A record to cherish

One needs to see the despair on the faces of the bowlers when Sehwag is at his best. The swashbuckling opener put the West Indies attack to the sword at Indore with a mix of aggression, childish relish and brutal power to rewrite history and topple his hero, Sachin Tendulkar.

There have been some great impact players like Viv Richards, Adam Gilchrist, Brian Lara in the past who have entertained the spectators across the world in both formats of the game. Sehwag is perhaps the most destructive batsman in modern day cricket.

One needs to see the despair on the faces of the bowlers when he is at his best. The swashbuckling opener put the West Indies attack to the sword at Indore with a mix of aggression, childish relish and brutal power to rewrite history and topple his hero, Sachin Tendulkar, from the top of the ladder of the highest individual scorer in ODI.

It was just over a year ago that Tendulkar dispelled the general consensus within the fraternity that Sehwag will be the likely candidate to score a double century first in an ODI. The little master achieved the milestone with a precision that would have made a surgeon proud while Sehwag thoroughly enjoyed himself on his way to breaking Tendulkar's record. For one who plundered runs in Tests with a strike rate that is considered par for the shorter version, Sehwag somehow did not crack the code in the ODIs for a long time.

He was perhaps unwittingly trying to surpass himself when it came to ODIs as his enviable strike rate in Test cricket would have prompted him to think that he needed to do better in the ODIs. It was a conundrum that Sehwag had to solve and in recent times, he has been making a concentrated effort to play a certain number of deliveries rather than getting substantial numbers against his name on the scorecard.

The quiet phase in the series against West Indies must have inflamed his personal and professional pride enough to make him say that he needed to contribute more than he had running into the game at Indore. The overwhelming intent to score some runs had somehow infiltrated into his famous uncluttered mind and unfortunately for the West Indies that did not affect either his demeanour or his batting in the least.

The pitch was ideal for stroke play and as soon as the initial nervy phase was negotiated, the “Nawab of Najafgarh” decimated the hapless Windies attack relentlessly over a good period of three hours. The thought of getting to his double century must have crossed his mind during the last phase of his innings but that did not stop him from deriving some pleasure by engaging in banter with the Windies fielders.

The significance of his record-breaking innings goes far beyond than his achieving the milestone because the Indians will desperately want Sehwag to be in his prime form in Australia. The momentous feat would have served to get rid of all the fleeting anxieties (if any, because we are talking of Viru) and his mindset will be better as he embarks on the most challenging of tours shortly.

Of course, the conditions are bound to be totally different in Australia, but even for Sehwag some big runs under his belt will help immensely. The West Indies must be feeling that Sehwag's blitzkrieg was the last thing they needed on a tour where they have struggled to convert whatever chances they had in both formats of the game.

Despite the pounding and the disappointments, they were sporting enough to admire a man who has redefined the art of batting much to the chagrin of some purists. However, it has to be remembered that there is nothing crude or untoward in the way Sehwag bats but it is just that his approach is too simple for others to emulate. Perhaps his hero Tendulkar may match him should he wish so due to his exceptional ability but I wonder if even the little master walks out to bat with as free a mind as Sehwag does.

It was rather fitting that Tendulkar's record was eclipsed by his ardent disciple and the happiness emanating from both sides when they talk about each other only goes to prove the healthy mutual respect and friendship between them.

In a few weeks time, Tendulkar will need all the help from Sehwag to make his life a bit easier in the bid to conquer the Aussie attack. Sehwag's aggression has proved to be the decisive factor whenever India has succeeded in the past and that too in an away series.

The feat at Indore would have raised the expectation levels of the fans and hopefully the unassuming belter will carry his form Down Under and make the young Aussie fast bowlers realize that Test cricket is a hard grind. The Indians are expected to win the series this time around in Australia but a lot will depend on Sehwag's form for Dhoni and his men to succeed. One thing is for sure though, Virender Sehwag will not lose any sleep over the challenges that he is likely to encounter in Australia. But on the other hand, the Aussies will spend more than a decent amount of time plotting his downfall.