India's win in Chennai masked their troubles at the top of the order, but for how long can the team management put up with under-performing openers? The quandary they face is that Virender Sehwag, the architect of so many victories with his attacking style, looks completely off the boil.

The prospect of the opener finding form and demoralizing opponents again, however, is so tantalizing that the think-tank is unwilling to let him go.

Sehwag's opening partner Murali Vijay too didn't come good in Chennai but as always, the spotlight is on the man with the more formidable reputation. Sehwag hasn't looked his old self since the Ahmedabad Test last November, when his 117 off as many balls against England helped India win the first Test.

His highest after that 23rd Test century is the 49 he scored in the second innings of the Kolkata Test against England. Incidentally, 86 runs is the highest opening stand India have put up in the four Test matches since the win at Motera.

That an early setback is never the best of starts will not be lost on India as they gear up for the second Test against Australia, beginning here on March 2. Like against England, India have won the first Test of the series. But former India player WV Raman was in sync with skipper MS Dhoni when he said Sehwag is special.

"He is quite obviously the kind who can set things up in quick time. When in form, he gives the bowlers enough time and is too much of a factor to be discarded," Raman said. "Sehwag is the only match-winning Test batsman we have in this team. This is why he deserves a long rope."

The selectors, though, have shown the willingness to take hard decisions, like dropping Sehwag's opening partner Gautam Gambhir. "Hard decisions do not mean doing something in haste or doing something to prove a point.

"In Sehwag's case, we have no option but to wait and hope he comes good," Raman said, adding: "We're not spoilt for choice. If we had an experienced campaigner like Gambhir at the other end, then probably giving Sehwag a break could have been an option, but not at the present juncture."

What about other contenders to replace Sehwag like Wasim Jaffer, who had a prolific domestic season? And how long will the team management persist with Vijay?

"Going back is never a good thing to do and that is what it will be if people look at the likes of Jaffer. As for Murali Vijay, he needs a few more chances. Gambhir scored a century in the warm-up game against the Aussies and it seems the jolt has worked for him. So if these two and Vijay come good that'll be good for the side," Raman said.

"I'm sure he wants to fire too. He's gone for vision correction; he's wearing glasses so obviously he's thinking about his game and he knows how much his contribution to the game means. In Chennai it was sheer bad luck, the way he got out in the first innings," said Raman.

Virender Sehwag More stills

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