Virender Sehwag: astonishing and inimitable
Virender Sehwag is the most unique thing that happened to Indian cricket in recent times. Here was a batsman who, having hardly any footwork, could blast any opposition to submission with his exceptionally belligerent strokeplay. South Africa or Bangladesh, 10 or 99, if a ball is there to be hit, his eyes light up and the ball is sent out of the park.
Having remained not out only five times in his career, Sehwag has an average of over 54 in Test cricket, among the best in the business. Astonishing would be an understatement.
The 31 year old consumed 87 deliveries to score an unbeaten 97 at stumps on the second day of this third Test against Sri Lanka at P. Sara Oval, Colombo. Driving, cutting, flicking and slogging with ease and confidence, Sehwag demoralised the Sri Lanka bowlers who tried their best to unsettle him with angled short deliveries and similar tactics, but time and again Sehwag made light work of Welegedera and Mendis. Welegedera went for as much as 65 in his 9 overs.
Sri Lanka had earlier scored 425 in their first innings and India in reply are already at 180 for 2, thanks largely to Virender Sehwag.
Sehwag was particularly harsh towards Welegedera, smashing him for three fours in a row – through point, mid-on and over mid wicket to get going initially. When the bowler tried to frustrate him by feeding him bouncers on the off-side, Sehwag counter-attacked in typical style, smashing Welegedera through mid-wicket and square leg repeatedly for boundaries and picking up runs in the empty spaces on the leg side.
Malinga was the only one who had an answer to Sehwag. The fast bowler kept Sehwag guessing with his fast bouncers, yorkers and slower ones.
He survived a scare through, when Angelo Matthews failed to hold on to a catch off his own bowling. Sachin Tendulkar, unbeaten on 40 at stumps, was also lucky to survive when he had edged a Randiv delivery just past slips. But apart from these moments, Sehwag and Tendulkar played positively throughout, and while Tendulkar was impressively dissecting Malinga, Sehwag swept and slogged spinners regularly, especially if the ball was pitched short.
For once, the master (Tendulkar) was overshadowed by his pupil (Sehwag). At 97, Sehwag may be expected to step out for a six the first thing in the morning tomorrow. But who knows, Sehwag might break the norms again.