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Hercules Champions
Virender Shewag: Outstanding young prospect

Delhi's big hitting allrounder, Virender Shewag, is on the fringes of selection to the national side. Indeed the short, stocky 21-year- old has already played in a ODI against Pakistan during the Pepsi Cup in April 1999 and went on to figure among the 19 probables for the World Cup last year, although not making the final cut. Having been surprisingly overlooked for the entire 1999-2000 season, Shewag is quietly determined to make his presence felt in the calendar that looms ahead.

Chandu Borde, the chairman of selectors, let out that Shewag was discussed in the selectors' conclave on September 2 which chose 23 probables for the ICC knockout tourney in Nairobi. That may have been cold comfort but it may also be just the kick in the backside he needs to raise the level of his game and command a place in the Indian team rather than merely solicit it.

Shewag was part of the 14-man Indian squad for the Under-19 World Cup in South Africa in January 1998. Although beginning well with a run-a-ball 38 in the lung opener against hosts South Africa, some ordinary running between the wickets (he was run out three times) marred his final performance. Shewag graduated from the Under-19 stage to the realms of first class cricket later in the year in October and made a decided splash, scoring 118 against Haryana on debut. Indeed that was a prodigious first season for Shewag who accumulated 745 runs at 62.08 besides snapping up 14 wickets with his niggling variety of off spin.

Swiftly thrust into the selectors' range of vision, he was blooded into international cricket in the last match of the Pepsi Cup round robin league against Pakistan at Mohali. It was a rough initiation for the lad who made just one and was punished for 35 in three overs. Denied a longer trial that would have offered an appropriate reflection of his abilities, Shewag stoically endured the disappointment of missing out on the World Cup and indeed on the whole of the 1999-2000 season.

Although at first appraisal the young man has all the attributes of a one-day specialist, Shewag does have the temperament to build a long innings which he showed to marvellous effect in the Duleep Trophy quarterfinal for North against South at Agartala last year. A whopping 274 rained from his willow against an attack including Sunil Joshi, Venkatapathy Raju, Aashish Kapoor and Robin Singh. Very strong square of the wicket on the off side, Shewag gets into position early to cut or drive either side of point. Besides, he's equally skillful at whipping the ball off his legs and plays lofted shots with abandon.

Shewag's second season in the Ranji Trophy was only a trifle less prolific, producing 674 runs at 61.27 with a highest of 187 against Punjab. Although Delhi could not progress beyond the Super League, Shewag was a key figure in North's title triumphs in the Duleep and Deodhar Trophies. The inexcitable but exciting lad has set his sights on making over 1000 runs in the forthcoming Ranji season, a trifle more difficult now with the abolition of the Super League, but well within range of his amply endowed talents.

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Virender Shewag

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