Happy Birthday Virender Sehwag: White round cherry. Weight is 156 grams. It is crossing through laminar air with the speed of 90 miles an hour. 99 per cent of us would shudder at even the thought of standing in its way. Impact of a collision can keep you bedridden for months to come.
Then a batsman arrives. The swashbuckling opener would send it back over the bowlers’ head. For the bowler, all those practices, all those warm ups, all those late-night net sessions and all those hours spent to command seam and swing go futile within seconds. For a moment, his world has crashed. Cricketing Gods seem to have cursed him.
He is walking back towards his run up with shoulders down. Halfway through his journey, the bowler’s captain tells him that it is not his fault. It was a normal delivery sent to an exceptionally abnormal batsman. It was sent to Sehwag. Even six boundaries in an over was acceptable for the team management. Reason being, Sehwag’s aggression was always thought to be fluke by cricket experts.
In aggression, they sensed inconsistency. In aggression, they sensed an opportunity. In aggression, they sensed a weak Defensive game. In aggression, they sensed loose footwork. In aggression, they sensed a lack of game plan and discipline. In aggression, they sensed an opportunity to destroy him before he created hara-kiri in the bowling department.
To be fair to followers of textbook cricket experts, they had reasons to do so. In his very first match, Sehwag was LBW to Shoaib Akhtar. The fears around lack of footwork came true. So much so that the man was not given a single opportunity for 20 months.
After his comeback, they thought that he would come up as a changed man, assimilating technique in his defence. But even eccentrics like Steve Waugh, Wasim Akram, Hansi Cronje and Stephen Fleming failed to detect the rise of a new India in Sehwag. Just like India made the US bow for it after Pokhran, Sehwag did the same to Australian, English, Kiwi, South African and Pakistani pacers.
Happy Birthday Virender Sehwag
He was the one who stood against Shane Bond’s onslaught against India. Sehwag was the one who stood firm against Lee, Mcgrath and Bichel in 2003 final. He was the one who had the guts to score a boundary on the inaugural ball of 2011 cricket world cup. Sehwag was the one who told Pakistan how ordinary Umar Gul is. Lastly, Sehwag was the only one who is feared by both Dale Steyn and his idol Brett Lee.
“You think of the word cruel. You think of the word swashbuckling. Think of the world unpredictable, I think of none other than Virender Sehwag. He played with a smile on his face, with intent… the type of guy that would quite likely want to hit the first ball of a Test match for six… and he has done it. He is a guy that is so hard to bowl to because, as I mentioned, the unpredictability. You would bowl that beautiful line and length, thinking, I’ve got him… ball shaping away. And that big smile, Sehwag would go bang, hit you over cover for six,” said Lee
Viru is characterised by unpredictability. He would go on to hit Shaqlan Mushtaq for a six on 295, totally oblivious of the fact that he is on the verge of becoming first Indian to score a Triple century. 3 years later, the same attitude would cost him another record. When informed about the person holding the record, he would reply with “Who is Vinoo Mankad?” Through this kind of aloofness Sehwag showed how ordinary it is to be extraordinary. He reminded the old population of their younger days.
To younger folks, Sehwag was like a blood brother to them. At the time when parents were curtailing their children’s aggressive instincts, Sehwag told them to trust themselves. Kids were just mesmerised when chirping Australian slip fielders refrained from engaging in sledge battle with Viru. They knew the consequences.
In 2003, Ponting had asked Lee to go bonkers over him in the boxing day test. After getting two hits on helmet, Viru went on to hit 25 fours and send 5 out of the park of one of the largest stadiums in the world. It took 8 years for Aussies to recover from it when a young and naive Pattinson sledged him in 2011, only to get a sword like raise bat in response.
Viru thrived in chaos. Primarily because the man’s game probably was not made for ordinary times. While going through poor form, he was forced to slow his game. Well, warriors rarely revel in gardening. He came back with 319 against the South African lineups of Steyn, Morkel, Kallis and Ntini on a steamy Chennai wicket. When kids took their radio sets to school to watch their hero scoring 400, he threw it away with a needless slash against Ntini. Disappointed kids just could not focus on their studies for the day.
This is what makes Sehwag stand tall in fab five. Ganguly was known for his diplomatic aggression, Dravid was known for calm demeanour, Laxman was super cool, while Sachin represented an amalgamation of all 3. But Viru was the one who everyone feared. He would not go on to take singles after hitting two 4s on the first 2 balls. If the ball was there in the tram line, it would go out of the park.
Sehwag reminded us of both our impotency and potential. His strokes would communicate the manifestation of the hero archetype. It’s present right in our psyche. The hymns and rhythm would tell us to stay carefree. All of it sounded too easy. Only when we copied that mindset in our own games, we found our fault lines. Instead of listening to “ae jyada Sehwag mat ban (don’t try to be Sehwag)”, we were told “tu Afridi mat ban (don’t try to be Afridi)”. It was there we realised that Sehwag rarely hit through the air. His lack of footwork was not visible in his cover drives caressed through off sides. His non-moving feet flicked like the best in business.
Sehwag used his feet only when captains tried to strangle him by packing one side of the field. His go to shots while using feet were inside out and six down the track. It was then the captains realised that non-existing footwork of Sehwag was actually a blessing for them.
Most of us have not seen Viv Richard playing live. However, watching clips of his batting on YouTube is good enough to remind us of the electrifying atmosphere he created through pyrotechnics. Next time you watch Viv, just scroll through and watch any of Sehwag’s videos from the suggestion table. You won’t see any difference in their body language. Viv’s swagger came with chewing gum while Viru’s came with Hindi songs.
This is the essence of Sehwag. While being savage with his professionalism, Viru is romantic at heart. That’s what Indianness is. Happy Birthday Virender Sehwag (Viru).
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