As Virender Sehwag entered the Northamptonshire County Cricket Club ground on Thursday morning, an Indian fan remarked: 'Welcome! It's good to see you, it should give the team a new lease of life.'
'Koi bhagwan aa gya kya? (has god come?),' mumbled Sehwag faintly, but enough to be caught by the waiting cameras.
In a way, the wheel has come a full circle for Sehwag. In 2007, he was left out of the side for the England tour. Four years later, he is being looked upon as a saviour.On the eve of the two-day match against Northamptonshire, Sehwag lifted the spirits of the team with his energy and an impressive performance in training. The opening batsman attracted all the attention in the Indian nets on Thursday. He started with an intense batting session against the fast bowlers. His judgment of line and length was close to perfection. The backfoot punch was coming nicely; he was converting the full length balls into half-volleys and leaving the awkward balls around the off-stump with confidence.
He then switched nets and took throwdowns from coach Duncan Fletcher and computer analyst Dhananjay. Sehwag was in a great mood too. In between, he was humming the Bollywood number: 'Khallas Khallas Khallas Khallas Khallas. Bachke Tu Rehna Re Bachke Tu Rehna…'
He was constantly goading Dhananjai to let it fly faster, aiming at his chest and head: "C'mon DJ, faster, more quicker please".
He finished the session with a smile before joining Sachin Tendulkar for a bit of banter, and after a long gap, the Indian camp was sending out some positive vibes. It will be Sehwag's first competitive game since leaving the Indian Premier League midway in May to undergo a shoulder operation.
After the double failure in Tests, Northamptonshire is likely to face the brunt of India's batting might. The match is likely to see India have its regular opening combination with Gautam Gambhir also recovering from his elbow injury.
Gambhir spent a lot of time in the nets, taking throwdowns from fielding coach Trevor Penny. Raina worked on the short balls while Tendulkar was seen testing out a new bat, said to belong to coach Duncan Fletcher. He played against tennis balls, sharpening his play against rising deliveries.
The two-day game assumes importance for India from the batting point of view as they look to bounce back from the pounding taken at Lord's and Trent Bridge. The wicket here has favoured the pace bowlers and spending time on it will be a good preparation against James Anderson & Co for the third Test.
It will also be used as an opportunity to test Munaf Patel and Amit Mishra. Wriddhiman Saha is likely to don the gloves with MS Dhoni playing as a specialist batsman. The Northants team is in fine form and is leading the table in County Championship Division Two.