Scintillating Sehwag says farewell to cricket

Kersi - Sehwag

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Kersi Meher-Homji

Virender Sehwag who recently announced his retirement from cricket was a spectators’ delight, a six-o-maniac who skied balls for sixes whether he was on naught or 99 and had the twenty-twenty vision to see the ball a fraction earlier than most batsmen. I often wonder whether he was a genius with the bat, a firecracker or a comet.

He hardly moved his feet as he thumped the ball and a six climbed the sky. However, when situation demanded he could buckle down and drive the ball effortlessly straight or through the covers like Sachin Tendulkar.

With minimal footwork but maximum aggression, he piled Test runs at a ferocious run-rate (runs per 100 balls) of 82.23 in Test cricket, of 104.33 in one-day internationals (ODIs) and of 145.38 in Twenty20 internationals.

This compares favourably with other hitters in the game like Adam Gilchrist of Australia, Vivian Richards, Brian Lara and Chris Gayle of West Indies.

Sehwag, now aged 37, arrived on the Test scene with a bang. In his debut the 23 year-old batted at number six and scored 105 adding 220 runs with his hero Tendulkar for the fifth wicket after India was tottering at 4 for 68. This was against South Africa in the Bloemfontein Test of November 2001.

But soon he emerged as his own man. In the 2004 Multan Test against Pakistan, as Tendulkar played a supporting role, Sehwag romped to 309, the first triple century by an Indian. And he brought it up with a six. Two Tests ago in Melbourne, he had been dismissed trying the same stroke five short of what would have been his first Test double-hundred.

At Multan Sehwag thrashed six sixes and 39 fours in his epic 309 off 375 balls.

Along with Tendulkar he holds the Indian record for highest number of Test double-hundreds (six). Sehwag came within seven runs of becoming the first batsman ever to register three triple-centuries. That innings of 293, against Sri Lanka in Mumbai in December 2009, saw Sehwag at his sizzling best.

His highest score is 319 at a strike-rate of 105.00 against South Africa in the March 2008 Chennai Test. It included five sixes and 42 fours. He had hammered 257 runs in one day.

Playing by instinct rather than by the book, Sehwag hit 8586 runs at an average of 49.34 and strike-rate of 82.23, hitting 23 centuries and 32 fifties in104 Tests. He also smashed 91 sixes. Only five batsmen have skied more than 90 sixes in Test annals. They are Gilchrist (100 sixes in 96 Tests), West Indian Chris Gayle (98 in 103), South Africa’s Jacques Kallis (97 in 166), New Zealander Brendon McCullum (95 in 94) and Sehwag (91 in 104).

As an ambitious youngster from Najafgarh where his family ran a flour mill, Sehwag grew up wanting to be Tendulkar. As Sambit Bal wrote in ESPN CricInfo, “Indeed, when he scored his first one-day hundred, filling up for his injured idol against New Zealand in Sri Lanka, he could have been mistaken for him: there was the same back-foot punch on the off side, the minimalistic straight drive and the wristy whip to the leg.

“And on his Test debut, on a fiery pitch in Bloemfontein, he matched the master stroke for stroke as they both blazed away to hundreds. But soon he emerged his own man, and not long after Tendulkar was playing a supporting, and somewhat calming, hand as Sehwag romped away to a triple-hundred, the first by an Indian, in Multan [against Pakistan in 2003-04], bringing it up with a six.”

The Melbourne crowd had the thrill of watching Sehwag in full flight in the December 2003 Test. For five hours he enthralled the Boxing Day crowd of 62,600 by belting five sixes and 25 fours in his spectacular 195.

He was a hero in Australia for his sizzling batting. He was dropped in the first two Tests in the controversial 2007-08 series. But after heeding to Ian Chappell’s advice the Indian selectors picked him in the next two and he scored a sedate 151 in the final Adelaide Test.

The most remarkable aspect of Sehwag’s career was his ability to build massive scores at breathtaking speed. He holds the Indian record for highest number of Test double-hundreds, and came within seven runs of becoming the first batsman ever to score three triple-hundreds. That dare devil innings of 297 against Sri Lanka in Mumbai in 2009-10 epitomised the true-blue Sehwag, a mixture of daring, power and skills.

He is one of four batsmen to hit two Test triple centuries; others being Don Bradman, Lara and Gayle.

He was equally flamboyant in ODIs, becoming only the second in the world to hit a double hundred after Tendulkar (against South Africa at Gwalior in 2010). Next year Sehwag smashed 219 against the West Indies at Indore in 44 overs.

In 251 ODIs he slammed 8273 runs at an average of 35.05 and a strike-rate of 104.33. He hit 15 centuries and 38 fifties. An off-spinner, Sehwag took 40 wickets in Tests (best figures 5 for 104) and 96 in ODIs (best 4 for 6).

He was honoured as Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 2009 and ICC Test Player of the Year 2010. But it is as a flamboyant batsman with a “catch-me-if-you-can” attitude that Viru Sehwag will be remembered.

He batted along with stars Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman and against Lara, Gilchrist, Gayle, Andrew Flintoff, Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting but never lost his sizzling lustre. Cricket lovers will miss his friendly nature and his six appeal.

 

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