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Born October 20, 1978, Virender Sehwag is a former Indian cricketer, who is known for his fearless batting at the top of the order.  A two-time triple centurion in Tests and one-time double centurion in One-Day Internationals (ODIs), Sehwag re-defined the way the game is played. On his birthday, Chinmay Jawalekar looks at 32 facts from the life of the basher from Delhi, who never took the conventional path as far as batting is concerned and always played the game his way.

1. Early Life: Sehwag was born into a Jat family to a grain merchant father. He first attended Arora Vidya School and later finished his graduation from Jamia Milia Islamia. His interest in cricket reportedly developed when he was gifted a toy bat, though he was just seven months old then. He later convinced his parents to allow him play the game, as he wasn’t inclined towards studies.

2. Childhood ban: His father once tried to end his cricketing aspirations when he was 12 after he broke a tooth during a cricket match. Sehwag however escaped the ban with his mother’s help.

3. First-Class debut: Sehwag made his First-Class debut against Tamil Nadu in February 1998 in Chennai. His maiden First-Class victim was former India player WV Raman. He didn’t get a chance to bat in the game that turned out to be his only First-Class match that season.

4. Maiden First-Class ton: In only his second First-Class game, two days after his 20th birthday, Sehwag scored his maiden First-Class century. Coming in to bat at No. 7, he scored 118 runs from 147 balls. His innings had 16 fours and three sixes. He also picked up two wickets in the match. It was a great season for young Sehwag, who scored 745 runs from eight matches at an average of just above 62. He scored three hundreds and four fifties in that season. Besides, he also took 14 wickets at 25.42 apiece. This led to his India call-up and he was also named in the 19 probables list for the World Cup 1999.

5. India debut: He made his One-Day International (ODI) debut against Pakistan in April 1999. It didn’t go the way he would have wanted it to, as he got out just for a single run and went for 35 runs in his three overs. He was dropped after the nightmarish debut and had to wait for a year and a half before getting his next game. But the turning point in his career came in his fourth ODI, where his Man of the Match effort (58 runs and three wickets) helped India beat Australia. A shoulder injury ruled him out from the remainder of the series.

6. Shot at opening and “Sachin’s clone”: Sehwag played in the middle order in his first 11 ODIs. In his 12th game, he was asked to open against New Zealand at Colombo. He scored 54-ball 33 in India’s losing cause. Three matches later, he smashed the same attack for a 70-ball 100 and pretty much established himself as an opener. It was also the first of his 15 ODI hundreds. His batting style was compared to Sachin Tendulkar’s and he was often referred to as the latter’s clone.

7. Hundred on Test debut: After an impressive start to his ODI career, Sehwag made his Test debut against South Africa at Bloemfontein in November 2001. Batting at No.6, he scored a hundred on his debut and added 220 runs with Sachin Tendulkar for the fifth wicket. He scored 105 runs in the first innings and 31 in the second. But his effort wasn’t enough to avoid India’s defeat.

8. The controversy: In only his second Test match, he was embroiled in a controversy when six Indian players were penalised by the match referee Mike Denness during the Port Elizabeth Test. Sehwag was handed a one-Test ban for showing dissent and trying to intimidate the umpire. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) termed the decision as ‘biased’ and the third Test in Centurion was declared unofficial.

9. Test opener: In only his sixth Test match, Sehwag was promoted to open the innings in Test cricket for the first time on the tour of England. He responded brilliantly in his first two Tests as opener by scoring 96-ball 84 at Lord’s and 106 at Trent Bridge. His first two outings established him as India’s opener across formats.

10. MCG special: In December 2003 at the epic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), Sehwag produced one of the greatest innings on the opening day of a Test match. He scored a majestic 233-ball 195 against Australia in no time. Even before the Australians could take the new ball, Sehwag was gone after plundering one of the greatest knock by an Indian, falling just short of his first Test double-century.

