Former India players are united in their belief that Virender Sehwag's return from injury will stabilise the team's fragile batting order and lift morale in the remaining two tests against a dominant England.
The dashing opener has been sidelined since undergoing shoulder surgery in May, keeping the 32-year-old out of the tour of the West Indies and India's first two tests against England.
India, 2-0 down in the four-match series, had looked nothing like the world's number one-ranked team in the Lord's and Trent Bridge tests but that could change with the return of the explosive right-hander, according to Anshuman Gaekwad.
"It is almost going to be like a new series. To have Sehwag and (Gautam) Gambhir back... It will give a lot of confidence to the team," the former India international and coach told Reuters.
Sehwag's opening partner Gambhir injured his elbow while fielding at Lord's and missed the 319-run defeat at Trent Bridge but is likely to return to the starting lineup for the third test beginning on Aug. 10 at Edgbaston in Birmingham.
The injuries to the top order forced India to tinker with the batting lineup, placing Rahul Dravid in a makeshift opener's role and Vangipurappu Laxman up the order at number three.
"In a test match, it is of utmost necessity to have a good start. Their return will be a big relief for the captain and the team," emphasised the former India opener, who played 40 test matches from 1975-85.
Sehwag has 22 hundreds in 87 test appearances but it his strike rate of almost 82 runs per 100 deliveries that make him one of the most intimidating batsmen in cricket.
Former captain Ajit Wadekar said Sehwag's return would ease the pressure on India's "Big Three" - Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Laxman.
"Sehwag coming back itself is enough to boost the morale of the team. We never had a solid opening partnership in the series," Wadekar, the former chief of national selectors, said by phone.
"If our openers do their bit, batsmen down the order will start gaining in confidence."
Sehwag's audacious strokeplay might be the ideal counter-attacking ploy the team needed to recover from the heavy defeats and avoid a two-clear test series defeat that would enable England to leapfrog India at the top of the rankings.
"The opposition bowlers also get disheartened by Sehwag's presence," the 70-year old Wadekar said.
India will play a two-day tour game against Northamptonshire starting on Friday and it will be Sehwag's only chance to acclimatise himself to the conditions before the third test starts on Aug. 10.
"I don't know how much practice he will get. He has been out for so long after the injury. Hope he acclimatises quickly with the conditions there," Wadekar, who led India to series victories in West Indies and England in 1971, said.
Former India captain Sourav Ganguly also doubted whether Sehwag had enough time to get match fit.
"It has to be seen whether the dynamic opener has had enough cricket or whether the Northants game is enough to get him ready for Birmingham," Ganguly wrote in a column which was published in the Hindustan Times on Thursday.
Source: ReutersReuse content