Game Over for Big Four?

Two years back four men were at the forefront during our World Cup triumph at home. Fast forward to 2013 and we see none of them feature in the team.

Not so long ago, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan, were the names that used to be a regular feature in the Indian team line up. Two years back in 2011, all the four men were at the forefront during our World Cup triumph at home. Fast forward to 2013 and we see none of them feature in the team and if we go by the strategy that selectors have these days, they are unlikely to make a comeback anytime soon.

Fantastic Cricketers

All four men have contributed a lot to Indian cricket. Their contributions for Indian cricket will go down in history as one of the best. Sehwag and Gambhir have contributed a lot as openers for the team in all three formats. Sehwag, in particular, was pivotal for many years in the Test arena as well as ODI’s. We all know what Yuvraj Singh was capable of in the limited over’s version of the game. Zaheer was the main stay of our bowling attack post the retirement of Javagal Srinath. In fact, at one time MS Dhoni had said that Zaheer is the bowling captain of the team.
What went wrong?

The fall of Sehwag

Back in 2007, Sehwag was struggling with form and was on the verge of being dropped for the World Cup in the Caribbean. It was on the insistence of then captain Rahul Dravid that Sehwag was retained in the team. However, once Dhoni was made captain in the latter part of the same year, a rift between the two was apparent in the team. Dhoni excelled during his captaincy but Sehwag’s performance kept dropping. It is a known factor, that the way in which Sehwag bats, inconsistency is most likely to happen. However, Sehwag blossomed back to form under the guidance of former coach Gary Kirsten. Sehwag even thanked Kirsten in press conferences on more than once occasion. Post 2011 World Cup is when Sehwag’s form dipped a lot. Between May 2011 and May 2013 his Test average was 29.73 as compared to his overall career average of almost 50.

Inconsistent Gambhir

Gautam Gambhir signed off the World Cup victory with a well paced 97 in the finals. But post the WC victory, Gambhir became a lot more inconsistent. As an opener, he failed to provide good starts for the team on a regular basis. His dismissals were even more frustrating to say the least. On the tours to England and Australia, Gambhir was caught at slips on a number of occasions. It seemed like he was struggling to shift between ODI’s and Tests. A nudge down to third man would provide runs in ODI’s and T20’s but not in Tests when the slip cordon is waiting to pounce on edges. Gambhir seemed reluctant to leave the deliveries outside the off stump and that led to his downfall on more than one occasion. Between May 2011 and May 2013, his test average was 28.10 as compared to his career average of 44.18.

Fitness Issues with Yuvraj and Zaheer

Unfortunately, post the WC victory, it was disclosed that Yuvraj was suffering from a rare germ cell cancer and had to travel abroad for his treatment. Yuvraj had won the Man of the Series award at the World Cup. Yuvi made a tremendous comeback in 2012 but sadly couldn’t perform to his best. He also got an opportunity to make a comeback in tests but was soon dropped. Zaheer has had fitness issues throughout his career. He was supposed to play a crucial role in the tests in England but he unfortunately suffered an injury during the first test itself. After making a comeback, Zak was never the same. Both Yuvraj and Zaheer were abroad recently to improve their fitness and if one looks at the picture shared by them on twitter, both do look much slimmer and fitter. Though, only time will tell if they are able to make a comeback.

Comeback won’t be easy

The openers slot has four contenders right now with Shikhar Dhawan leading the list. Rohit Sharma, Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane are all there to grab the second opener’s role. Vijay and Dhawan seem to have sealed their place as test openers while Rohit and Dhawan are the openers for limited over’s format. Rahane is the next in line to be slotted in the team. This would suggest the comeback road for Sehwag and Gambhir are very difficult. In the middle order, Ravinder Jadeja has taken the role of Yuvraj Singh. In batting, Yuvraj may have achieved more than Jadeja but its Jadeja’s bowling that is doing the trick here. Yuvraj had improved his bowling to some extent, but Jadeja has been in a league of his own recently. His exploits in England during the Champions trophy have been nothing short of amazing. Unless Jadeja’s form dips, Yuvraj will not find a place in the squad. In the bowling department, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar has proved that he can bowl well in all formats of the game. Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma have played the role of supporting Bhuvi very well. Jaydev Unadkat, Shami Ahmed and Ishwar Pandey are waiting in the wings to make their presence known. In all of this, Zaheer’s chances of making a comeback to the team look very bleak.

Lapse in form and inconsistency has resulted in these men being dropped from the national team. In addition to all of this, none of the four players have played well in the IPL or in domestic season. Gambhir tried his luck at county cricket recently but failed miserably in the few matches he played for Essex. Other three have not featured in any of the domestic matches recently. It does seem that the time for these four veterans is over unless they make bucket load of runs in the domestic circuit.


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