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The Sehwag puzzle

Sehwag justified his skipper's confidence and established himself as perhaps the world's most fearsome opener. Five years on though, under a different skipper, Sehwag has moved back to where he started --- in the middle.

india Updated: Sep 19, 2006 03:19 IST

Five years ago, then Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly sacrificed his successful opening slot and possibly, the best opening combine the world had seen in ages, for the sake of young live-wire from Delhi.

Though Virender Sehwag was inducted into the Indian team as a middle-order batsman, Ganguly was convinced that with his free-flowing strokes and superb hand-eye co-ordination, he would be best suited for the No 1 position.

Sehwag justified his skipper's confidence and established himself as perhaps the world's most fearsome opener. Five years on though, under a different skipper, Sehwag has moved back to where he started --- in the middle. And again, like the time he moved to the top, there are questions --- why is a successful move being challenged, whether in the name of "experimentation" or anything else?

"This is an experiment. We feel that in the middle overs, we need players with a bit of power and creativity. Especially with the Champions Trophy and the World Cup that will be played on slower, Caribbean tracks. That is an area of concern," said Dravid, when asked about the demotion.

But why move Sehwag down and not utilise his ability to demoralise the opposition at the start? "Yuvraj has done really well in the last year and Dhoni has also come up well," said Dravid. "If Viru clicks at this position, then we can have a middle-order which can be creative and powerful.”

But do you really need to experiment with a successful combine in a World Cup season? Do you need that extra impetus -- at the cost of possibly demoralising a match-winner? And Sehwag, with over 4500 runs in one-day internationals and a phenomenal strike-rate of 96.81, is definitely that.

As Dravid said, in Yuvraj and Dhoni, India already have a pair of match-winners that can change the complexion of any game in a few overs. They also have Kaif and the young Suresh Raina, who seems to have the ability to adjust his play according to the game. And of course, Dravid himself.

Agreed, there have been some concerns about Sehwag’s form. Agreed, Chappell has some plans to identify a pool of players to take up more responsibility in coming months. But, in the process of all this emphasis on experimentation, no one seems overly concerned about the impact of these on an individual.

So how long will these experiments last? Dravid himself was not sure, just insisting that flexibility was essential to identify players for the future. "Nothing is written in stone."