11. Multan ka Sultan: In April 2004 during India’s historic tour of Pakistan, Sehwag became India’s first and only triple-centurion in Test cricket in Multan. His 309 runs that came during his almost nine hour stay at the wicket helped India win the first Test by an innings margin. During his illustrious career, he got quite a few titles. He’s famously known as ‘Nazafgarh ka Nawab’ and ‘Multan Ka Sultan’ for his on-field heroics.

12. Pakistan again at the receiving end: When Pakistan travelled to India for a return-leg of the series next year Sehwag demolished them once again with his Man of the Series performance. He scored 544 runs in the three-match series that ended in a draw at 1-1.

13. Record opening stand: In January 2006 against the same opposition, Sehwag found an unlikely opening partner in Rahul Dravid and the two almost broke the record for the largest opening partnership in Tests en route their 410 in Lahore. They fell just three short of the 50-year-old record of 413 runs set by Vinoo Mankad and Pankaj Roy. Sehwag, who scored a sublime 254 in that famous innings, later said he was unaware of the previous record.

14. Dropped from the team: After a series of mediocre performances, Sehwag was stripped of his Test vice-captaincy. His poor-run continued in South Africa, where he was even demoted to play in the middle-order in the final Test at Cape Town. He was subsequently left out of Test team for a year.

15. The stunning comeback: Sehwag’s Test comeback came on a rather unexpected note in 2007. He had been in and out of the limited-overs side over the past year and there were absolutely no chances of a Test recall either. Quite expectedly, he was left out of the preliminary squad for the Australia tour. But when the final squad of 16 was announced, Sehwag found a place rather surprisingly. On the same tour, he contributed during the famous win at Perth with his 29 and 43 and a couple of wickets in the second innings. In the next Test at Adelaide, Sehwag’s second innings 151 helped India avoid a defeat. The importance of his knock can be understood by the fact that the second highest score of the innings was 20.

16. The second triple: Immediately after the Australia tour, in the Chennai Test match against South Africa, Sehwag scored the quickest triple-hundred, which was also his second in Test cricket. He scored a 304-ball 319, which came in 530 minutes. He took only 278 deliveries to reach the milestone and in the process became only the third player in the history of the game after Don Bradman and Brian Lara to scores two triple hundreds. Another West Indian, Chris Gayle joined this elite list in 2010.

17. Carried the bat: In the same year, Sehwag carried his bat against Sri Lanka in the Galle Test. He scored 201 of the total 329 runs scored by the team and remained unbeaten. In the second innings, he scored a quick 50 off just 52 balls. His effort that came against the formidable spin duo of Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis. The knock helped India win the match and earned him the player of the match award.

18. Selfless player: Sehwag is often called as the selfless player. His acts on the field justify the tag. Never the one to play for records, Sehwag would hit a ball irrespective of his score. He brought his triple and double hundreds risking his wicket by hitting a six. Even if he would get out, he would never mind. He also famously declined singles during his carry-the-bat effort in Galle, when he was batting on 199 with the last man, just in the interests of the team.

19. Another Chennai classic: In December 2008, during the first Test against England, Sehwag played a blazing knock of 68-ball 83 in the second innings as India famously chased down the target of 387 runs. The match is more remembered for Sachin Tendulkar’s unbeaten century that saw India home, but it was Sehwag’s innings that set the foundation for the chase and he was rightfully adjudged the Man of the Match.

20. Fastest Indian ODI hundred (record later broken by Virat Kohli): In March 2009, Sehwag blasted a 60-ball hundred against New Zealand at Hamilton. It was the then Indian record for the fastest ODI hundred as he bettered Mohammad Azharuddin’s effort of century in 62 balls. Virat Kohli who scored a century off just 52 balls against Australia at Jaipur in 2013 later broke the record.

21. Almost the third triple: In December 2009 in Mumbai, Sehwag almost became the first player in the history of the sport to score three scores in excess of 300. His epic effort of 293 against Sri Lanka fell short of the record by just seven runs. His effort however saw him become the Indian with most double-centuries. He also created a record of scoring most runs (284) in a day.

