Virender Sehwag is one of our top three batsmen, if one were to go by the strength of recent performances. He only had to sit out of the Nagpur Test because India wanted to give their all-rounder Sanjay Bangar a try and could not summon the courage to sacrifice one of their constantly failing senior players. VVS Laxman, on the other hand, has been struggling as a batsman. In fact, in his last ten innings, he averages only 34, with just two fifties. More importantly, as the first Test against Zimbabwe proved, he now seems to be befuddled too - not knowing whether to play his natural, free-stroking game or to adopt a more dour approach. These days, even the man famous for his attractive cameos is no more, what we have instead is a nudger and pusher under enormous pressure. While Laxman’s abilities cannot be denied, one cannot help but observe that a few months away from the media spotlight would do him a world of good and help him lay to rest the ghosts that have been plaguing his game in recent times.
Sehwag, meanwhile, must replace him and take his rightful place in the Indian eleven. The young man from Delhi has been refreshingly confident in his approach to batting in his short international career up until now. He has also scored plenty of runs and his last Test innings was a well-made 66. As India’s most promising young cricketer, Sehwag needs to be nurtured with greater care and given a chance to represent his country when he has one of the best credentials for the job. Keeping him out, just because some of the senior players have bigger reputations, is not going to do his confidence and self-belief any good. It is up to the Indian team-management to accept the fact that he deserves his place in the eleven and play him at Delhi and also the future Tests.
Poor old Laxman! A section of the Indian media seems hell-bent on claiming his scalp despite his rather healthy batting record over the past year. Since his return to the Indian team in the first Test against Australia towards the end of February 2001, he has scored 882 runs in eleven Tests at an average of 51.88 - 882 runs at 51.88 in the past one year, when one looks at it from another angle. Now, how can you call him a failure in the light of this?
Yes, Laxman can but only improve his consistency. But to crucify him just because he has not been able to succeed in every innings would be taking things a bit too far. The Hyderabadi stylist had proved his ability as a match- and, if one may add, series-winner against Steve Waugh’s ‘winningest’ team. As John Wright so aptly said during the post-match press-conference after the first Test against Zimbabwe at Nagpur, "He is too good a player and there is no question about his ability.” The Indian team are, then, right in standing behind Laxman and giving the classy batsman the time and space to sort his game.
As for Sehwag, there is no denying that he is the most promising young cricketer in the Indian team at the moment. But he will have to learn to bide his time patiently, until his turn comes.
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