Virender Sehwag has scored two centuries in Australia © Getty Images
Virender Sehwag has scored two centuries in Australia © Getty Images

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

The One-Day International double hundred by Virender Sehwag has ensured that the expectations from him on the tour Down Under are sky-high. But the discerning will tell you that there are more reasons for being optimistic about Sehwag. The ball comes on to the bat nicely on the hard tracks of Australia which is just the kind of wicket Sehwag relishes because its suits his style of hitting on the up.

 

If further confirmation is needed of relishing such a wicket, one needs to see his record Down Under.

 

Footwork isn’t his biggest strength; in fact, he will tell you it isn’t necessary!  But Sehwag makes up for the minimal to nil footwork with immaculate hand-eye co-ordination. On Australian surfaces, that quality becomes his major asset as it allows him to tackle pace with relative comfort. At Perth, supposedly the fastest pitch in the world, he is able to adjust to the pace of the wicket due to his ability to pick up the line and length fractions earlier. The last time India toured Down Under, Sehwag provided India good starts in both innings at Perth.

 

Sehwag’s numbers in Australia reveal a very interesting story. The average reflects his consistency and the strike-rate personifies his value at the top.

 

M

Runs

Avg

Strike rate

100s

50s

Highest

Overall*

7

833

59.50

74.04

2

3

195

For India

6

750

62.50

72.81

2

2

195

 

*includes the match he played for ICC World XI vs Australia in 2005

 

Of the 12 innings he batted in Australia, he has scored over 40 on nine occasions. Those knocks have been responsible in providing India with good starts at the top. It isn’t just about the quantity of runs but also the rate at which they are scored.

 

The two hundreds he has to his name Down Under are mirror images of each other. The 195 at Melbourne was a typical Sehwag knock – intent on murdering the bowlers. Interestingly, he started off circumspectly and saw off the new ball with the help of Aakash Chopra. His first 20 runs came off 55 balls, and at that stage a viewer would have glanced at the scoreboard twice to confirm the rare occurrence.

 

By then Sehwag had had enough of it and decided to play his game. Boxing Day turned into a boundary fest for India and the Australian bowlers were made to bite the dust. Stuart MacGill was earmarked for special treatment as the leg-spinner was carted to all corners of the ground. In the end, temptation got the better of Sehwag as he holed out in the deep off the bowling of Simon Katich, having hit a six off the previous delivery. Despite the slow start, he ended up with a strike rate of over 80, which bears testament to quick shifting of gears.

 

The knock that started off with him showing intense application ended at brink of a double in a manner one can only expect from Sehwag. However, this setback didn’t stop him from getting his first triple hundred with a six a few months down the line.

 

If Melbourne was treated to brute force in 2003, Adelaide (2008) witnessed a fighting performance to hold the batting together and prevent a collapse. Sehwag had to play the sheet anchor role in the second innings to prevent Australia from sniffing a chance. The second highest score of the innings was 20 and at 151, he had scored most of India’s 269. A draw was achieved and Sehwag put his stamp firmly on the opening slot in the eleven. This knock was of immense value from his personal point of view as he was getting back into the Test squad having been out of the side in the months leading up to the tour.

 

These big hundreds aren’t the only bright spots to pick out from previous tours. The numerous cameos have been crucial to India’s improved performances Down Under. At Adelaide in 2003, his knock of 47 in the second innings set the pace for the middle order to seal a historic win. The 43-run knock in the second innings at Perth in 2008 was crucial in giving the Indian innings a direction.

 

On his third tour to Australia, Sehwag returns as a senior statesman who hasn’t compromised his natural aggression. At the same time, he has added a hint of caution to his approach. The knock at Indore suggests that he doesn’t go after every single delivery as he used to earlier, but gives it a whack only when it is in his zone. There may be the odd moment where he gets out playing the rash shot, but that is how he plays.

 

That in itself has transformed him into a better player as the thrills last longer. The nine odd cameos of the previous tours suggest that he has got those starts but hasn’t converted them into big ones. Usually, when he converts them, they go on to become big hundreds. He would be looking to add more to his feats of Melbourne 2003 and Adelaide 2008.

 

His presence at the top has been one of the main reasons for India’s fighting performance in Australia during the last two tours. With Sehwag landing Down Under in ominous form, one can only expect a great performance!

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)