WC Premier: ~~Great Expectations~~ *ing Viru, Pathan

Published: Thursday, February 15, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Visakhapatnam:Virender Sehwag and Irfan Pathan have been inducted into the World Cup squad based on their past reputation more than their present form.

But will they justify the faith reposed on them by the selection committee Chairman D B Vengsarkar and captain Rahul Dravid, will be known only after the curtain goes up for the mega event in the West Indies next month.

But the comeback stories of former captain Saurav Ganguly, Zaheer Khan, Sehwag and Pathan are a study in contrast.

While Ganguly and Zahher worked their way back into the team perseverance and gritty performances in domestic cricket and in the South African tour with some commendable performances, same was not the case with Sehwag and Pathan.

With just one match remaining prior to the toss for the first Cup match, as it were, the Feb 17 final ODI against the Sri Lankans would be the final chance for Veeru and the ''bowling all-rounder'' from Baroda to find their form or rhythm.

A sterling performance by the duo at the ACA-VDCA stadium here, expected to be a batsmen's paradise, would augur well for them as well as the team when, which would be flying to the Caribbean islands on Feb 28.

After being left out of team India, the October-born cricketers had to undergo the test of getting back to the basics in the Ranji Trophy matches. The 28-year-old Sehwag is now being looked at as an all rounder with his ability to chip in as the fifth bowler along with Sachin and Yuvraj.

Sehwag, often described as another Sachin Tendulkar by Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting has been a terror to the bowlers when he strikes form. He bats with gay abandon tearing to shreds any attack.

But following his string of poor scores (0, 18, 11) in the three ODIs played on the tour to South Africa early this year, Sehwag was dropped for the four-match ODI home series against West Indies. But he was picked for the four-match Lankan series.

The first match at Kolkata was abandoned and he failed to make to make an impression with measly scores of 19 and 12 runs at Rajkot and Goa, respectively, though a couple of boundaries he hit came off the meat of the bat.

So, Veeru's comeback stint has not been as promising as expected.

What's more, he had to be pushed down the order and brought back to the opening slot in the third match at Goa. But runs continued to elude him and a big score is long overdue.

''Every batsmen has his ups and downs. He (Sehwag) just needs one big innings to find his rhythm and get back his touch. We are confident that he will be among the runs again and score well in the World cup,'' skipper Rahul Dravid had reasoned the other day.

And with the pitch at Vizag promising runs, will Veeru bat be ''talking'' again with steely grit in this steel city? At least, his die hard fans would be looking forward to it, ahead of the World Cup.

Irfan Pathan, who became the first player to be sent back during the tour of South Africa after the sting went out of his bowling last year, did reasonably well in the Ranji trophy matches for his home team Baroda. Like Veeru, he fought his way back into the team.

But he had to sit out of the third ODI at Goa due to shoulder injury.

Reports from team think-tank indicate that he was recovering fast and that there was not much cause for worry. With another 48 hours left for the crucial series deciding match here , a final decision on fielding him in the team would be taken later.

With 115 wickets in 73 matches and a little over 1000 runs with the bat, Coach Greg Chappel and Dravid have pinned high hopes on him and staunchly believe that he has the potential to deliver when it matters most.

It's time Sehwag and Pathan deliver the goods and justify their places in the World Cup squad.


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