If there is any batsman (past and present) in the world cricket that truly epitomizes the meaning of adages like ‘See the ball, hit the ball’ — ‘Play the ball, not the bowler’, then it has to be, with utmost certainty, one maverick named Virender Sehwag. The Nawab of Najafgarh is celebrating his 43rd birthday today, and thus it appears to be an opportune moment to proclaim that Sehwag has been one of the greatest opening batters, across all formats, to have ever graced the game of cricket. Fight us.
Be it the first ball of the match or when he was standing precariously close to a colossal milestone like sitting unbeaten at 295, Sehwag, in his trademark style, hummed songs and went about his usual business — often striking nonchalant maximums and leaving the bowlers dejected, asking for mercy. For a player as swashbuckling as him, the reader might be surprised to know that he played 104 Tests and 251 ODIs, amassing 8,586 and 8,273 runs respectively in the process.
Revenge is a dish best served cold
Virender Sehwag’s unmatched fearlessness and ability to strike the ball always upset the rhythm of even the best of bowlers around the world and made the opposition team change tactics and go the defence from the very first over. His flurry of boundaries in one over of Umar Gul in the 2011 Word Cup semi-finals changed the whole complexion of the game right at the very beginning.
Dejected after losing against Bangladesh in the 50-over 2007 WC, Sehwag, took his sweet revenge by stroking a 175 not out against the same opposition in the first game of the 2011 World Cup. Later, Sehwag remarked that it was his revenge that he had been plotting for the last four years. It is important to note that Sehwag smashed the first ball to the boundary on every single occasion during India’s victorious run at the tournament.
A stalwart of the Test arena
In test matches as well, Sehwag played with a ‘no-holds-barred’ methodology. Perhaps, it is the reason why in Test match history, only three batsmen have a strike rate in excess of 80 runs per 100 balls – Sehwag (82.23), Adam Gilchrist (81.95) and Kapil Dev (80.91). Out of all the Indian batsmen to have played Test cricket, only four have scored more career runs than Sehwag’s 8,586 – VVS Laxman (8,781), Sunil Gavaskar (10,122), Rahul Dravid (13,288) and Sachin Tendulkar (15,921).
Read more: Virender Sehwag – A one man tribe
Apart from his triple century heroics, one remembers how he turned the game in India’s favour with a blitzkrieg half-century in the second innings in Chennai Test match against England in 2008, on an unplayable wicket, which had more than a few demons in it.
Though Sachin scored a century, and along with Yuvraj won us the match, if not for Virender Sehwag’s start, that match could have been drawn or worst-case scenario, lost by India.
This lack of nervousness and an assuredness about himself made Sehwag a potent batsman. Sehwag’s flair for theatrics meant that he often played his game on a double-edged sword but such was his talent that even his chaos had a method.
A method that often the casual viewers could not dissect. However, a career as long as his could not have been built on sheer audacity. Sehwag chose his moments, picked his bowlers and ensured that India always briskly got off the blocks. He might have faced some troubles at the twilight of his career but the memories he gave us all, will last an eternity and for that, we can be perpetually grateful.