From the Archives: Sehwag’s interview after Multan feat

HE not only strikes the ball hard, but also crashes through barriers. It was a momentous occasion for Indian cricket when Virender Sehwag, during the course of his astonishing effort in Multan, became the first Indian to score a triple century in Tests. The Dasher from Delhi shared his thoughts in an exclusive interview to Sportstar, after the fourth day's play in the first Test.

India's Virender Sehwag poses with his Man-of-the-Match trophy at the awards ceremony of the first Test match between India and Pakistan in Multan in 2004.

SEHWAG: I TOOK IT SESSION BY SESSION

HE not only strikes the ball hard, but also crashes through barriers. It was a momentous occasion for Indian cricket when Virender Sehwag, during the course of his astonishing effort in Multan, became the first Indian to score a triple century in Tests. The Dasher from Delhi shared his thoughts in an exclusive interview to Sportstar, after the fourth day's play in the first Test.

Question: What was your initial reaction after you became the first Indian to score a triple hundred in Tests?

Answer: I was very happy. Never realised that I had got 300 plus. Even now it has not sunk in. To make the occasion more special, Sachin Tendulkar, your role model, was at the other end. Sachin Tendulkar was with me and he congratulated me, hugged me and said, "Well done.'' He told me, "carry on, many more will come.'' I will never forget the moment. It was so nice having that long partnership with him.

During this innings, you have broken through so many barriers. It is the quickest double hundred by an Asian, the first triple hundred in an India-Pakistan series, and you are the first Indian to notch up a triple century in Tests.

Being in Pakistan, I don't quite realise the extent of my achievement. After my feat, I spoke to my parents and my brother and they told me there was a crowd outside my house when I made my triple hundred. I ring up home and find every day there is a minister or a big name calling up to congratulate me. Even in the house of my fiancé, there was a huge gathering of people. In Pakistan we don't quite feel it, because, owing to the security, we are not able to meet too many people. Once I get back to India, I will realise the magnitude of my achievement.

 

India is on the verge of recording its first Test victory in Pakistan (the interview was conducted on the fourth day of the Multan Test). How does it feel?

Very happy. It will be India's first Test win in Pakistan and there will be my 309 to go with it. Years from now, when they remember the triumph, they will also remember my name. It is a nice feeling.

When you began your career for India, did you ever imagine that one day you would cross 300 in Tests?

I wanted to play Test cricket. When I played in Tests, I had the ambition to make a double hundred. When I made 195 in Melbourne, I felt I should be able to get 200.

That dismissal in Melbourne, when you were caught in the outfield at the fag end of the opening day's play, must have been playing on your mind?

In Melbourne, I got out in the closing stages of day one, and had I not been dismissed, we might have won the match. That was at the back of my mind. I was telling myself , 'I should not get out in the last part of the day.'

The manner in which you overcame two landmarks, the 200 and the 300, was different. While you were extremely circumspect on 199, you jumped to 300 with a six, despite the fact that you were on the threshold of making history for India.

I was confident that I would not get out at 199. It was just a matter of one run. I knew if I just stayed there it would come. Unless I made a mistake, I would not be dismissed. At 295 I felt that if it was not my day, maybe I would miss out. It was an opportunity. A spinner was bowling. I had the confidence in my shot. I knew that if I connected, it would be a six.

India's Virendar Sehwag celebrating after completing his double century on the first day of first cricket Test match against Pakistan in Multan in 2004.

 

You surpassed V. V. S. Laxman's 281 for the highest Test score by an Indian. But you fell short of Hayden's world mark of 380.

Laxman was among the first to congratulate me. He has always been supportive of me. I am not really disappointed over not overtaking Hayden's record. I tried my best and made 309. Maybe in future, I could go past Hayden. I get my runs fast, so it gives me a chance.

This was a monumental effort from you. How did you plan your innings?

