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Virender Sehwag, arguably the most dangerous opening batsman ever to play for India, has been overshadowed by the likes of Glenn Maxwell and David Miller for Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) in Indian Premier League (IPL) 7. However, he has also been one of their most consistent batsmen. Shiamak Unwalla looks at how this version of Sehwag is different from the one we know.
The words “explosive,” “audacious,” “uncomplicated,” and “fearsome” would perhaps be the first few adjectives that come to mind when one thinks about Virender Sehwag. Here is a man who once remarked, “If you bowl 10 balls to me outside the off stump, I’ll hit nine of them for boundaries and get out once. But in the fear of getting out once, I won’t forego nine boundaries.” So to see him play the role of a restrained and responsible opener is a little strange.
And yet, that has been Sehwag’s role so far in Indian Premier League (IPL) 7. While he is yet to cross 40 in this edition, he has nonetheless been one of the more consistent openers in a format where 30s are considered to be as reputable as fifties. In Kings XI Punjab’s first match, they needed a brisk start in a chase of 205 against Chennai Super Kings (CSK). This was perhaps the only match in which we saw the Sehwag of old. He scored 19 from 10 balls with four boundaries to get KXIP off to flier. Glenn Maxwell then took over, and scored 95 off 43 to pull of the win. Sehwag’s next innings was a rather insignificant two runs from seven balls against the Rajasthan Royals.
In the next match, against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), Sehwag again lit up the ground with an innings of 30 off 22 with two fours and three sixes. He was dismissed trying to hit Amit Mishra down the ground, and was caught at long-on. He has followed up that innings with scores of 37 from 30 with three fours and one six, and 32 from 26 with four fours, before being run out for one run from two balls in their last game.
But what stands out simply can’t come through in the figures. For those of us who have watched him bat, the aspect of his batsmanship that catches the eye is that this isn’t the Sehwag who is throwing his bat at anything outside the off-stump. It seems he has reconsidered his outside-the-off-stump rule in favour of the less flashy play-the-ball-on-its-merit school of thought. There could be a number of reasons for this shift from Sehwag. Maybe it’s because the legendary hand-eye coordination isn’t what it used to be. Maybe it’s because the of the match situations he has found himself in (not that that’s ever stopped him in the past!). Or maybe it’s because Sehwag truly wants to get back into the Indian team, and he wants to do it the only way he knows how: by scoring runs.
For now, Sehwag has the luxury of big hitters coming in in the middle order, so he doesn’t need to blast his way at the top. Perhaps this is a new, compact version of Sehwag, not dissimilar to the change Sachin Tendulkar made in his batting as the years went by. Sehwag has looked in very good form, and it seems like he is one innings away from getting back to his high-scoring days. With this new solidity in his batting, he could well pave the way for a comeback.
The question is, will Team India want this version of Sehwag? It certainly doesn’t think it needs the old one. Perhaps a few big innings from Sehwag 2.0 could convince them otherwise. Only time will tell.
(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)
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