Birmingham: Mahendra Singh Dhoni is clinging on to every string of hope, but in Virender Sehwag, he has adequate rope.
When Sehwag takes the field on Day One of the third Test against England at Edgbaston in Birmingham on Wednesday, it will be his first Test appearance in this country since 2002.
Dilip Vengsarkar's selection committee felt that he didn't deserve a place in the 2007 series-winning squad, but Sehwag returned to the international fray later that year and never looked back.
Now, Dhoni is looking up to Sehwag to prevent a rampaging England team from running away with India's much talked about No 1 tag. By the looks of the green wicket, India are in for a hard time. But Sehwag is the last man to be affected by conditions, reputations and wicket talk. "He is a very dynamic player," said Dhoni yesterday when asked about the kind of influence Sehwag has on the opposition. "He backs his instinct to play shots irrespective of which bowler he is facing. He believes more in seeing the ball and giving it the kind of treatment it deserves."
Sehwag was one of the key factors behind India climbing up on the rankings tree in December 2009 when Sri Lanka were demolished at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai. Sehwag scored a Bradman-like 293 and very nearly became the only batsman to score three Test triple hundreds.
It was in England that Sehwag started to open the innings for India in the traditional form of the game -- way back in 2002. He scored 237 runs in that four Test series in six innings including a fine 84 during the opening Test at Lord's. Breaking free from convention, skipper Sourav Ganguly and coach John Wright decided to gamble with the flamboyant Sehwag as opener.
"We all know that an aggressive opener can have a very big impact on the opposition bowling attack. Sehwag is a very good player to have in the side," added Dhoni on his batting star, who missed the first two Tests at Lord's and Trent Bridge due to a shoulder injury. The Delhi batsman arrived in England in time for last week's tour game against Northampton, but could score only eight runs in the fixture.
Sehwag is reported to have a partial hearing ailment. It could serve as a blessing in disguise since he would find sledging hard to catch. Or as Dhoni said in a lighter vein, he will not walk if he nicked the ball to a catcher.