It's time Delhi duo got its act together

Sehwag, Gambhir will be under greater scanner

The failure of the big trinity during the Test series against Australia made a perfect smokescreen around the modest outings of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir.

But now their hour of truth has come. The performances of Sehwag and Gambhir, now the senior most members along with Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, will be much more closely monitored during the Commonwealth Bank tri-series, beginning on Sunday (Feb 5) with a clash against Australia.

Records in the limited-overs format certainly favour the Delhi duo. Since the beginning of 2010 till the one-dayers against the West Indies late last year, Sehwag has played 24 one-dayers, and made 1091 runs at 47.43 with three hundreds and two fifties, including a record-breaking double hundred against the Windies at Indore.

In the corresponding period, Gambhir has played 33 one-dayers for 1390 runs at 46.33 with two hundreds and 10 fifties, including vital 97 in the World Cup final against Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium. That’s quite an impressive record from any angle.

But in the backdrop of a sub-par performance in the Test series against Australia, latest in a series of lowly efforts in the longer version over the last two years, they will come under harsher scrutiny during the tri-series, and they might find it tough to hide behind their impressive past records if the Delhiites falter once again.

So, it’s imperative for them to come up with a forceful effort in the tri-series to obliterate the bitter memories of the Test series, and get the momentum going ahead of a packed season that includes the World T20 in Sri Lanka. It assumes singular significance because there are younger players such as Abhinav Mukund and Ajinkya Rahane who are knocking on the doors in Tests and limited overs respectively.

If Sehwag or Gambhir fail to produce some impact knocks in the tri-series, then the selectors might feel it necessary to give Rahane a run, at least in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh. The pressure to produce some big scores will be more on Sehwag as at 33 he’s not getting any younger, and the selectors might be forced to apply the same scale for him as with other seniors in the Test side if the Delhi Dasher continues to flop.

Age is definitely on his side but Gambhir seemed to be suffering from lack of confidence that transforms into technical frailty while batting. A close observation of the Test series against Australia will show that the common mode of Gambhir’s dismissals had been him edging the ball to stumper or to the slip cordon, and the repetition of the mistake reveals a mind tangled in some serious doubts.

There was a point in Gamhir’s career when he ceased to enjoy batting before Gary Kirsten and Paddy Upton renewed the hunger in him. Sehwag too has spoken about the influence of Kirsten-Upton pair had on him as a person and batsman, and it’s up to coach Duncan Fletcher to play a similar role as his predecessor.

Fletcher himself admitted that he had sought a few tips from Kirsten before accepting the role. He might be working hard on it, but the results are yet to show. His support is quite vital at this stage for the struggling duo because they will be returning to venues where Australia mercilessly hammered India in the Tests recently, and it will be tough to dust away the cobwebs of negativity.

With the way his mind works, Sehwag might not think that far but the venue and surroundings might evoke a few unpleasant memories. On the other hand, Gambhir is an intense and emotional person, who loathes failures and coming back to the scenes of his struggles can burden his mind. Here Fletcher should take Gambhir under his wings, protecting him from sliding to a state of unconstructiveness.

That Gambhir will not be facing the new ball in the tri-series will be a boost for him, and that’s assuming Sehwag will last long with Sachin Tendulkar to give Gambhir some breathing space. Crunch time is ahead for the most successful Indian opening pair, and it will make for a fascinating viewing how they respond because their immediate future depends on it.

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