Virender Sehwag is not one to mince words. But, his recent criticism of the Kings XI Punjab’s foreign players at the team’s elimination from the IPL-10 was met with considerable anger. The head of Cricket Operations slammed captain Glenn Maxwell in a press conference saying he was disappointed with the Australian for not taking responsibility.
No doubt, franchise cricket is more about business and the management wants performance for the money they have invested, but being a former player, Sehwag should realise that his public rebuke was uncalled for. His fans too felt the comments were in poor taste.
Did Sehwag practise what he preaches now as a cricketer, in his new avatar as coach-cum-mentor-cum-head of Cricket Operations? Has he forgotten how many times he played similar innings to that of Maxwell in his heydays — as a Delhi Daredevils player and, even for Team India at times. When out trying to go for a big hit, which he could have avoided to save his team from a batting collapse, the reason given was “But that’s Viru’s natural game”.
“Sehwag criticising Maxwell for playing like Sehwag,” is how a Twitter comment hit the nail on the head! It should be noted that Sehwag captained Delhi Daredevils in 52 matches between 2008 and 2012, but the best the franchise could achieve was reaching the semi-finals twice, despite boasting of one of the strongest squads. During the inaugural IPL, Sehwag looked sensational as he scored 406 runs with a strike-rate of 184, but he let the team down spectacularly in a crucial semi-final match against Rajasthan Royals by coming a cropper. The next season, again in the semifinal, Sehwag threw his wicket away by playing a cheeky lap shot as the dismissal killed Delhi’s momentum from a commanding position and Deccan Chargers made the most of it.
Sunil Gavaskar, who was commentating during that match, was himself shocked by Sehwag’s shot selection. “You have to ask why a batsman with so much power and capability would play a shot like that. That’s not his strength, it’s his weakness,” Gavaskar had said.
After a poor IPL season in 2013 followed by a disastrous Ranji campaign, Daredevils had little option but to send Sehwag back to the auction pool. And his stint with Kings XI Punjab as a player wasn’t good either as he was released ahead of the 2016 edition.
In IPL-8, his last season as a player, he scored just 99 runs in eight matches. At the T20 World Cup in 2009, Sehwag’s fitness problems scuttled the team’s title defence. The uncertainty over his injury led to reports of a rift between Sehwag and the captain M.S. Dhoni.
Former India middle-order batsman Hemang Badani feels it was unfair to put the entire blame on overseas players for Kings XI’s dismal end. “The squad didn’t have enough firepower in the bowling department. I think Kings XI made a mistake at the auction. They should have picked a strong bowler. You can’t have guys like Ishant Sharma (wicketless in six games) playing T20 format anymore,” Badani said.
Former India pacer Ajit Agarkar echoed similar views, “They never looked like a top four team. What they needed in the auction was an overseas seamer.”