Ruthless, fearless, flamboyant, unorthodox would be some of the clichéd adjectives that are used to describe the way India’s powerful opener bats. He isn’t as classy as a Dravid or a Laxman, as graceful as a Tendulkar, as elegant as a Ganguly or a Yuvraj, but he has a class for himself; a style that may not be orthodox but more than just effective. A sense of calmness and composure builds an aura around him that is so charming, and which creates a shield that he holds up against the immense pressure an Indian superstar cricketer has to tackle every time he goes out to play.
The two aspects to his batting are approach and method. He approaches batting in the centre as if he is having a net session; and this holds true for all 3 formats! The strike rates are an indicator to this statement: 82.45, 104.60, and 145.38 in Tests, ODIs and T20s respectively. You almost sense that there is no baggage of pressure/expectations on his shoulders, almost like he has been told to play his ‘natural’ game without worrying too much about the match situation. There is no hiding that he has been granted the license of freedom and whenever he gets going he doesn’t let his team down on most occasions. ‘Method to madness’ is what some people refer to Sehwag’s onslaughts. There are no two ways to his batting, he goes after balls which he ‘believes’ are meant to be put away. His feet doesn’t move too much, but he makes sure that the fielders are left leather chasing. Sehwag’s exclusion from the side 4-5 years ago was a blessing in disguise, both for him and the team. Since then, he has comeback calmer, a little more patient, and even more flamboyant.
The biggest asset of Sehwag’s batting is his ability to get big scores. 14 of his 23 Test tons have been scores of more than 150. His batting in tests has been a big factor in India’s success in this format over the last decade. There is no hiding that historically teams have done well when they have had good solid opening pairs. Sehwag isn’t solid but has been more than good enough to give India innumerable starts on which the famed middle-order has capitalized to help India notch up wins home and away. Sehwag has struggled in ODIs and T20s; this might have become a perception as his performances in coloured clothes haven’t been parallel to what he has achieved in whites. A probable reason for this difference in performances could be the limitation of overs. You get the feeling that he tries too much too early in the limited overs game. Great players can’t struggle too much; in most cases they defy the perception that has been developed about them. Sehwag is a modern-day legend, arguably, and he had to defy that perception sometime.
Sehwag completes a century of Test match participation at Wankhede during the 2nd Test of the India – England series. Flamboyance brings with it the element of inconsistency and uncertainty; the elements are in conflict with principles of traditional test cricket. Many wouldn’t have expected the ‘Nawab’ to have completed this mark; even he didn’t believe he could complete this landmark sometime ago! With this milestone, he enters a league of very few and privileged names in Indian and international cricket and his stats and performances over the last decade do justice to his position in that bracket.
The Sehwag phenomenon has been a force to reckon with for the opponents over the past decade. He isn’t the kind of person you would pay to watch as you aren’t very sure whether you would get to witness what you have paid for! But when he does get going, you would repent that you have missed out on something very special. His batting style isn’t quite what you would recommend youngsters to emulate, but you wouldn’t want to keep him out of the top order’s slot. What every one of us could learn from him is to keep a calm head even in a tough situation (Raina said that Sehwag was murmuring Kishore Kumar songs en route his epic double ton). There is a mobile TVC which has been quite popular for its captivating message; Virender Sehwag is a living example of it, ‘Keep it simple, silly!’