“Move your foot towards the ball!” screams every cricket coach in the world. Cricket is such a technical game. No coach would allow you to move a toe out of line, and often there’d be these few players who would and consequently be kicked out and given no hope for the future. Talent is a word thrown around too much nowadays, but without technique, that talent goes absolutely nowhere.
There are a few though, who have managed to ride solely on the wave of their talent. It’s a huge wave, mind you. One false move and you fall way down, collecting a few choice words and harsh sentiments along the way. But when you’re up there, high above everybody else, you’re looked upon as a virtuoso, like a legend who can do no wrong and with whom great things, impossible feats and unimaginable scenarios can be conquered.
Virender Sehwag’s calm batting stance when followed by a ludicrously minimal amount of foot movement and a manically high amount of hand-eye coordination hits your vision, and a strange phenomenon occurs. Your eye, so sound at catching the slightest incorrect detail, and your tongue, so efficient at distributing the most colourful words at such situations, stop functioning normally. You gape open-mouthed while you watch a shot found scribbled somewhere at the back of these ‘textbooks’ commentators talk of is executed with such exuberance and confidence, you can’t help but think ‘that’s cricket.’
The up-and-down of Sehwag’s career could give one a bad stomach, but he stands tall, hums his Kishore Kumar song and waits for the next ball to be hit for four. At a time when Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman were luminaries of Indian batting, Sehwag was introduced to the world with his unorthodox and lazy figure hovering at the crease, albeit for long periods of time.
Sehwag did not, does not and will never care for who is bowling to him. If the ball is pitched outside off, he’s going after it like it’s the last thing he’ll ever do. Strangely enough, while this strategy of his has got him bucket-loads of runs, it has also been the cause for much criticism. His lax attitude has brought him down on so many occasions, but what’s worse is his inability to learn from these mistakes. His infamous dismissal against Sri Lanka, where he was casually walking to the non-striker’s end when the ball struck the stumps before he could reach, should have made him a lot more responsible, but even today you’ll see Sehwag calmly walking to the other end as if at Kalinidi Kunj.
His stubbornness to continuously play away from his body, to try and hit a six to get to a hundred, to chase every ball, whether in the first or three hundredth over, all come under the ‘Bad Sehwag’ list, but ultimately, that is what makes Virender Sehwag, Virender Sehwag. We would not accept him any other way.
He bludgeoned his way to a century against England in the test match at Ahmedabad, scoring at a rate faster than a run-a-ball to get there. It was one of the rare times when he didn’t convert it into a big 150-plus score, but still led India to a strong position. When Virender Sehwag scores big runs, India automatically are placed in the driver’s seat. A successful Sehwag oozes the kind of confidence that passes on to his team mates and lifts the entire country up.
Sehwag’s game was tailor-made for the shorter format, but most of his success has come in the test matches. Most would pick him in their All-Time XI in a heartbeat. When you’re compared to the likes of Sir Viv Richards, you know you’ve made it. But Virender Sehwag has probably created a benchmark of himself. His presence at the crease is threatening to any bowler in the world, with his ability to tarnish anybody’s reputation. You may want to classify him as a ‘hit-out-or-get-out’ batsman, but there’s an order to his madness, a set of rules to his chaos that makes everything look so mechanical and correct. It’s been a joy to watch.
It’s been 99 test matches of absolute poor technique and skill, and 99 matches of pure class and purity. And Sehwag is the only man you can say that about.