VIRENDER SEHWAG AND THE METHOD IN HIS MADNESS
He does not possess the exquisite precision of Sachin Tendulkar, nor does he have Brain Lara's elegance. He does not caress the ball into the gaps like Jacques Kallis, nor does he time the ball like Adam Gilchrist. He does not, cannot, bat like any other batsman in this world. He is in a different league, a league which he created himself, a league to which only he belongs. He is Virender Sehwag.
On 8th of December, he wrote his name in the record books, again. He batted on his way to a huge innings, again. He made the highest score for an Indian batsman, again. He did what we thought was impossible, again. Virender Sehwag scored 219 runs off 149 balls in an One-day International match against West Indies. In doing so he broke the record for the highest individual score in an ODI and created a new record. He surpassed his guru Sachin Tendulkar by scoring only the second double century in limited overs cricket.
This is not the first time he has breached the barrier of high scores. On 29th March 2004 he became the first ever Indian to score a triple century in Test cricket scoring 309 off 375 vs Pakistan at Multan. He reached the landmark in his trademark cavalier fashion, a lofted shot off Saqlian Mushtaq for 6. As Indians we were proud that we finally have an entry into the exclusive 300 club and we thought that this would be the highest score by an Indian batsman for some time to come. But Sehwag had different plans. “Ek se mera kya hoga” he must have thought and he scored a second triple ton in April 2008 against a formidable South Africa, an explosive 319 which came off only 278 deliveries. This is, and I have a strong feeling it will be for a long time, the fastest tripe century in Test cricket. He came within sniffing distance of history when he crossed 290 for a third time, in December 2009 against Sri Lanka but most unfortunately was out on 293, 7-agonizing-runs short. Before Virender Sehwag, the top three Test scores for India were VVS Laxamn’s 281, Rahul Dravid’s 270 and Sachin Tendulkar’s 244; now all the three slots belong to the Jatman from Najafgarh.
Coming back to the 8th of December, on a sweltering Thursday afternoon at the not-so-renowned Holkar Cricket Stadium, in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, Sehwag walked in to bat with his favorite opening partner Gautam Gambhir after winning the toss in the fourth ODI of the series against West Indies. What followed was pure butchery. It took him 149 balls, 25 fours and 7 sixes to reach and breach the 200-run landmark. And not once in the three hours he spent on field did it look like he was breaking a sweat. He batted like his normal self , hit the good deliveries, punished the loose balls, hardly moved his feet, ran at his own pace and ease and characteristically ran out his partner. The fact that he was dropped twice, once on 20 and then on 170, helped. He got the elusive double ton in style, hitting Andre Russel for a four and raising his arms to show the world - he has done it!
This 200 was unlike any other Sehwag century. What set apart this innings was that every time his bat connected with the ball, the ball found the boundary. He was sweet timing the ball in every single stroke. It was not just slogging, it was glorified, entertaining slogging. He bludgeoned some over the ropes, he caressed some in the gaps, he edged some towards the boundaries and some went off on seemingly their own well. Such was his stroke making on display that not one could have watched and not enjoyed! It was the original no-holds-barred Virender Sehwag show. But an extremely impressive aspect if this innings was his patience. I know that patience is not one of the virtues associated with Sehwag, but this innings was different. He did not look to hit every single ball for runs, he did not try to take the aerial route in every over, he did not look to attach every bowler and he actually paced his innings. This is what sets him apart from other explosive batsmen of this modern T20 era, from the Warners, the Dilshans and the Afridis, this is what enables him to get those high scores. This is what will make him go down in cricket history as a player who created a style of his own.
He may not be as loved as Tendulkar, as respected as Rahul Dravid, as admired as VVS Laxman or as envied as MS Dhoni. But Virender Sehwag possesses something that no other Indian batsman will ever have. He has the power to maintain method in his madness. To be explosive yet not combustible, to be punishing yet not perishing, to be powerful and patient at the same time. He has the distinction of being the one and only player with a batting style and stats like these. This is a rare quality that only Virender Sehwag can have, because he went and made it up himself.