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Defeat hard to digest: Chappell

india Updated: Jan 07, 2007 23:45 IST

The thread by which Virender Sehwag's future hung going into the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town would appear to have snapped.

"He's certainly a concern, but he's certainly not our only batting concern at the moment," was as close as Greg Chappell came to confirming that India's patience had run out with the man who, out of form or not, still sends a chill down opponents' spines.

Sehwag scored just 89 runs in six innings in the series, 40 of those in one innings and 33 in another. He seemed to edge the ball more than he middled it, he never seemed to shy away from playing the big, booming drive. And that often cost him his wicket.

But the South Africans held firm that if anyone could take the series away from them, it was the redoubtable Viru. Their extra enthusiastic celebrations at his dismissal throughout the series suggested as much, and several of their players confirmed that he was the Indian batsman they feared most.

However, Sehwag's descent to number seven in first innings of the third Test wasn't so much a demotion as a lifeline. Sadly, his score of 40 meant he failed to grasp that lifeline firmly enough. Back at the top in the second innings, he scored just four.

"There are more questions than answers," Chappell said. "Over the next week or so, we're going to have to make some decisions, and there'll be a few guys under pressure for sure."

Then he added, with no prompting: "Karthik did a fabulous job in the first innings, then he kept wicket for 130 overs. He delivered as well as anyone could have under the circumstances."

Chappell seemed to be saying India would far rather have an opener who brought Karthik's diligent approach than Sehwag's potentially devastating but risky method. In fact, he was less than satisfied with the batsmen.

"The bowlers have done a pretty good job, and to miss out on an opportunity to win the series was pretty disappointing," he said. "Our batting was disappointing in the last two Tests. We're disappointed that we got away to a good start and then let it get away from us.

"We've got to remember the positives as well... We won a Test for the first time in South Africa. That has to be enjoyed, but the edge has been taken off it a little by the batting in the last two Tests." Even the guts shown by Ganguly in several important innings wasn't enough to earn overt praise from Chappell. "He's done a good job," was the most positive comment Chappell could think of saying about the gutsy Ganguly, perhaps because of his unfortunate tendency on this tour to succumb to soft dismissals.

Chappell seemed to suggest that he would argue for a purge of ageing players who have not, by his standards, pulled their weight on tour.

"Some of the young boys performed very well, they showed they've got the skill and temperament to play Test cricket," he said. "Sree's bowling, for instance, has been outstanding."

There was also no shifting Chappell from the notion that India were correct to select Munaf ahead of Harbhajan Singh in the third Test despite a pitch that looked more like an Indian surface than a South African one.

"The choice was never between him (Munaf) and Harbhajan," Chappell held. "We wanted the balance of the batting and the bowling that we had. Harbhajan hasn't bowled for a month. We made the choices based on what we had and what we saw."

India came, saw, and were conquered. Again. When everyone has had their say and heads have stopped rolling, that's all that will remain.

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