April 1 is known as April Fool’s Day, so when Kings XI Punjab suddenly announced that retired India opener Virender Sehwag will play for KXIP in the opening game of the 11th edition of the Indian Premier League, it looked like a prank being played by the franchise as their Director of Cricket Operations has been out of the circuit for a while now. But Yuvraj Singh further confirmed the news on Twitter.
While KXIP made the announcement, Yuvraj joined in and wrote: “Yes @virendersehwag has been working very hard in the nets looking forward to see him play again ??.”
Yes @virendersehwag has been working very hard in the nets looking forward to see him play again ??
— yuvraj singh (@YUVSTRONG12) April 1, 2018
Sehwag will come out of retirement and will open the innings in the absence of Aaron Finch. The decision, which was taken at the team preparatory camp in Mohali after a long deliberation by captain Ravichandran Ashwin, coach Brad Hodge, Director of Cricket Operations Virender Sehwag himself and the team management.
The ‘Nawab of Najafgarh’, who showed fine form in the recent Ice Cricket matches in St Moritz by scoring 62 off 31 in the first match and 46 off 22 balls in the second, reached the decision after practising in the nets with some of the current Kings XI Punjab team players.
“Initially it was just for giving the young boys some bowling practice. But I was seeing the ball really well and was able to play my strokes comfortably,” Sehwag told KXIP.in. “So when the question of who will open in the first match in Finch’s absence came up and Brad jokingly said my name I really started thinking about it.”
Sehwag, who was playing in the Indian Premier League till as late as the 2015 season, replied in his trademark cheerful manner when asked if he’d feel any pressure facing his former IPL team and ex-opening partner Gautam Gambhir. “Delhi was my karmabhoomi for a few seasons when I was a player, but my loyalties lie with Kings XI Punjab now. And when it comes to Gauti, his name itself is so serious that maybe watching me bat again will bring a smile to his face,” Sehwag laughed.
Ever since Finch announced his unavailability in Punjab’s opening encounter owing to his marriage, the team has been pondering over the right top order combination. As a result, the big-hitting Viru-paaji was finally asked to step up to the plate, and he obliged.
“There were a number of names thrown up but somehow the team combination wasn’t coming together,” Hodge explained. “But watching Sehwag bat in the nets gave me the idea of trying him in the opening match. We discussed this during the camp and he was more than happy to take the field once again.”
The moment the BCCI announced the fixtures list of the much-awaited eleventh season of the IPL, Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell announced that they would miss the opening game of their respective franchises — Kings XI Punjab and Delhi Daredevils.
The two teams meet on April 8 and with Finch tying the knot on April 7, it is impossible for him to arrive for the opener. Maxwell is the MC in the marriage.
Finch, picked by Kings XI Punjab at the auction, had scheduled his wedding with partner Amy Griffiths for April 7. “I saw the fixture this morning – there’s no chance I’ll be missing my wedding,” Finch told reporters in Auckland back then.
“That’d be a bit tough leaving Amy at the altar, wouldn’t it?”
“The second game we play is on the 13th, that’ll give me plenty of time to get over there and miss only one game luckily.
“Having one of my good mates ‘Hodgey’ as coach … he knows about it now. I did wait a bit longer to send him the invite before the auction.
“It’s just a case of missing one game but hopefully playing with Kings over a three-year period, it’s not the end of the world.”
Speaking on SEN radio program Whateley, Maxwell revealed the overlap. “This is an interesting one and I haven’t told anyone this before, not even Punter – we’ve got Aaron Finch’s wedding on April 7,” said Maxwell, who had since informed Delhi Daredevils coach Ricky Ponting of the clash.
“They said the IPL was going to start on the April 15th – he thought the dates were set but we found out about three months ago it was going to start on the eighth.”