Indian Cricket has seen superstars of batting, including an envious list like Gavaskar, Tendulkar and Dravid but nothing beats the hysteria of Virender Sehwag. 20th October is the birthday of the great man and as he turns 38 this year; let us re-live the madness and method of Virender Sehwag.
Let us not talk about the numbers and averages as they are available everywhere. Let us look beyond the statistics and talk about Sehwag, the enigma of Indian Cricket. Till the late 90s, Indian batsmen had enjoyed some statistical comfort but were never in a comfortable zone.
Sachin Tendulkar was sole bearer of the line-up and hence his attacking batting was stone walled due to responsibility. From 1996 onward, Dravid and Ganguly came as steady support but the team batting was missing the fizz.
Very often cricket fans would joke about how India needs at least 2 Tendulkars to make a solid team and little did they know that it was already planned.
Virender Sehwag arrived on the scene in 1999 as he made his debut for the Indian ODI team. In his initial days, Sehwag was more popular as the clone of our god, Sachin Tendulkar. His appearance was strikingly similar, including the hairstyle, the strokes and even the batting equipment.
Sehwag, in the first few matches even confused the commentators as they pretty often mistook Sehwag for Sachin, while they batted together. When he started playing, Sehwag was a hard hitting lower order batsmen who could also bowl useful off spin but when he decided to hang up his boots, Sehwag was the best and most destructive opener India and the world had ever seen and a true great of the game.
Virender Sehwag changed the face of Indian Cricket totally with his batting. We had seen Sachin tearing apart bowling attacks earlier but what Sehwag did was something else. He was tearing apart the bowler`s confidence.
Sehwag was useful in the middle order but it was his elevation to the opening slot that changed the cricketing world. Sourav Ganguly saw potential and prompted Sehwag to open in ODI`s and the result was a century in just 60 odd balls against New Zealand. This was just a sign of things to come.
Few months later, Ganguly asked Sehwag to open in test matches as well and not just any test match but in the middle of the series in England, where the pitch was swinging square. It was not an ordinary move, as Sehwag was not known much for his technique and defence but was more reliant on the hand-eye co-ordination.
The move was a big risk but it can only be called the foresightedness of Ganguly and determination of Sehwag that they made it count and how. Sehwag blasted away the English bowlers on a seaming track for a quick fire 80 odd runs to to counter the new ball and give the team a solid platform.
An era had begun. The era of Virender Sehwag, where the test match was played like the one day match and even the crowds started filling in the test matches just like the ODIs.
The test matches were never the same as Sehwag went after the bowling, right from the start and these were not just starts, these were massive runs. Virender Sehwag’s appetite for big runs became well known. His 195 at the MCG was the beginning and then came the Multan triple century, the first ever by any Indian and there was no looking back.
There was another 250 against Pakistan, yet another triple (record score by Indian) against South Africa, a 200 and 293 against Sri Lanka. Such was his hunger for big hundreds that he owns the record of most number of consecutive 150+ scores in test matches.
And his ability to set up the matches was unmatched. Who can forget his innings of 80 odd inside a single session that too the last session on day 4 of a deteriorating track, when India had to chase more than 350 runs in Chennai to win.
India scored around 130 in that last session, leaving an achievable target for the fifth day. The impact that Virender Sehwag had on a match was unprecedented.
If that was the test matches, ODI’s and T20s were even more fierce. Before Kohli took over, it was Sehwag who had the record for the fastest ODI century for India (60 balls) and also had the highest score by an Indian in ODIs (219) before Rohit broke his record.
With Sehwag on the crease, there was never a dull moment in the crowd. Indian fans were seeing what they had never imagined, run rates being pushed toward 9 or 10 runs and over at the start, courtesy Virender Sehwag.
We had always dreamt of a player who could play ferocious and fearless cricket for India and Sehwag fulfilled our dream. With Sehwag playing, the Indian fans had the pleasure and luxury of boasting to have the best opener in world cricket. What a feeling it was.
Virender Sehwag was a true match winner and in his own words; If it is his day, he will finish the match on his own and no one can stop him.
Wishing a very happy Birthday to Viru Paji. Thank you so much for the memories.