Sehwag plays the cricket ball, not the opposition

Written by Boria Majumdar | Updated: Dec 11 2011, 07:39am hrs
It was just the night before the magical double hundred that I had an opportunity to speak to Virender Sehwag. Though it was a casual conversation it was apparent that he was not at ease with himself. As a skipper he wasnt having a good series and sounded a tad frustrated. He was keen to make amends and I had a few words of inspiration for him. It wasnt the normally straightforward Sehwag I was speaking to. Rather, it was a Sehwag I hadnt known. A skipper feeling the pressure, he was annoyed with himself for not doing the job for his team. The determination and purpose was there but the results hadnt yet come to the fore. Indore, finally, saw a turnaround and in the most astounding of ways.

I am thrilled for the man who is without doubt Indias single biggest match winner after Anil Kumble. He sets it up like no other and gives his bowlers that much more time in Test matches. Never overawed by pressure or the opposition, he is a phenomenon cricket has never seen before and, likely, will never see. Just like Sachin Tendulkar there cannot be another Virender Sehwag.

In the many interviews and interactions I have had with him three things stand out. First, is his simplicity. I remember asking him on the eve of the South Africa tour of India in February 2010 that Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel will bowl real quick at him and was he ready to take them on He hadnt even allowed me to finish the question. In his typical style, casual yet passionate and deeply endearing, he said, Dada Steyn ho ya aap. Ball aayga toh marenge. Simple and hugely effective. In the very same interview I had asked him if he blamed himself for having missed the opportunity of scoring his third triple hundred when he got out for 293 against Sri Lanka at the Wankhede in 2009. His reply tells you a lot about his mindset. I am happy I got to 293. And in a day of Test cricket there are 90 overs. I need to hit a four in 75 of these. Thats all. I will do it again and get to 300 in a day. Keep it simple is the Sehwag mantra. A four each in each of the 50 overs and

you easily get to a double hundred says the man! Unique and puzzling at the same time.

The second stand out feature is his fearlessness. Whosoever is the opposition Sehwag will never change. And thank god for that. He plays the cricket ball, not the opposition. He sees the ball and hits it. That is what his cricket philosophy is all about.

Finally, it is the passion he brings to his game. People might feel he is a bit casual on occasions but the man inside is a hugely passionate individual. He feels he has underachieved in the one day format and very rightly so. He wanted to do more in the 2011 World Cup and wants to defend the crown in Australia New Zealand in 2015 before calling it quits.

With the tour Down Under just days away, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid are already practising in Melbourne, the Sehwag double hundred will have a huge impact on Indias morale, going into the biggest series of recent times. With Australia rocked by injuries this is Indias biggest chance to conquer the final frontier and prove that England was an aberration. And to do so the man who needs to fire at the top of the order is Virender Sehwag. Another Boxing Day 195 ala his 2003 effort and the series will have been set up for India. That Australia is constantly in his radar is evident in every single conversation you have with him. He desperately wants to do well and make amends for not being able to serve the country in England. In fact, more than anyone else Sehwag was ecstatic when told that Zaheer Khan was back to playing cricket. This is the best news I could have heard before Australia. This is now our best side and we have a great chance. We have the ability and the potential. Now the question is can we do it when it matters From the evidence at hand at Indore, we certainly can with Sehwag leading the charge come Boxing Day.

The writer is a sports historian