Virender Sehwag: the unusual defiance
What’s the usual term that we can normally associate with a man like Virender Sehwag? Aggression? Callousness? Fearless? He is indeed the face of these traits, and has lived up to the mundane expectations of a common fan like me, inducing the fear of God in the opponents. He is an unstoppable force once he gets in.
Reading the conditions, settling down, playing around has seldom been his forte, and associating responsibility with Sehwag would just sound ridiculous. But, the million dollar question is, is that all he is capable of? He has achieved some dubious distinctions of being rather callous, like I said earlier, which has resulted in diminishing his career to a mere calculation of luck, combined with batting friendly conditions.
While that may be true to some extent, Sehwag possesses an intense persona, one which can indeed take responsibilities and play according to the situations, though we cannot expect that from the diminutive opener, day in and day out. One has to read between the lines, [innings, on this regard] before stamping the careless attitude sign on the Nawab of Najafgarh.
There are only limited occasions where that part of his cricketing skills has come to the fore, a sight that I can relish and relive, albeit in my mind, even today. It was the year 2008, when India were still nursing the wounds of the thrashing they received at the hands of the mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis in the Asia cup final, when they were scheduled to tour the island nation for a three match test series. Calculations were drawn, and the Indian contingent was mighty confident about facing the Sri Lankan attack, having the ever-performing senior players back at their disposal. It was touted as the battle between talent and experience, and cards were favouring the fab four this time around.
But, it was a disaster as India was made to swallow the bitter pill for being complacent, relying on the seniors’ efficiency to see them through. It was a complete mayhem, to say the least and no batsman young or old, was spared. Muttiah Muralitharan finally found an able ally in the form of the little known Ajantha Mendis, and they wreaked havoc in the Indian camp. The first innings was an indication of the treatment they were invited for. The famed four finally realized that they have indeed aged, and the reflexes were wee bit slow to their liking.
Murali and Mendis, “The two M’s” as they were fondly called, bamboozled the Indian batting with their wily and calculative bowling. Facing Ajantha was a nightmare, the ball itself not knowing in which direction it would turn after pitching. The Indian team was in a sorry state after losing the first Test comprehensively, and only a Tsunami could have prevented the second Test from happening.
A tsunami did occur, though on the field. The second Test was a dreaded affair, with the Indian team finally realising that the fiend was above their reach. But, one man chose to rewrite history and his career’s alter ego was scripted along in the process. Virender Sehwag came out all guns blazing, not in the literal sense, but he was pumped up to show that India was much more than a money-spinner. He played with caution mixed with aggression and he was very severe on Mendis, meting him with his trademark treatment. He did not allow Mendis to settle down, stepping out time and again hoicking the mystery man over the long on and mid-wicket fence. It did not stop there though. He unleashed a variety of strokes, right from the late cut to the inside-out drive to great effect, even as he was bearing witness to the crumbling wickets from the opposite side. He was left to fight alone, but it did bring out the best out of him.
Sehwag looked like a completely different batsman, who was exhibiting the rarest of rare stroke-play, pleasantly surprising his fans. The Sri Lankans bowlers suddenly looked ordinary in front of a well-organized Sehwag, and were at a loss for an answer. Murali was teasing Sehwag to go for it, by gently flighting the ball to his liking, but Sehwag was content playing it around for a single. The tail-enders were proving tough as well, lending support and keeping the two M’s in check.
This could probably be counted for nothing if you take the generousness and the ‘put-team-first-character’ of Sehwag into account. Sehwag was stranded on 199, batting on the last wicket with the lanky pacer Ishant Sharma. Any other batsman would have been tempted to take the single at the first given chance. But, Sehwag denied four chances to get the single in order to protect the wicket of Ishant, thereby putting the record in danger. He could have been out on 199, but his thoughts were far beyond a number, wanting to take India to safety. It was heart-warming to see that gesture and he would have definitely won the hearts of all the spectators.
India won the match with Sehwag yet again performing with the bat in the second innings, and a reprieve from the abuses that were pouring in from the agitated fans. What was more fascinating was he did not let Mendis conquer him or even get him once in the whole series, proving that Mendis was no mystery after all. It was not just a victory, but a chance to witness the emergence of the second face of Sehwag, which we sorely miss today.
Sehwag is getting older with every passing day, and time is not on his side for a proper comeback. He himself has said that he is hugely inspired by that knock and would like to concentrate on moulding his batting technique to suit the need. There is no better example than this for Sehwag to take the cue. He should re-invent himself, to extend his stay in the international scene, for he is one of the most naturally talented cricketers around and his loss would be unbearable for team India and his fans more so.
Sehwag carries huge expectations on his shoulders, having been branded as the successor of Sir Vivian Richards and The Master himself has credited Sehwag of possessing similar technique. Sehwag should take a leaf out of Sachin’s book and model his batting on how the Little Master has adjusted over the years. He should cut out the flair from his batting and should look to extend his stay at the crease irrespective of the number of runs he scores at the end of the day, because with Sehwag, run scoring is just a matter of time.
He is going through a tough phase in his career and a small change in his mindset could work wonders. He is desperately needed for the Indian team, to fill the void of the missing seniors, and would do well to put behind his differences with the senior players and look to score runs. Scoring runs is not a job, but a hobby for him, and his fans would eagerly await the day to witness the little dynamite in action once again!