Sehwag: the marauder in blue!

Virender Sehwag was born to entertain everyone with a cricket bat. And he achieved his goal in the true sense of the term.

A resounding whack was what Virender Sehwag gave the ball, whatever the format.   -  AP

West Indies' Marlon Samuels congratulates India's captain Virender Sehwag after the latter had cracked 219 in a one-dayer in Indore. On the right is West Indies captain Darren Sammy.   -  AP

Formats blur when it comes to Virender Sehwag. Whether it is Tests or limited overs cricket, Sehwag knew only one way to bat. Hitting the ball hard with the bat was the ultimate enjoyment for him and top class entertainment for those who watched him doing so.

Sehwag’s statistics may not be as flattering in one-dayers as in the Tests, but that did not diminish the entertainer’s role he played in the limited-over format. Cricket lovers always looked for the thrill factor in Sehwag’s batting. Even today, after his retirement from international cricket, fans boo home bowlers when they bowl a testing line to Sehwag in a domestic match. For them, he is the best action hero available on a cricket field. Known for his explosive batting in the domestic circuit, Sehwag made his international debut first in one-day cricket against Pakistan in April 1999, at Mohali, before earning his Test cap two years later.

He had to wait a bit to make his mark though. It came in March 2001 when he scored a fast-paced half-century and claimed three important wickets with his off-spin as India halted Australia’s 10-match winning streak. From there the dashing Delhi batsman built on his illustrious career studded with several memorable knocks.

Sehwag made the first big impact with the bat a few months later when he replaced his idol Sachin Tendulkar, who was nursing an injury, to blast his maiden one-day hundred, a 70-ball 100, against New Zealand at the Sinhalese Sports Club, Sri Lanka, in the Coca-Cola Cup.

Sehwag’s one-day career has two major phases. During 2002 and 2003, when India rose as one of the strong cricketing nations under the captaincy of Sourav Ganguly, Sehwag got promoted to wear the opener’s hat and made a good contribution in the country’s success in the 50-over format. He scored one-third of his 15 ODI centuries during these two years.

This phase also contains Sehwag’s 82 runs off 81 balls, which is rated as a brave effort in India’s unsuccessful chase of the mammoth 359 set by Australia, in the 2003 World Cup final in South Africa. The other noticeable phase came in the latter half of his career, which had seven centuries spread over three years. This included several rampaging acts, including a 60-ball century (the fastest hundred by an Indian) against New Zealand in Hamilton in 2009, a 102-ball 146 against Sri Lanka at Rajkot which boosted India to a massive total of 414 and his most famous double hundred (219) as captain at Indore, in winning causes.

The biggest highlight of Sehwag’s one-day journey has to be the clinical slaying of the West Indian attack in the economic capital of Madhya Pradesh. He raced to 200 with six overs to spare in the Indian innings and overtook Tendulkar’s double hundred to remain the highest scorer in one-day cricket for some time.

Interestingly, this was Sehwag’s last century in the 50-over format and the highest score by a captain in ODIs.

The other high point for Sehwag was India’s 2011 World Cup win at home. He scored a massive 175 against Bangladesh in Dhaka to give his team a perfect start in the event. He gathered 380 runs in the tournament at 47.5 and made some valuable contributions as the country went on to annex the title for a second time.

In coloured clothing, Sehwag’s domination with the bat was not restricted to the Indian boundaries. His 8273 runs at an average of 35.05 may not be one of the eye-catching figures, but Sehwag getting involved in108 half-century or century stands and scoring runs at a strike rate of 104 speak volumes about the fluent stroke player’s utility for close to a decade and a half.

As a youngster Sehwag aspired to be like Tendulkar. As a professional he joined hands with his role model to gather more runs (4387) than he scored with any other batsman.

The legend of Sehwag rests in his uncomplicated approach to batting backed by a clutter-free mind. There are numerous instances to signify that he never played for records. His 38 half-centuries tell how he cared the least about converting those to three-figure scores.

In his blue uniform, Sehwag shone amidst his imperfections — be it the stats or his technique. Otherwise, he would have perched atop a pile of records without the accolades he has accumulated over the years. But that would not have been Sehwag-like.

Sehwag was born to entertain everyone with a cricket bat. And he achieved his goal in the true sense of the term.

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