If there is one word which aptly describes the magnificent career of Virender Sehwag, it has to be ‘Maverick’. If you imagine Sehwag as the painter of his own career, he filled it with colors of most sublime choices and painted it with such an awesomeness that the whole world bowed down in reverence and amazement. If he was an actor of his own career, he was always a step ahead of the director and crafted all the scenes in his own way.
That is exactly what makes Sehwag the cricketer he is today.
When a lot of modern-day cricketers’ enter the big stage and alter their own way of batting, he was least bothered about the technicalities of his own game. That does not mean he lacked the knowledge of his own limitations, but he never changed the way he saw opportunities of scoring quick runs.
When South Africa toured India earlier, he demolished the likes of Dale Steyn with his hard hitting abilities and was asked about how he prepared to face him. His answer was brisk: “If it is Dale Steyn or any other bowler, a ball still remains a ball and if I find it in my hitting zone, I will still hit it for runs.”
If there was a lack of velocity in his feet movements, his arms and hands connoted the robustness he possessed. Throughout his whole career, there was one guiding principle that took him to the zenith of the game and it was ‘Stand and Deliver’.
While most of his opening peers were crusaders, he chose to be a butcher who would hit the bowlers mercilessly. If all of his peers chose to run a marathon in a slow speed, he would sprint the same without wasting any time in the middle. The same is well exemplified in most of his big innings where he scored runs at a healthy strike rate and led the catastrophe.
Sehwag worked hard to build his career
There was an abundance of inborn talent in him, for he was blessed with superfluous hand-eye coordination. But his ascent to the top was a result of his own hard work. As Harsha Bhogle precisely says:
“Talent can take you to the first level, it can even take you to the second level, but it is hard work which allows you to clear the next hurdle”
As a young boy, he used to commute daily from Najafgarh to Delhi and used to attend practice sessions twice a day, spending the spare time in a nearby temple. If anyone has faced the brutalities of winters’ in Delhi, one can imagine the hard work involved in his making.
His former India and state teammate Akash Chopra recalls how hard he used to work with speed guns to accommodate the pace and bounce of International bowlers. In a Ranji Trophy game against Punjab, when play was stopped due to bad light since it was very foggy outside, he practiced batting in the indoors when most of his teammates chose to cuddle in their warm coats on that chilly winter day.
Sehwag had his own way of dealing with things
If his batting was all about backing his abilities and instincts, it was also about having a crystal clear mind. The dreadfulness of Test cricket is that when you begin to play and miss, your mind wanders into the thoughts of ‘what went wrong? What am I doing wrong? Am I reaching to the pitch of the ball?
On the other hand, Sehwag was never perturbed by these mere gimmicks of the ball and if anyone would have observed him, he would still try to hit the ball for a four or a six after a play and a miss. A gentle smile on his face was always there whether the ball reached the fence or went past his bat and nestled into keeper’s gloves.
Years back, when Abdul Razzaq was taking the ball on a banana ride on an overcast day in County Cricket, Sehwag vanquished the swing in his own style. When the swing became unbearable after a couple of play and miss, he hit him for a six and as a result, the ball was changed and the nuances of the ball were evaded.
While many of his teammates would have tried to survive by adjusting themselves, he had his own way of doing it. And that is where he was different from all his colleagues. For him, attack was the best defense and he carried that approach for the most part of his career.
He never had that eye-popping cover drive of Tendulkar or the elegance of Rahul Dravid or the exquisiteness of Ganguly and Laxman, but he had his own set of ferocious stroke play which was enough to demolish bowlers on any day. His violent and swashbuckling square cut was one such example and for him timing the ball was a second thought, since the first one was to hit it as hard as he could.
He was a bowlers’ nightmare and his attack on most occasions was not aimed at spreading the field and stealing the runs afterward. His cricketing books had rarely considered singles an ornament to build an innings and if there are fielders placed at long-off and long-on, he would still hit the bowlers over their heads. A lot of self-belief was coupled with his hard hitting abilities which makes him one of the true legends of the game.
At the end of his career, when his eyes were not as keen as his arms and hands were, when his blade had begun to lose its sheen and when a lot of his limitations were exposed, he was oblivious to all the advice that came his way and never changed the way he carried on his business. He would have changed his batting style, he would have accepted the advice of playing close to the body but that would have ended his career a lot before because for everything that came across him, he had his own way of doing it, the Sehwag way.
It was his own independence and free-spirited behavior that helped him survive the arduous path of International cricket and when he called it a day, he precisely expressed it in his own words:
"I also want to thank everyone for all the cricketing advice given to me over the years and I apologize for not accepting most of it! I had a reason for not following it; I did it my way!"