Virender Sehwag is going to play his 100th Test at Mumbai on Thursday, which is a landmark feat considering his style of play. Everything about him suggests that he should have never made it this far. All throughout his career, we have heard about his lack of footwork, his careless dismissals, the laconic attitude and refusal to change his game according to the situation. Any other cricketer with those attributes would have never survived past 10 Tests; but here he is – the Nawab of Najafgarh, on the cusp of a highly-cherished milestone.
Sehwag has scored 8448 runs in his 99 Tests with 23 centuries and 32 fifties at an average of 50.89 and a strike-rate of 82. There are quite a few batsmen around with similar stats, except on the strike-rate. Throughout his career, he has never compromised on quick starts and has paved way for many Indian victories. By doing that on a consistent basis and still establishing a fine career, he has shattered the myth that an opener’s role is to just see of the new ball and hang in there as long as he can. That will always be his legacy and it is a mighty one to have.
Sehwag has played many memorable knocks (think of 293 at Mumbai 2009, 201 at Galle 2008, 195 at Melbourne 2003), but for me the best Sehwag innings was his very first, against a rampaging South African attack consisting of Shaun Pollock, Nantie Hayward, Jacques Kallis and Makhaya Ntini on a tricky Bloemfontein pitch in 2001. A typical innings from a batting position which he soon moved out of, it consisted of all his trademarks – a free flowing knock regardless of the team position, included. Soon, he moved to the top of the order and made it his own position. The fast-paced knocks never abated, and he remains as one of those rare batsmen who never adjusted his game to the demands of advancing age. If that is good or not, is a matter of individual opinion.
However, he has not been in the best form off late and there have been calls by a lot of to drop him from the team if his failures continue in the ongoing series. But going by the way he batted in both innings of the Ahmedabad Test, he is far from done yet. More importantly, he has shown signs that he does work on his game seriously and doesn’t take his place for granted.
Still, greater challenges await. A tour of South Africa looms on the horizon, which presents an ideal opportunity for him to prove that he still has the game to succeed overseas. As unlikely as it may seem now, remember that very few would have expected him to play 100 Tests when they chanced upon him in his early days. As he is a fan of inspirational quotes, Sehwag will surely approve this quote by Ralph Blum, “Nothing is predestined: The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings.”
(The writings of Benjamin Prabhu (Benny, aka tracer007) are products of a fanatical cricketing mind for over a decade and a half. After a brief stint in school cricket in the 90s, he decided that chasing a red ball around a field in white flannels as a substitute fielder was not really getting him anywhere. He subsequently entered medical school, where he spent half the time learning how not to kill a patient and the rest of the time, sharing his opinions about the state of international cricket to people who had no idea of what he was talking about. Since graduation, he is living in the US, where he chanced upon the world of cricket blogging; and in an instant, an idea to start a cricket blog shot through his brain ‘like a tracer bullet’ and (likeatracerbullet) was born)