It seemed an appropriate succession. Virender Sehwag’s style is considered similar to the Little Master. Being one of the most feared batsmen in world cricket, it was no surprise when Sehwag scaled the summit with nonchalant ease. It was a knock that had him in all his elements – the usual brutal approach and the rare soft touch.
Early in his career, Sehwag was labelled a One-Day dasher, as his technique wasn’t considered suitable for the longer format. To everyone’s surprise, he has been more successful in Test cricket as he has scripted a number of big hundreds and managed to average over 50. However, in One-Day cricket, he would often get off to good starts and then throw it away. It was astonishing that he wasn’t able to replicate the same consistency in the 50-over game. However, with the double hundred, he truly lived up to his billing and showed what he could do if he stayed for long.
India were going into the fourth game of the series at Indore at the back of a defeat in the previous ODI at Ahmedabad. A few key players were rested for the series and the reins of captaincy were handed to Sehwag. West Indies were more than competitive in the first three games and India knew they couldn’t take it easy. The defeat at Ahmedabad had exposed some of India’s weaknesses and the onus was on the captain to lead from the front.
On a batting beauty at the Holkar Cricket Stadium, Sehwag won the toss and elected to bat first. With that move, the captain took matter in his own hands as he unleashed the trademark upper cut early in the innings. It is a shot Tendulkar and Sehwag have made their own over the years as they easily send the ball into the stands over third man. Sehwag’s upper cut that day had Tendulkar written all over it. The usually brutal Sehwag merely directed the ball over slips for maximum.
While there were a few big shots at the start, one could see that Sehwag was determined to stay in the middle. However, that didn’t stop him from pressing the advantage. Sunil Narine – the mystery spinner – was welcomed into the attack with a massive six over long-on in the 11th over. In a way it was a crucial blow as Narine had played a vital role in India’s defeat in the previous game.
It was with that shot that Sehwag opened up and got into his typical attacking mindset. He made room on a few occasions to give himself the space to free his arms. Narine wasn’t allowed to settle and Sehwag reached his fifty with a massive hit off the spinner. The West Indian bowlers were taken by surprise as Sehwag’s approach foxed them. He continued to give himself room, so much so that it pushed a few bowlers to stray down the leg, only to be put away with ease.
Sehwag’s first fifty took him 41 deliveries, but he raced to the next in only 28 balls. Having no regard for the impending milestone, he reached his hundred with a boundary – something he has done a number of times in his career. For the batsmen at the other end – Gautam Gambhir and Suresh Raina – it was about getting back into top form even as Sehwag made batting look ridiculously easy.
India were marching along smoothly and a record total looked imminent. As Sehwag continued to toy with the bowlers, some started sensing history. He was ready for anything thrown at him. If it was short and wide, he went after it with all power and if it was on the pads, he put it away with a delicate touch one wouldn’t normally associate with him. Even through the off side, he played a few deft strokes with copious timing.
Gambhir and Raina scripted good fifties, but were made to look very slow with Sehwag firing bazookas at the other end. He touched 150 in the 36th over and with 14 overs to go; the Tendulkar record was within sight. On 170, Sehwag got a reprieve as the West Indies captain Darren Sammy dropped a relatively easy chance. The Nawab of Najafgarh was in his spirits and waved his bat to Sammy after that chance.
A very pertinent feature in his march towards the double hundred from the 150 mark was the way he cut out the risks. There was a chance, but if one takes that out of the equation, he was using the pace of the ball to score boundaries. At the start of the 44th over, the record was on the cusp. Ravindra Jadeja lost his wicket in an anti-climax, but nothing deterred Sehwag that day. He carved the next ball behind point to get to the milestone and record the highest score in ODIs. The crowd at Indore celebrated and greeted their hero. There were no big celebrations on Sehwag’s part as he merely took the helmet off and expressed genuine delight.
With the milestone out of the way, the challenge was to extend the record and carry his bat through the innings. On 219, he was dismissed against the run of play when he holed out to the long-on boundary – one he cleared a number of times during the knock. The whole stadium stood up to applaud a great effort. Even the West Indies walked up to congratulate him on the milestone.
Relive Sehwag's innings:
India finished on 418 and the West Indies weren’t in the game at any point in time – finishing at 265.
In the aftermath of the innings, comparisons flew thick and fast between Sehwag and Tendulkar’s double hundreds. While Tendulkar’s knock was an exhibition of textbook batting, Sehwag showed that he had matured over the years. It was unfair to compare as Tendulkar’s knock would remain the first in the history of ODIs and Sehwag would have the honours until someone surpasses his mark. It would require a phenomenal effort to get anywhere close to the two Indian kings.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site's YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)
First Published: December 8, 2012, 4:39 pm