Viru - the unpredictable

On Virender Sehwag’s 40th birthday, Sportstar recalls the rise of the eccentric batsman.

India's Virender Sehwag celebrates on reaching his triple century at the Multan cricket stadium in 2004.

Virender Sehwag is a character straight out of a Hollywood Western movie. The bats replaced the guns, and the old Hindi songs he sang while batting sounded like Ennio Morricone to the opponent bowlers. He never cared for them. To him, only the runs mattered and he knew how to get them.

Former Australia quick Brett Lee had rightly described the outlaw behaviour of the right-handed assassin. “No matter how good and experienced you are, Virender Sehwag can kill your attitude.”

As he turns 40 on Saturday, Sportstar cherishes the making of ‘Viru’.

2001- the real start

People often set timelines in their heads for big-hitters. That 10-ball 20 guy or the 20-ball 40 guy etc. Sehwag surged at the right time. He took 13 innings to get to his first ODI ton — a 70-ball 100 against New Zealand in August 2001 — and the spark of the knock escalated his case.

 

Two months later, he raised his bat at Bloemfontein against South Africa. A dreamy hundred on Test debut batting alongside Sachin Tendulkar. Sehwag wasn’t an opener then. He came in at No 6.

Session-changer

By the next 10 innings, the world knew him as a session-changer. He would open the innings. The comfort joke around selectors were, “if he bats for two hours, we will win the game”.

Sehwag had a staggering average of 49.34 for a Test cricketer of the ‘bang bang’ genre. Most batters in the 45+ batting average elite list stuck to grammar, but Sehwag wrote his own. His unpredictable batting went to the extent of clearing boundaries on the brink of doubles and triples.

In the third Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 2003, Sehwag smashed Simon Katich for a six to get to 195. Being close to what would have been his first double hundred, he was expected to slow things down, but no, the maverick batsman couldn’t resist another full toss. This one landed safely to Nathan Bracken at long on.

Against Pakistan in Multan in 2004, he flexed his muscles yet again. He struck a huge six to get to 100, and later sent the ball sailing over the fence to to reach 300!

The change bowler

In limited-overs, Sehwag also emerged a breakthrough bowler with his right-arm offbreak. He could toss it up, skid it in and bowl the ‘wrong un.

In 2001, Australia — chasing 316 for victory in the first ODI in Bengaluru —  looked composed at 174-3 with a settled Matthew Hayden, who Sehwag dismissed for 99 to turn the tide. He also trapped Steve Waugh in front of the stumps, followed by Damien Martyn caught behind and India went on to win the tie by 60 runs.

 

The Champions Trophy first semifinal in 2002 against South Africa was another instance where he came handy with the ball. From 192-1, the Proteas choked at 251-6, losing the rubber by 10 runs.

Herschelle Gibbs retired hurt at 116 and Sehwag had made a meal out of the situation by dismissing the in-form Jacques Kallis for 97, Mark Boucher and Lance Kluesener. He knew how to deflate an opponent.

Sehwag wasn't known for his footwork. At times, you would be frustrated looking at the leg-before and caught-at-slip dismissals. But for every miss, there would be the 200s and the 300s — a method to his madness.