Every cloud is said to have a silver lining. Anil Kumble injured his finger while fielding on Friday and had to be rushed to hospital. It was bad news for the team, especially on a rapidly deteriorating wicket. But that pushed Virender Sehwag to the forefront and he responded in a manner few would have expected.
It's not that Sehwag wouldn't have had a role had Kumble not injured his finger. With Australia boasting of quite a few left-handers in their ranks, his part-time off spin would have come handy anyway. But the skipper's injury saw Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the stand-in captain, persevering with Sehwag and even kept him on with the new ball. The result was three well-set batsmen, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey, fell to him.
The confirmation that he was exceptional came from none other that Hayden, his first victim. "Sehwag bowled exceptionally well. He spun the ball and extracted inconsistent bounce, so much so that he could have easily smashed Dhoni's face but for his helmet," said Hayden, adding that Sehwag knew the conditions as well as anyone else and exploited them to the hilt.
Sehwag himself was pleased with the effort. "Someone had to bowl after Kumble got injured. I got the opportunity and I am glad that I could do the job for the team," he said.
For the simple man that he is, Sehwag had a simple explanation for his success. "I was looking to contain runs. And if you succeed in doing that, you would get wickets," he said.
The dashing opener predicted tough times for the Aussies. "The wicket is deteriorating fast and it would get even tougher for the batsmen. Some of my deliveries today were just unplayable and it's only going to get tougher for the Aussies from here on, especially when Kumble will also be back tomorrow," he said.
This unexpected success with the ball has left him hungry for more. "I don't get opportunity to bowl such long spells often with Kumble and Harbhajan Singh in the side. But now that I have got it, I see a chance for myself to pick up my first five-wicket haul in Tests," said Sehwag, sounding a warning to the Aussies.