Virender Sehwag - Delhi Daredevils' one-man demolition squad!!

Between Venugopal Rao’s dismissal in the 6th over and his own exit in the 17th over, Sehwag scored 111 of DD’s 128 runs. The next highest individual in the DD innings was James Hopes’ 17! © AFP


By Jamie Alter


Aesthetically, and for beauty of purpose, Virender Sehwag’s 80 off 47 balls on a dicey wicket in Kochi last week was a better innings, but for sheer adrenalin-pumping action and audacity, his 119 against Deccan Chargers (DC) set the bar. Sehwag put Delhi Daredevils (DD) on his shoulders yet again and, for 56 balls of sheer daredevilry, demonstrated every single reason the franchise owners decided to retain him during the offseason.


Sehwag has been desperate for success all tournament, especially since DD got stuck in a rut. He has never laid blame on any one or any department; he even singled out his own poor form in seven of ten matches as a reason why his team was struggling. On Thursday night, Sehwag single-handedly delivered DD victory while ending a century drought which stood at 75 matches entering Thursday night’s game. So breathtaking was Sehwag’s assault that he smashed 13 fours and six sixes during his 56-ball innings and his 119 was the fifth fastest IPL century.


Sehwag had had a relatively indifferent tournament until the last game, getting off to starts but not always carrying on. His nine innings preceding the blitz against DC read 19, 4, 37, 12, 77, 25, 34, 80, and 15. The 80 against Kochi Tuskers Kerala (KTC) was filled with intent, but when he had been dismissed on that day you could see the discontent writ large across his face because he knew he was due more.


Thursday’s innings was as close to a one-man show as any in this IPL season or any, for that matter. DD came into that match with six losses in nine matches, needing to win all five remaining matches to stay alive in the tournament. Their bowling effort had been ordinary, the fielding shoddy, and when the top order struggled to cope with the new-ball pair of Dale Steyn and Ishant Sharma, it looked all over for DD at 29 for three after the Powerplay. Then Sehwag cut loose and the effect of his approach was devastating.


Kumar Sangakkara made six bowling changes between the eighth and 15th overs to try and curtail Sehwag’s progress, but he might as well have just admired the fireworks exploding in front of him.


Sehwag was watchful against Steyn and Ishant Sharma and bullish against the rest. Ishant Malhotra was smashed for 23 in an over, Daniel Christian for 13, Amit Mishra for 17 and 15, and Bharat Chipli for 20. The cut, pull and the lofted straight drive were seen aplenty as Sehwag began his assault to go past Sachin Tendulkar as the tournament’s leading run-getter.


His cool head and ability to put away the average deliveries kept runs ticking over on a speedy outfield and his handling of the slow bowlers was superb. Malhotra, on IPL debut, was tossed the ball for the eighth over and it could be his only over this season. Malhotra was collared by Sehwag, who swung the first two balls for six, the next two for four, chipped two down the ground off the fifth, and made sure to get back on strike for the next over with a single off the sixth delivery.


Sehwag took a single off the last ball of the ninth over to become the tournament’s leading run-scorer, and didn’t allow Mishra to settle, his first ball sailing over his head for six. Even a dropped catch next ball didn’t deter Sehwag who cut the third ball away behind point for four. The Sehwag-Travis Birt stand yielded 61 in 28 balls, with Birt’s contribution being just four!


Christian’s third over cost just seven runs, including the wicket of Birt, but there was no respite for DC as Mishra was taken for 15 in the 12th over: Sehwag clobbering three consecutive fours before taking a single off the last ball. He wasn’t flustered by the loss of wickets, and celebrated a second drop with two fours off Steyn. His fourth six, again pulled over the leg-side, took him to 96, and three balls later the landmark was duly reached with a mishit over mid-wicket. It took just 48 balls!


Sehwag celebrated with consecutive sixes and a four off Bharat Chipli, and when he finally fell for 119 he trudged off shaking his head and barely acknowledging the crowd. He wanted to finish the match himself.


Amid the carnage, there was tact too. Between overs six and 14 he pinched singles off the last ball of an over five times. He scored 70 runs on the leg side and four of his six sixes came between mid-on and long-on, courtesy a shuffle towards the off side and a full swing of his bat. Between Venugopal Rao’s dismissal in the sixth over and his own exit in the 17th over, Sehwag owned 111 of the 128 runs that had been scored. The next highest individual score was James Hopes’ 17. It was mindboggling.


“I told my boys, just play fearless cricket,” Sehwag said after the match. What he did was the epitome of fearless. For batsmen like Sehwag, the desire to succeed stems from the occasion. His 80 against KTK and the century against DC are proof of that. Against KTK, the wicket was a bad one and DD’s top order had struggled; in Hyderabad it was a must-win match and the top order had again combusted. DD now need to keep whatever momentum they have going into a crucial match against Mumbai Indians on Saturday before they meet Chennai Super Kings on May 12. If they are to avoid elimination, Sehwag will have to fire. On the basis of his last innings, he is hell-bent on ensuring they do.


(Jamie Alter is a freelance cricket writer, having worked at ESPNcricinfo and All Sports Magazine. He is the author of two books, The History of World Cup Cricket and Field of Dreams: The Story of the Dr. DY Patil Sports Stadium. His twitter feed is @jamie_alter)