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Sehwag needs to be his carefree self

By Arjuna Ranatunga
August 08, 2005 17:45 IST

Virender Sehwag is now a matter of concern for the Indians. Nobody doubts him but that does not translate into runs and Indians need that badly. He would have one more chance to atone for his failure in the final of the triangular cricket series against Sri Lanka on Tuesday.

You do wonder if the status of a senior member of the side, as well as being vice-captain, has made him conscious of his role. Sehwag is best when he is carefree. He has not looked normal. Maybe, he is consciously trying to bat 50 overs; maybe, he does not want to go for booming shots early in the innings. But Indians are feeling the pinch.

Suggestions that the new coach might be fiddling with Sehwag's technique is a whole lot of nonsense. You do not change his technique as you do not ask Sanath Jayasuriya to bat different to his nature. But Sehwag can do a lot if he can just walk in without a care in the world.

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V V S Laxman is another story. He is struggling badly. He is one of the most senior members of the side but in one-day cricket is still finding his feet. He does not inspire the confidence to be a part of the Indian eleven in the finals. He does not have that sense of urgency which India presently needs.

The injury to Sourav Ganguly off a short-pitched delivery would once again raise the old bogey of his weakness. But then the wickets of the subcontinent could help fast bowlers with its own vagaries. Unlike Australia or South Africa, where the ball comes at even pace and height, the ones in the subcontinent are generally not true. I still carry the image of Ganguly of previous years when he was good at hooking and pulling. Maybe he should start doing it more often once again.

Unlike these seniors, Anil Kumble had reasons to be happy with his first one-day match of the new season. He bowled excellently with results to show. He was fired up and now it would be difficult to keep him out of the fray. Harbhajan too does not deserve to sit in the shade. I would not be surprised if both the spinners are picked for the final. Both are top quality spin bowlers and can create pressure in tandem.

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The Indians would be disappointed with their effort in the field. In all my experience of Indian cricket, I can safely say that it has never been a good fielding unit. This issue has plagued Indian cricket for so long. It reminds me that even we did not have the reputation of being fit players.

It all changed in 1996 when players were put through the drill and they began to enjoy the experience. Soon the results began to flow. It is now a part of Sri Lankan cricket's culture.

The Indians need to address quite a few issues of their cricket if they want to seriously become a force in one-day cricket. To me they look extremely ordinary in the field. The pick-ups are not clean and pure and throws from the outfield are weak. They are still not at their best and struggling.

Some positives have emerged though with the middle order finally coming good in a crunch game.

Yuvraj, we all know, is extremely talented but for variety of reasons he has not been consistent. His hundred against the West Indies on Monday showed how much annoyed he was with his own form. Some of his shots were breathtaking and dispirited the West Indies. Mohammad Kaif was an ideal foil and played an extremely busy innings. He also later fielded under lights, which was a reflection on his fitness.

West Indies go back with the knowledge that they tried as best as they could. Most of them were completely strangers to international cricket and yet had their moments in practically every match they played in Sri Lanka. Their bowling and fielding impressed everyone and by close of tour even the batsmen had begun to make handy contributions. We would never know how much difference Shivnaraine Chanderpaul's presence would have made to the small deficit of seven runs that sent the West Indies packing from the tournament.

The Sri Lankans, meanwhile, are in the final as a matter of routine and it would take an inspired performance from the Indians to hold them in their tracks.

One thing which the Indians should try to take advantage is that the top order of Sri Lanka has not really clicked for them. It has been lower order batsmen who have rallied to wins or respectable scores.

The Indians should target the first four batsmen and keep the pressure on the rest of the batting. One thing is for sure, they ca not afford to take their foot off the gas pedal.

Arjuna Ranatunga