By Karthik Parimal
Before the start of the fourth One-Day International (ODI) at Indore, there must have been a mildly feeling of uneasiness in the Indian camp and Indian cricket fans concerning the opening pair of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. The duo got off to decent starts more often than not in the recent past, individually and collectively, but failed to convert those starts into big scores. The explosive side of Sehwag went into hibernation after his scintillating knock of 175 against Bangladesh in India’s very first outing at the 2011 World Cup. Gambhir’s last significant innings too came almost eight months ago - in the final of that memorable World Cup. Since then, the journey hasn’t been smooth and easy for both Sehwag and Gambhir.
Despite scoring few half-centuries in the recently-concluded Tests against the West Indies, Sehwag did not look his flamboyant best coming into the ODI series. His scores of 20, 26 and 0 in the first three ODIs respectively weren’t reassuring. It was important for him to make a significant contribution with the bat before boarding the plane to Australia. Not many would disagree with the notion that whenever Sehwag hits a lean patch, he often needs just one good innings to regain his lost form and explosive approach, and fortunately for India, he found more than just runs and his lost form during the Indore ODI. He achieved a monumental feat by going past Sachin Tendulkar to register the highest individual score in ODI history - 219 off just 149 balls.
It isn’t surprising to note that majority among the cricket fraternity had backed the Nawab of Najafgarh to be one of the very few players capable of surpassing Tendulkar’s milestone. Sehwag has now raised the bar to dizzy heights by setting a new record, and the only player who can possibly repeat this feat is Sehwag himself. It is extremely difficult for most batsmen to bat close to a 50 overs and constantly maintain a high strike-rate, which is what makes Sehwag’s record all the more difficult to overtake, at least in the near future.
The Indian innings during the Indore ODI was all about vintage Sehwag. He began decimating the West Indian bowlers right from the second over, as he gracefully flicked a ball straying down the leg side to the boundary before playing a beautiful upper-cut in the very next over by Kemar Roach. He became unstoppable thereafter, as he began to dance down the track and smash the ball to all parts of the ground regardless of who the bowler was. Darren Sammy will be ruing the fact that his butterfingers let Sehwag get away, but by then the damage had already been done. However, that dropped catch reassured Sehwag that he was destined for a double ton. “When Sammy dropped my catch, I knew God was with me," he was to say later. An elegant square-cut in the 44th over ensured that the ball made its way to the fence and brought up the coveted landmark.
One thing you can't help but admire about this genius is his approach during any point of his innings. If the ball is there to be hit, he will hit it. He doesn't lay much importance on a cautious start and surely isn't the type to fret in his nervous nineties. This doesn't imply that Sehwag is reckless; it's just that he trusts his instincts more than anything else. If the ball is in the slot, regardless of whether he is batting on 0 or 99; it is bound to disappear.
The fact that Sehwag has managed to accumulate runs under his belt just before the all-important tour of Australia augurs well for the Indian team. The dashing opener once again proved that he can single-handedly run away with the match on his day. Australia will have their task cut out if he carries this form into the upcoming Test and One-Day series Down Under. However, here's a tip to the Aussies - Stop Sehwag before he reaches his fifty, as his conversion rate has been tremendous in the recent past. Of his last seven fifty-plus ODI scores, Sehwag has converted five of them into centuries.
Nevertheless, the Indore knock is one which cricket fans all across the world will savour for a long time to come. It was a perfect blend of style and substance. Virender Sehwag's 219 is a fine example of the adage - "If a man sets his mind to something, there's no limit to what he can accomplish."
Thank you for the visual treat, Viru. May you break your own record soon!
(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)