test series. Where the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman failed to live up to their huge reputation, India was in dire need of a Viru-style attack against the rampaging England bowling to at least save the series and the face, too.

Sehwag failed to click in his first innings at Edgbaston, falling for a duck, but he has three more chances of turning the game around before the series is over.

Undeniably, the English team is in a very strong position, but they are wary of the possible damage Viru can cause to any team on his day. The news of his availability for the remaining two Test matches itself has demoralised the English team and, at the same time, has lifted the spirits of the players in the Indian camp.

The dashing opener has been the talk of the town in England ever since the news of his arrival broke. Even though Sehwag’s performance in England was not outstanding, the English fans and the English media alike still recall the memories in Chennai, 2008, where India successfully chased a remarkable 387 to win on a turning pitch. It was Sehwag who stunned the visitors on the fourth evening, with a 68-ball 83. For the record, Virender Sehwag has 239 runs from four Tests with a century and half-century at an average of 39.50 against England.

English bowlers await the dashing opener, who has scored his Test runs at a quicker pace than anyone else, at Edgbaston. Of Sehwag’s 22 Test centuries, 14 have been scores of more than 150. Setting fields to the great destroyer will be a daunting task for Andrew Strauss.

With the growing list of injured players in the Indian camp, it is hard to match the in-form England team. However, it might not be too late for a Sehwag-effect to make an impact in the series and let’s hope for a face-saving act from the opener. This swashbuckling batsman has to shoulder a heavy responsibility to prove the critics wrong when India takes on England in the last two Tests at Edgbaston and The Oval.

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