It was an ugly thud. And a painful one for Virender Sehwag — ball against bone. It wasn’t just the veteran opener who was wincing though. It seemed his pain was felt by the hordes of students, staff and everyone crowding around the nets at the Jawaharlal Nehru National College of Engineering (JNNCE) ground in Shimoga. Even the bowler looked apologetic.
It was a length delivery from Dhawal Kulkarni that had risen awkwardly and smashed into Sehwag’s gloves as he failed to ride the unexpected extra bounce. And the 34-year-old was left writhing in pain, forced to spend the next half hour icing his right index-finger on the side-lines.
Sehwag’s sudden injury did bring a sense of calm to proceedings at JNNCE, however, as the lesser lights in the India A middle-order entered the nets. For 20 minutes previously, Sehwag had held court on the eve of India A’s second unofficial Test against West Indies on Tuesday.
Batting in the spinners’ net, he had repeatedly launched the likes of Parvez Rasool—who did clean up his stumps once—Bhargav Bhatt and Paras Dogra into orbit. Much to the delight of his besotted fans who cheered every meaty blow with vociferous acknowledgement.
Crucially, the Kulkarni delivery was the first that Sehwag had faced at the net, which had the fast bowlers operating. It was his new-found inadequacies against the pacers that had been highlighted during his last foray as a Test opener, earlier in the year. And this was a preliminary chance to prove that he had regained his prowess against them by facing up to a quality series of pacemen, from Kulkarni, Ishwar Pandey and Mohammad Shami to an eye-catchingly lean Zaheer Khan on a practice wicket with bounce in it.
Unfortunately, the Mumbai spearhead had brought a premature end to it. Sehwag did recover briefly to face a few throw-downs from coach Lalchand Rajput and half-a-dozen deliveries from the medium-pacers. And the next four days and four more in Hubli next week will reveal whether he has indeed overcome his tribulations against fast bowling.
Sehwag did start with a bang against England last year with a century in Ahmedabad. The likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad though troubled him during the rest of the series by continually testing his aging reflexes against balls nipping back into him.