His mere sight has demoralised opponents and lifted the spirits of his teammates. Virender Sehwag's daredevil style of batting has evoked awe and fear from bowlers all over. Add his name to the team sheet and suddenly the line-up becomes intimidating. But this time it may be a bit too late even for the Sehwag factor to make the impact.
On Wednesday, he walked into an Indian side in total disarray. Psychologically, the players have taken a massive hit after heavy defeats in the first two Tests. Within a matter of three months after the World Cup euphoria, the team is in a free fall. The signs of disintegration are there to see. Every time the team performs badly, the players are looking tense.The ridicule they have faced from the critics here is taking its toll. The Indian dressing room has become a quiet place. The captain was never known for giving pep talks, and the chirpy characters have lost their voices.
Sehwag checked into the team hotel in the morning with a huge load of expectations on his shoulders. He is being seen as the big hope; his presence is expected to act as the catalyst. Most of his teammates are looking up to him for inspiration as well as runs at the top of the order.
Expectedly, all the talk around the Indian camp centred on the Indian ace's arrival. 'What time did he arrive? What's he wearing? What was his expression like?'
The Delhi dasher drove down straight from the London airport. The team reached the venue of their two-day warm-up game only in the evening and Sehwag chose to spend the free time by catching up on sleep and getting over the jet lag.
However, it remains to be seen if he has completely recovered. As India try to salvage some pride, they need Sehwag at his best. All eyes during the warm-up will be on how he shapes up and find out whether he is match-fit. Otherwise, the Indian team would be left wishing they didn't have to deal with this game from Friday. Given the toll the Tests have taken on them, they would prefer to rest and rejuvenate.
India are struggling to put 11 fit men on the field. Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh joined the long injury list, and have been ruled out for three and four weeks respectively. Virat Kohli and Pragyan Ojha will join the team as replacements. But the two really don't serve the team's purpose as Dhoni's main selection headache for the practice game is pace bowlers. Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan are yet to recover. Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar must be exhausted, having bowled more than 100 overs each in the last 10 days. It leaves him with Sreesanth and Munaf Patel.
Some players are blaming schedule for poor preparation. Dhoni also said that on most occasions the team has not gone into a series with ideal preparation. But if Sehwag fires, most of his problems will vanish.