Virender Sehwag has been dropped for the first three one-dayers against England and it is time India looked beyond him for an opener in the 50-over game. The truth is Sehwag, the ODI opener, was never as good as Sehwag, the Test opener. His destructive batting in the five-day game, his ability to pierce the field at will and dispatch even good balls to the boundary, always implied that he would thrive in limited-overs cricket. But for some reason he was never able to dominate the same way.
While he scores at over a run-a-ball in ODIs – his strike-rate is 104.33 – Sehwag’s career average of 35.05 is almost 10 runs lower than Sachin Tendulkar’s. Fifteen hundreds from 245 innings is also not the kind of return one would expect from a batsman of his abilities. In all, he has 53 scores over 50, so he fires in roughly one game out of every five.
However, it is the last 12 months have been have been the most damning. Sehwag has always thrived on his hand-eye co-ordination. He sees the ball earlier than most and his natural timing has allowed him to punish even good balls. But age takes its greatest toll on precisely these attributes.
Players with a more fundamentally sound technique are able to last longer because they are not so dependant on natural talent. At 34, Sehwag has already shown signs that his powers are waning. His ODI average since January 2012 is just 22.54, with no hundreds.
Going further back, since February 2011, Sehwag has gone past a half-century just four times. His 175 to open India’s World Cup campaign and his record breaking 219 are his only hundreds in that period. While his reputation still precedes him, his record no longer warrants an automatic place in the side.
Most importantly, a BCCI source told ESPNcricinfo that Sehwag does not figure in the plans for the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. In such a situation, it is imperative that the likes of Ajinkya Rahane are given an extended run opening the batting so they can be fully tested before the team heads Down Under.
It is possible that Sehwag goes back to domestic cricket and scores heavily. It is possible that those picked to replace him do not. But unless he makes so many runs that it becomes impossible to ignore him again, India are best left looking at him in the rear view mirror.