When I was batting, I was not even looking towards the scoreboard. I just took it session by session. I told myself, I had to bat through the session. We wanted to put a huge score on the board. First session on the second day, I made just two or three boundaries. I told myself, I should not get out in the first hour, then set my sights on being there till lunch. The runs came along the way.

What is more important while constructing an innings of this scale: physical or mental toughness?

In this game you need more of mental strength rather than physical. Physically you have to be fit, but the mental strength is more important. We were playing Pakistan after 14 years and we wanted to make an impression with our strong batting line-up. Mentally, I told myself that I should not get out to the new ball.

You have faced two of the best pace attacks in recent times, on their home soil — Australia in Australia, and Pakistan in Pakistan. How would you rate your performances?

Both the attacks were good. To score runs in Australia is difficult against bowlers like Lee and Gillespie. To scores runs against Pakistan bowlers, who are known for their reverse swing, is also demanding. Both the attacks have their place. If at all there is any difference, it would only be marginal.

Critics have often pointed at your lack of feet movement...

I would only like to tell my critics that this is my game, I am happy with my game. They say making a triple century in Tests is extremely difficult, why Test cricket, in any form of cricket, it is an extremely difficult landmark, even at the under-19 level. If I can achieve a triple hundred without feet movement, why do I need it? I play my game. I know what my game is. When there is a need, I use my feet. I play my natural game, I do not want to change it.

Are you comfortable now about opening the innings?

As long as there is no slot in the middle-order I will continue to open the innings. Since I started opening, I have done well in some matches and we have won several key games away from the country. I open the innings and runs come quickly. In Multan we reached 675 and we had not even played for two days. This is why the match will end early on the fifth day. My team is happy with me opening the innings. Cricket is a team game.

The Multan pitch, slow in nature, was not really ideal for strokeplay. How did you adjust?

I was only playing my normal game. The backfoot punch, the cover drive, the straight drive, the flick. Probably, it would take a while for a new batsman to adjust, but I had already got set against the new ball. When I started, the bowlers and the wicket were fresh and the ball was coming on nicely. There are times when I adjust automatically. Even I do not know about it myself. It happens naturally. If it is a fast wicket, the bat comes down faster and if it is a slow wicket, the bat starts much slower.

Your record could stay for a long period in Indian cricket, considering it took so much time for someone to break the 300-run barrier.

Records are made to be broken. I also hope that my 309 gets broken one day. There are several who are capable of breaking this record in the Indian batting line-up. Laxman, Dravid, Ganguly and Tendulkar. And Yuvraj if he plays regularly in Tests, and bats in the right order, he is also capable of making a triple hundred. They are all capable.

You did not really have a rewarding ODI series with the bat. Was that worrying you?

The one-day series did not go well for me. I made runs in the first match, but after that, despite getting a start, I was not able to carry on. But I was in good nick, I was timing the ball well, and wanted to build an innings in Tests. I was looking forward to the Tests. I want to stay at the wicket for longer periods, score more runs.

Can you elaborate on the role of the seniors in the Indian team in shaping your international career?

The team has backed me to the hilt, all of them, Ganguly, Laxman, Dravid, Tendulkar, Kumble. The biggest thing is that they have never asked me to change my game. They never put me under any kind of pressure. All they tell me is, "You go out there, and play your game.'' I play my natural game, but there may be situations when you may have to change it because of the team's needs.

You also have a creditable Test record on away soil now with three-figure knocks in South Africa, England, Australia and now in Pakistan.

In Test cricket, it is only in New Zealand that I have not made a hundred. In the other countries, South Africa, England, Australia, and Pakistan, I have reached three-figure knocks. I am still not satisfied. I want to achieve more.

This is your first visit to Pakistan. How has the experience been?

We have won the ODI series. We have started off so well in the Test series. It feels great. The people here have been very supportive. The people in Pakistan are very loving. They take care of you. We went out in Peshawar, Lahore and Islamabad. We had no problems.

(Interview reproduced from the Sportstar magazine dated April 10, 2004)