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Sehwag and his Caribbean cruise

There is something about West Indies that adds to the evolution of the Indian cricketer.

india Updated: Jun 15, 2006 02:38 IST

There is something about the West Indies, which adds to the evolution of Virender Sehwag as a cricketer.

If the 2002 tour planted in him the seeds of an opener, this time around it his off-spin bowling which is making critics sit up and take notice.

During India's last tour of the Caribbean, Sehwag missed out on the Test series because of an injury. Arriving for the one-dayers, he acted on the advice of Ravi Shastri who told him "grab any chance which comes your way and if it means opening the innings in Tests, so be it."

With the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman in the middle order, opening was the only spot left for Sehwag in Tests.

And on the first opportunity he got, he slammed a buccaneering 84 at Lord's and the rest, as they say, is history.

Something similar is happening to Sehwag the off-spinner on the present tour. He gave breakthroughs to India in both Antigua and St. Lucia. Between him and Anil Kumble, the duo has picked up 17 of the 30 home batsmen so far.

Both Harbhajan Singh and Ramesh Powar were competing for the off-spinner's slot, but now have a common cause to be counted ahead of Sehwag.

Biomechanist Ian Frazer, soulmate to many members of the team, likes Sehwag's ability to experiment yet stick to the basics in his bowling.

He found it strange for Sehwag to be talking about his bowling when "his innings on the first day of the second Test was one of the most extraordinary knocks seen on a cricket field."

One can only guess if it was Dr. Rudi Webster, the Grenada-based psychologist, hired for 'mind sessions' with the Indian cricketers for a week, who has made Sehwag enjoy his cricket once again. He admits the two-and-a-half hour session with Webster moved him to pour his heart out.

"I told him every little detail there was to tell about myself," said Sehwag.

Therein hangs a tale. Sehwag lately has been a free-spirit shackled by inconsistent form; the asinine officialdom of Indian cricket who pulls him up for praising his former captain; the whispers on his discomfort with the tough, rigid methods of Chappell and the stream of openers who are being tried in one-day and Test arena.

The last few weeks have seen that famous spirit restored. But somehow, great Indian batsmen down the ages have never been ones to spend extra hours on their bowling skills in the nets.

It was not the case with Vijay Merchant or Sunil Gavaskar, Vijay Hazare or Vijay Manjrekar, Gundappa Viswanath or Mohinder Amarnath.

Both Tendulkar and Ganguly had ability with the ball but they usually turned their arms over for a while before the captain decided he could not take chances with their line and length after four or five overs.

Sehwag would have liked it when he got those 11 overs on the trot in the dying minutes of the Antigua Test and he would no doubt arouse interest in the next few weeks, even as two specialists off-spinners in the team would shuffle in unease in their chairs.

First Published: Jun 14, 2006 17:10 IST