Virender Sehwag has been dropped from India’s Test side for the first time since he made an emphatic comeback to the long format with a century in Adelaide in 2007-08. That, incidentally, remains his last century outside Asia. No replacement has been named for Sehwag for the remaining two Tests of the series against Australia, which makes Shikhar Dhawan a favourite to open in the Mohali Test starting on March 14.
The two remaining Tests of the current series, which India lead 2-0, are the last ones they are scheduled to play before they go on four continuous overseas tours beginning with South Africa later this year.
In his first reaction, Sehwag - who had been dropped from the ODI side for the series against England in January - tweeted: “Will continue to work hard for my place in the team. I trust my game and am confident that, ‘I’ll be back.’ Best wishes to the team.”
Since his comeback, Sehwag’s performance outside Asia might have been questionable, but he kept his place in the side with typically dazzling match-winning knocks on the lower and slower tracks. Outside Asia, since Adelaide, Sehwag has scored just 523 runs in 12 Tests, at an average of 22.73 with a highest of 67. In Asia, though, over the same period he has amassed 3622 runs at 57.49, at a game-changing strike rate of 94.1.
However, over the last two years, the big innings began to dry up even in Asia. After his 173 against New Zealand in Ahmedabad in November 2010, he had to wait more than two years for another Test century. In November 2012, Sehwag earned another lease of life with a typical century against England again in Ahmedabad but, between then and being dropped, he has had scores of 25, 30, 9, 23, 49, 0, 2, 19 and 6.
This is a big fall for India’s most prolific opening combination in Tests: Gautam Gambhir was dropped before the start of the Australia after three years without a Test century. Now India are possibly looking at a raw opening combination going into South Africa.
Not even naming a replacement opener is a big statement made by selectors who don’t seem to have other options available but have still gone ahead and omitted him. Dhawan, his Delhi team-mate, is now a front-runner for Mohali, but Ajinkya Rahane can’t be ruled out either. Sandeep Patil, the chairman of selectors, did say before the start of the England series that Rahane was picked as a middle-order batsman, but the Indian team management has been flexible and doesn’t always stick to statements made in the press.
India squad: MS Dhoni (capt. & wk), M Vijay, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harbhajan Singh, R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Ajinkya Rahane, Ashok Dinda, Cheteshwar Pujara.