Sportstar archives: Virender Sehwag and the art of batting

Virender Sehwag has become a lot cautious these days though not at the cost of his exciting strokeplay.

Virender Sehwag is the first Indian to score a triple century in Test cricket. He achieved the feat against Pakistan in 2004.

Virender Sehwag has become a lot cautious these days though not at the cost of his exciting strokeplay.He still continues to entertain the spectators with his daring strokes.

The Indian opener spoke to Sportstar on his experience of hitting his second triple century - in the first Test against South Africa in Chennai - and joining the elite company of Sir Don Bradman and Brian Lara, who were the batsmen to have made two scores in excess of 300 in Test cricket, earlier.

Excerpts from the interview… 

What does batting mean to you?

It means expressing myself in the best way I can, through my runs, my shots, my ability to entertain.

How is it different from the others?

Tough for me to judge, but let me tell you, I have never been selfish. I think a lot about my batting in terms of the team gaining from it. My job is to give the team a good start. I work a lot on my batting, plan my innings and approach.

It is said you are too impetuous?

Not true. I don't hit every ball. I also 'leave' the ball. I pick the loose balls to hit. Even in Chennai, I would have blocked the first four balls and hit the next two for boundaries because they deserved to be hit. When I hit, I don't aim to get a four or a six. I just hit.

How was the experience of reaching your second triple century?

Certainly very pleasant. I don't think any batsman takes guard with the intention of scoring a triple century, but when that happens it can be a rare experience. It took a while for the moment to sink in.

We know you don't like comparisons, but how does the Chennai feat compare with the Multan achievement?

Multan will always be very special. It was the first triple century in Tests by an Indian batsman. Since you have asked me to compare the two knocks, I would rate the triple century in Chennai better.

READ: Sehwag’s monumental feat

Why?

The reasons are many, especially the attack. The South African attack was complete. Against Pakistan the pitch was flat no doubt but I thought the runs came easier than they did against the South Africans. The weather was really exacting in Chennai. It was very difficult to concentrate because the heat was energy-sapping.

Virender Sehwag in action against Pakistan in Multan in 2004.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Any lessons learnt from losing your place in the Test team?

It hurt, but made me wiser. I knew I had to spend a longer time at the crease. I have also controlled my aggression. I now remind myself to convert a good start. 'Don't throw your wicket,' I keep telling myself, 'Cross 50 and look for a 100. Be careful with shot selection.' I learnt all this from Sachin (Tendulkar).

How do you handle the high expectations from your fans?

When you enter the stadium with thousands cheering for you and millions following the game on television, all you have on mind is performance. Performing well consistently teaches you to value the good form. I have always tried to make the best use of good form because that acts as a cushion when runs dry up. I am used to pressure because cricket is a high-intensity game. So, one has to be at his best. At least, one has to strive to be at one's best.

READ: Broadcasters, groundsmen among hardest-hit by cricket shutdown

This surely is a change in how you look at things from the time you arrived on the international scene?

Yes. I have changed with time. For that matter, we all accept certain changes with time and I am no different. Sometime back, I remember Sachin saying how a batsman makes changes to his approach. Certain changes are dictated by age, certain changes by the opposition. I have not changed to the extent of being called a different batsman. I still play my shots and that is my natural game. But I have become a little cautious. I was not mentally strong earlier. Now I am, thanks to some yoga and breathing exercises.

Have you really become cautious?

I have curtailed some shots in the initial stages of my innings. I prefer to hit straight but that doesn't mean I would let the scoring chances go by.

India's batsman Virender Sehwag plays a shot against Bermuda during the Group B Cricket World Cup match in Port-Of-Spain, Trinidad, March 19, 2007.   -  AP

 

Has one-day cricket become predictable?

Not really. New challenges keep cropping up. When I began my international cricket, a score of 250-270 was considered a winning total. Today, even 320 is not safe. Then there is power play and the ball change after the 34th over. Fielding has gone through some revolutionary changes and the mindset of the players has changed. There is such aggression now at every level. The game has become very tough really.

How do you describe aggression?

It has to come from within. You can't gain from being aggressive for the sake of the media and the galleries. You can't make runs and take wickets by just being aggressive. Your aggression has to work with your skills for you to excel.

READ: Who is the best Test cricket captain of them all?

What other changes have you seen in recent times?

I must say the presence of the media. It is overwhelming. Because of the media, the expectations among the masses also grow manifold. Sometimes it becomes unrealistic because the expectations begin to tell on the younger players too. Look how things have changed. You score a 50 or bowl just one good spell and you become a star. It is different from the time when I started.

How do you rate the youngsters?

I like their company. I interact a lot with them. I ask them to discuss our strong and weak points. This game is about making lesser mistakes. I keep telling them to avoid seeing news and not to get perturbed by criticism.

Don't you think there is over-analysis of the game these days?

True, too much sometimes. But then every one wants to be involved all the time and succeed all the time. There is such competition. I think it is because of the pressure on the players.

How do you look at the state of Indian cricket today?

It is healthy. The youngsters are really good and we seniors also have a responsibility. We have to play specific roles and I am glad to say that Indian cricket is moving in the right direction.

(This interview was first published in Sportstar magazine on 12.04.2008)

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