22. No. 1 Test batsman in the world: His 174-ball 165 helped India win the Kolkata Test against South Africa by an innings’ margin in December 2010. In the process, he became the No. 1 Test batsman in the world.

23. Scaled the zenith in ODIs: Most of Sehwag’s classic knock came in the month of December. This time, in December 2011, against West Indies in Indore, Sehwag became only the second batsman after Sachin Tendulkar to score 200 runs in an ODI. His 219 in the match remained the highest ODI score before his country-mate Rohit Sharma scored 264 against Sri Lanka in 2014.

24. The fall: He played just 10 odd games after the miraculous effort in Indore and played his last ODI in January 2013. His deteriorating Test form saw him play his last Test in March 2013. He’s been on the sidelines since.

25. World Cups: Sehwag featured in three 50-over World Cups and played two finals. His 81-ball 82 was not enough to avoid India’s defeat in the 2003 final. The next tournament in 2007 was a disaster for the team, when India got knocked out in the group stage. His 380 runs in eight matches at 47.50 played a crucial role in India’s victorious campaign in 2011 at home. He was also a part of the team that won the inaugural ICC World T20 in 2007.

26. No to night-watchman: Sehwag was never the one who favoured the concept of night-watchman. In an interview to ESPNcricinfo, he had once said, “Whenever a captain or coach asked me for a nightwatchman I would say, “No, why? If I can’t survive 10 or 20 balls now, then I don’t think I’ll survive tomorrow morning. I believe that’s the best time when you have the opportunity to score runs, when everybody on the field is tired and you can score 20 runs off those 20 balls.”

27. The singing assassin: Sehwag would always start an innings by singing songs. Whenever he was in the middle, he used to try and get the rhythm and lines of the song right, and his batting would automatically find the rhythm. He said in an interview to ESPNcricinfo, “When I take guard, I like to clear all the negative thoughts out of the mind first. That I do by singing a song or a bhajan [hymn].”

28. “Beta beta hota hai, baap baap hota hai”: This is what Sehwag once famously told Shoaib Akhtar when Tendulkar hooked him for a six. The legend goes like this: Shoaib Akhtar challenges Sehwag to hit his bouncer and the latter asks him to bowl one to his ‘daddy’ Tendulkar, who was batting at the other end. Shoaib does bowl one, only to be hooked for a six by the master, post which Sehwag spoke those golden words.

29. The 26 run-over: Sehwag smashed six boundaries in an over once during the Indian Oil Cup final in 2006 at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. Chasing a target of 282, he thrashed Dilhara Fernando for 4,4,6,4,4,4 (a total of 26 runs) in an over.

30. Scoring 21 runs in two legal deliveries: Sehwag also once smashed Pakistan speedster Rana Naved-ul-Hasan for 21 runs of two legal balls during the first ODI of Samsung Cup in 2004.

31. Retired leagues: Post international retirement, Sehwag played in the league of retired cricketers. He played alongside the likes of Wasim Akram, Sachin Tendulkar, Shane Warne, Sourav Ganguly, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis, Curtly Ambrose and others in the All-Stars series in the United States. He also led a side in the Masters Cricket League (MCL) in 2016.

32. The commentator, twitter and aspiring coach: Sehwag continued to bat the same way in the commentary box post retirement. Witty yet blunt, Sehwag has developed a niche when it comes to birthday wishes on Twitter or with his English commentary. Though he is mostly loved, he also has managed to irk others and has been a part of controversies. Former Pakistan cricketer Rashid Latif lashed out at him earlier this year.

Sehwag also has played the role of mentor in the IPL. He was a part of the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) contingent in 2016 and 2017 edition as a mentor. He also appeared for an interview in front of the CAC (Cricket Advisory Committee) consisting Ganguly, Tendulkar and Laxman for Team India’s head coach’s interview.

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is a senior writer with Criclife and CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed here @CricfreakTweets)