Is this the end of the road for Virender Sehwag? That is the question Indian cricket fans are asking after his being axed from the Indian team to play England in the ODIs. In his 35th year and after being around for a dozen years, the swashbuckler supreme has had to bow to Father Time.
At least that's the way it looks for with his kind of batting which is so much dependent on hand-eye co-ordination, it is a tribute to Sehwag that he has lasted so long at the top. Just to cite one example, the pioneering swashbuckling batsman from India - Kris Srikkanth - did not last as long.
His game too was over dependant on reflexive measures and by 32 he was finished after lasting just over a decade. In fact his last campaign in Australia in 1991-92 was a disaster both in Tests and ODIs and he ended a distinguished limited overs career with two ducks on the trot.
Sehwag has not had this kind of misfortune but his low scores have been a matter of grave concern more so since he is the sort of batsman who decimates the bowling and gives his side the kind of launch pad from where the Indian team generally takes off for a win. Sehwag at his best sent spectators into raptures of delight and drove bowlers and captains to despair.
He is one of a handful of batsmen to have a career strike rate of over 100 in ODIs and with his brand of batting an average of 35 allied to 15 hundreds is not to be scoffed at. Moreover he holds the record score of 219 in ODIs.
The fact however remains that a series of low scores hasn't helped Sehwag's cause and since that record score in eleven innings he has topped the half-century mark only once. Worse, he seems strangely hesitant in his approach and the confident, full blooded strokes are missing from his arsenal. Perhaps his failures in Tests have rubbed off on to his ODI batting.
This is not the first time Sehwag has been dropped for lack of form. He was out of the Indian team for a short period in 2007 after failing in South Africa. He was only a last minute inclusion in the team to tour Australia under Anil Kumble and coming good 'Down Under' he was again a permanent member of the side in all formats.
But the Sandip Patil headed selection committee has the 2015 World Cup firmly in mind and they clearly don't see Sehwag as a member of that side.
While there will be few tears shed for Sehwag keeping the future in mind the selectors could have carried their far sighted approach further by axing Sehwag's opening partner too. Gautam Gambhir is all edgy at the crease these days and his batting is but a pale shadow of the commanding batsman he was not too long ago.
Like Sehwag he too has had a long run of low scores and one can't be too sure whether he can be part of the World Cup two years hence. Perhaps the selectors want to take things step by step and see that the side is not bereft of experience at the top of the order but how long more should the Indian team carry a cricketer who is finding it hard to get runs.
In the last seven limited over matches, the 31-year-old left-hander has failed to reach 50 even once. His own Delhi teammate Shikar Dhawan who is among the runs big time these days would have been an apt replacement.
Rohit Sharma is another batsman very fortunate to remain part of the squad. Unlike Sehwag and Gambhir the Bombay batsman has age on his side as he is not yet 26. But the runs have absolutely dried up for him and his last six scores in ODIs read a telephone number - 5,0,0,4,4,4.
Add to this scores of 2 and 4 not out in the last two T-20 games and one can see what a horrendous run he is enduring. It pains me to point this out for I have written so much about Rohit and his prodigious talent, his pedigree coming as he does from the Bombay school of batting and have repeatedly advocated his inclusion in the Indian team.
But the bottom line is results and for all his gifted, almost chiseled strokeplay it must be said that Rohit has not produced what he has promised. I would have preferred Unmukt Chand in place of Rohit.
That would have sent the clearest signal that the selectors believe in the adage ''the future belongs to the youth'' for one can already see the highly talented victorious India Under-19 captain as part of the 2015 World Cup. This would have been the perfect time to groom him.
The inclusion of Cheteswar Pujara is to be welcomed. With his admirable record in Test cricket it is difficult to see this dedicated and disciplined cricketer not make a success of it in the limited overs game. He has already been billed as the successor to Rahul Dravid as the next wall and if he needs further inspiration he just has to examine closely the senior man's record in ODIs.
With his ability to adjust to the shorter version of the game Dravid traditionally a player of cricketing shots went on to become one of the most successful batsmen in the history of ODIs. Pujara can play the sheet anchor role to perfection wherever the team management decides to slot him in though one can also see him play the innovative or unorthodox shots whenever the need arises.