Virender Sehwag scored 2 triple centuries in his Test career © Getty images
Virender Sehwag scored 2 triple centuries in his Test career © Getty images

There are certain batsmen in the world who are technically sound. Players like Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting ooze class with their shots. And then there are some batsmen who are absolutely fearless. It doesn’t matter who is bowling, they have no hesitation in playing their shots. The West Indian great Viv Richards was the one who started this trend, and thus, players like Adam Gilchrist, Sanath Jayasuriya followed. There was an Indian as well, who went about his business without caring for his wicket. And well, you would have guessed it already. The ‘Nawab of Najafgarh”, ‘Sultan of Multan’ Virender Sehwag was probably the most dangerous of the lot, and arguably the most feared. ALSO READ: Sehwag trolls Akhtar on Twitter

The Delhi-born Sehwag was never one of those whose technique was to be admired. Yet, his unique style of batting got him 8,586 Test runs, 8,273 ODI runs, and more importantly, the respect from opponents and teammates alike. ‘Viru’, as he is familiarly known, was a very different kind of player. One of the greatest and most dangerous opener of his time, Sehwag started his career in the middle order, in case you did not know!

ODIs: Inconsistent yet fearsome

Having made his ODI debut in 1999, Sehwag went through a tough phase, scoring in excess of 50 just once in his first 10 matches. But in August 2001, he got his big break, and his legendary career kicked off. An unfortunate injury to Sachin Tendulkar ruled him out of tri-series against Sri Lanka and New Zealand. Sehwag found himself promoted to the opening slot, and he repaid team’s faith by scoring a 69-ball century. This, as many people say, was the game in which his sheer power came to the fore.

Since then, he kept going on and on and on. He was not very consistent throughout his ODI career, but would always come up with a blazing knock every 2-3 games. The bowlers really started to fear and admire him after his two centuries against New Zealand at their home in 2002/03 series. In both those matches, the other Indian batsmen had no clue about the hosts’ bowling attack. But Sehwag stood tall, and plundered the New Zealand bowlers at will. ALSO READ: Virender Sehwag motivates Ashish Nehra after surgery

The great thing about him was that despite opening with Sachin Tendulkar, he took centre stage and used to take away all the pressure from his opening partner. His style of play allowed Tendulkar to take his time at the crease. From one end Sachin would build his knock, and from other, Sehwag would take care of scoring rate. This formula worked wonders, as the pair amassed 4,387 runs, second highest for a Indian pair. Later, he would form a similar pair with Gautam Gambhir, which again reaped huge dividends.

There can be a no specific innings which can be rated as his best. From his match-winning 74-ball 125 against New Zealand to a valiant 82 against Australia in the final of ICC World Cup 2003. From his 175 against Bangladesh to a ferocious 57-ball 79 against Shoaib Akhtar and Co., he was absolutely brilliant. But, if there was one knock that stood tall amongst all, it was the 219 against West Indies in 2012, which is arguably one of the greatest knocks ever. West Indies bowlers were left red faced after that blow, despite not doing much wrong.

Tests: Absolutely Unstoppable 

Yes, don’t be shocked. Sehwag is probably the most dangerous batsman not because of his ODI performances, but on the basis of his Test record. For a player who isn’t known for his technique, once again Sehwag shut his critics to amass 8,586 runs at an unreal strike rate of 82.23. Yes, a strike rate of 80+ in Test’s! In the 5-day format, he managed to scored runs at a great pace, but managed consistency as well, which put him up as one of the greatest ever Test players. ALSO READ: Virender Sehwag trolls Morne Morkel, Jason Holder

On his debut Test, his talent was at show. South Africa were the first to witness his ingenuity and batting brilliance, as he scored a century in his very first innings, despite playing in the middle order. And just like in ODI’s, he was soon to be promoted. A tour to England and he played as the opener. And he did not let the team down, scoring 84 and 108 in the first two Tests. Since then, no one has been found capable to dethrone him from the opening slot.

His best display in his short Test career was to come in 2003, when the Australians were to face the ‘Sehwag storm’. Despite India losing the first Test, Sehwag scored 195 of just 233 balls in the first innings. But soon, he bettered that and played an innings of a lifetime against Pakistan in 2004. Batting first, Sehwag became the first Indian to score in excess of 300, as he demolished Shoaib Akhtar and co. in his 309-run knock. The innings came off just 375 balls, and earned him the title ‘Sultan of Multan’.

Since that knock, he amassed his highest Individual Test score of 319 against South Africa. He also scored 254 against Pakistan, 293 of 254 balls against Sri Lanka, and numerous more centuries and double hundreds. But if someone asks him his favourite Test innings, we are sure that he will rate his knock against England in 2008 at Chennai as his best.

The knock was not a century, double century or a triple century, like he usually scores. But his 68-ball 83 acted as the catalyst for India to chase down 387 runs against the visitors. The stage was set, and the scenario was a target of over 375 on the final day. It was upto India whether they would play for a draw or for a win. It all depended on the platform the openers will lay.

And out came Sehwag, and made a statement with his knock. By the time he was out, the game edged in the favor of the hosts, and in the end Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh took the side to one of the greatest ever wins. And what prescribed at the end of the game was Sehwag earning the Player of the Match award for his blazing knock. Well, it was very deserved as well.

Sehwag once recalled an incident when Shoaib Akhtar was provoking him to play a hook shot. In his reply, Sehwag said, “Joh non-striker end pe khada hai, woh tera baap hai. Usko bol, woh maarke dikhayega.” (The guy at the non-striker’s end is your father. Tell him, he will hit). After Tendulkar hooked him for six, Shoaib walked back and Sehwag taunted him, “Beta beta hota ha, aur baap baap.” (Son is a son and father is a father),” as reported by Saying this to probably the fastest bowler of all time, it took guts. But then, just like his batting, he was absolutely fearless. This was his innate nature.

In 2015, Sehwag announced retirement from international cricket, bringing down the curtain on a glittering career. Apart from all the runs he scored, he also won the ICC World T20 2007 and ICC World Cup 2011. Indian fans till this date pray for a player who can probably achieve half of what Sehwag accomplished. His geniuses with his bat is something which you see once in a lifetime.

To put an end to it, Sehwag leaving cricket would have bought tears of sorrow in fans around the world, but tears of joy for the bowlers. Well, you can’t blame them. After all the battering he gave them, they would have prayed to see the back of him. Now that he’s gone, it does not change the fact that he was the nightmare for bowlers; the phantoms of his destructive batsmanship still haunt them.

(R Narayan is a reporter with CricketCountry, and is an ardent cricket and football enthusiast (big Manchester United fan). Having followed cricket since 2003, he likes high scoring matches as well as good fast bowling. His Twitter handle is @RNarayan24nov)