Recently I came across an interesting fact that, while batting first, a Sehwag innings has lasted more than 100 deliveries only twice. This devastating batsman has most of his test centuries resulting into scores of 150 plus and majority of them at run a ball or better. Somehow in the shorter version he hasn’t shown that much patience as usually, it’s not a good ball that takes Sehwag out when he’s in the murderous mood, but rather a shot borne out of bore dome that results into his demise. The batsman, feared by the bowlers all over the world, has somehow not performed at the same level (in terms of making loads of runs) in ODIs as he has done in the tests.
Last week, I read an interview of Viru in the pre-math of the World Cup 2011. He has been famous for being a straight talker, someone who would call a spade as a spade, and the one who simply lays his thoughts out giving an indication of his uncluttered mindset. In the said interview he mentioned the desire of batting 50 overs in the shorter version of the game. My first reaction was, really? As the statistics would prove, we’re so used “Sehwag Bursts” in ODIs that we never think of him batting 50 overs, something that we can count on Sachin or Rahul (in his prime days) to do over and over. After sometime though, I paused and reflected back on what he had said and soon I felt sympathy for the bowlers around the world, for two reasons: 1) Since he can do this in test cricket, where they bowl him a testing line with attacking field, performing the task in ODIs shouldn’t be impossible with bowlers already handicapped with various limitations (compared to tests). 2) One needs patience to wait for bad balls (and punish them to max) and leave out the ones that have slightest chance of getting you out, Viru does that in tests then I am sure he can in ODIs too. Thus if he manages to do that, the “Sehwag Burst” of 20-25 overs would get extended to “Sehwag Massacre” which is destined to put the game beyond the opponents reach.
The two men in the current Indian team who can really walk their talk are the two who walk out to bat first up. Both, Sachin and Viru can accomplish anything once they have their eyes set on to a target. On February 19, 2011, Virender Sehwag walked his talk and batted till 47.3 overs, as India batted first. He let many of them go over his head as he ducked underneath, restraining his desire to play that upper cut or pull. There was a phase in the innings where he patiently pushed and prodded the ball for singles for almost 30 deliveries without a boundary. This was against an attack that wasn’t as challenging as South Africa, England, or Srilanka, because usually the more the challenging the attack is, Sehwag tends to dig in more. Result: Sehwag came within comfortable distance of breaking his master’s feat (the only 200 in ODIs on the planet earth). I am absolutely sure that Sachin would be more than delighted if his “duplicate” happens to be the one to break his unique record.
This innings was almost like a re-birth of Sehwag in the shorter version of the game. Like the next version for any software always promises to be much better and efficient, the Sehwag 2.0 version shows every signs of being much more lethal for the bowlers and fascinating for team India. As we saw against Bangladesh, by the time he got out, he had put the game well beyond the opponent’s reach. Dhoni has publicly said that he’s never asked Sehwag to curb his instincts and always given him the freedom to play his natural game. Now if Sehwag takes it upon himself to exercise some controlled aggression, that is a shot in the arm for Dhoni and his game plan and tremendously increases his team’s chances in the current tournament. As a true Cricket fan, I can now seriously dream about seeing Sehwag-Sachin pair bat out 50 overs all amongst themselves, someday in an ODI. I won’t even try to imagine what the scores would be if this would ever happen. So everyone around the world, get ready for Sehwag 2.0!!!
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav