Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Sehwag question and Mortaza's visual answer

"Mashrafe Mortaza to Sehwag, OUT, Gone! Mortaza nails Sehwag! Sehwag's disastrous recent run continues. Perfect offcutter that landed outside off stump, on a good length and cut back in. Sehwag's eyes lit up at what he perceived as width and shaped to cut it. The ball jagged back in, took the inside-edge and crashed into the furniture. Bangladesh taste first blood."

That was cricinfo's Sriram Veera describing Sehwag's departure in India's opening match against Bangladesh.

Now we try to look at that dismissal from the point of view of the Indian think tank. We will not discuss the fact that this batsman was arguably picked on the insistence of the captain who believed he would strike form in the nick of time. It is immaterial now. We leave perceptions aside and concentrate on the facts.

Our man Sehwag has now got out in that fashion a good many times in the past couple of months. We can easily picture all opposition coaches and captains playing back his well documented problem with the fast incoming deliveery to their new ball bowlers ahead of an India match, helping them plan Viru's dismissal. It is the same with Viru's skipper Dravid; he too has a problem with this particular delivery.

The difference ends there though. To nail Dravid you have to bowl it fast and full - but not too full. And bowl it on a particular 3 or 4 inch wide channel just outside offstump. And have the delivery swing / jag back onto his pads. When struggling with form Dravid can often get out to lbw to this ball. But then this is a pretty handy delivery for any batsman to face.

Not so with our Viru. These days he seems to make it easy for the bowlers. We can't help thinking that the quickies start their run up against Viru with the simple aim of bowling it quick and bringing it back secure in the knowledge that Viru, like a typical 5th day pitch, will do the rest irrespective of length and width. Worse: Sehwag does it.

And he does it yet again, come next match. [It is a sad and ironically reversed usage of 'again' to his batsmanship; once upon a time the word was most accompanied by 'fours' and 'sixes'.] Sehwag does it off the full deliveries and he does it off the short ones. In the last warm up match he added variety by edging one that moved away. For a change.

Of course we need to be objective and avoid excessive criticism of his attitude ("he's reckless and needs to be dropped") considering this period of time to be the lowest ebb of this capable player. And these can be truly embarassing times. Had The Don been videotaped at such times he just might have evoked cat calls like "isn't he from the same country as McGrath" today.

this match started I was wondering about the adequacy of the Indian build up to the big matches, the first of which is scheduled against Sri Lanka on 23rd March. India will have played five matches in the West Indies by then (2 of them warmers) with the only big opposition in that sequence having folded for 85. i.e. Barring upsets they would have had too long a sequence of relatively soft matches to keep their alertness up.

I do not think so anymore. Part of it is because I never expected the ongoing one to be a soft match and it is looking as close a call as was my hunch
yesterday. But coming from the point we were discussing, India have to sort out the Sehwag problem before facing Sri Lanka and the slingy Malingy, sorry, Malinga and they are fortunate to have another soft match before it to sort things out. Now they simply have to try out plan B in the next match against Bermuda.

With Andy Roberts warning teams that quicker surfaces await them later in the tournament, Sehwag looks set to dig the team's and his own chances of success a deeper hole if he is retained in the opening slot. The only alternative to dropping him altogether is to get him playing in the lower middle order right where his co-struggler Pathan is slotted.

On the other hand, the Team Management can back Sehwag to just do a Jayawardene on Bermuda and hit a few vital, confidence building runs from his usual opening slot. Things may never be this woeful again for the beleagured dasher once he gets into a scoring groove.

In order to tackle the Sehwag conundrum this Indian think tank has been pushed to deciding between a plan and a gamble . Whatever their choice is, there just cannot be any further postponement of that critical decision.

Nothing said in the above post discredits Mashrafe Mortaza of that Sehwag wicket and the next (he sends back Uthappa as I draft this piece). With better luck he could have scalped a few more, including his Bong neighbour Dada.

Mortaza had looked good in his early days but then he went off the radar for a while. He is now back bowling at full tilt and furiously well too, reminding us of one Mr. Waqar "You-miss-I-hit". With more bowling support and careful preservation I see Mashrafe Mortaza making it into the top bracket.

Interestingly Mortaza has also found a way to look like the great Pakistani rocket launcher in his younger days!! Mediapersons / commentators can save precious column inches / airtime seconds by not asking Mortaza who his bowling idol is, coz' these days Mashrafe prefers wearing the answer on his persona.

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