‘ODI double century is more significant to me'

Sehwag is celebrating his achievement, a ODI double hundred with a world record to boot, with the students of Sehwag International School.-

Virender Sehwag is a sheer joy to watch. There are not many dismissals where he has lost his wicket while defending. “I love to play my shots,” he says in this interview to Vijay Lokapally.

Batting looks so easy when you are watching Virender Sehwag. Put on the pads, pick up your bat, go out and just smash the bowlers. Is it that simple? “There is nothing easy on the cricket field. Batting is definitely not,” says a smiling Sehwag. But then he makes it look so easy.

Six over point, over third man, some nonchalant flicks and square drives, straight drive for variety and then some more sixes, the ball landing in the stands. Little footwork but lightning fast bat-speed marks his batting.

Sehwag is a sheer joy to watch. There are not many dismissals where he has lost his wicket while defending. “I love to play my shots,” he says. We know that. But why does he love to play shots? “I like it. That's the way I played my cricket and will always play. I know there will be criticism but I also know that only playing shots brings me the runs.”

What makes him happy? Playing shots or making runs? “Both actually,” he is candid. “But what really makes me happy is when I middle the ball. Everytime I play from the middle of the bat I feel happy. It does not matter how many runs I make. I should make them from the middle of the bat. The sound ‘aha' makes my day, the sound of the ball hitting the middle of the bat!”

The other day he was at his school, the Sehwag International School, to spend time with the students. They had a cake for him with 219 candles, symbolizing his highest score in one-day cricket. Sehwag was at his best in their company.

“Did you feel pain in your body while reaching the target?” asked a young fellow. “There is no gain without pain,” said Sehwag philosophically. And then he brought the house down with an anecdote that revealed the desire to make runs urgently at Indore. “My son was upset with my failures. His friends were teasing him. I did not want my son to feel embarrassed. I made sure his friends don't tease him again.”

Sehwag is looking ahead. He wants this tour to Australia to be a path-breaking one for India. “Try and win the series,” he says. Like always, he has done his homework too. He does, before every series, every tour. “I do my own analysis. Watch the opposition's bowling and take stock of their attack. I mark my bowlers. There are some bowlers I decide not to take them on. There are some I know I can handle with comfort.

“Against the West Indies, I knew I won't take on (Ravi) Rampaul and (Fidel) Edwards but waited for (Darren) Sammy and the spinners. You have to do your planning.”

What of his approach? “It depends.” What would it depend on because Sehwag hardly worries about the pitch or the conditions or the attack? “I have to be cautious until I am set.” Does he need time to settle down? Is he not known to blast the first ball he faces? “No, no…I need time to settle down. I may hit the first ball but I still need time to study the opposition and the conditions when I am at the crease. My batting style is such that you might think I am set from the first ball. But that is not always true.”

His ability to play big, on big occasions, is rare. The three best scores in Indian Test cricket belong to him — 309 (against Pakistan at Multan in 2004), 319 (against South Africa at Chennai in 2008) and 293 (against Sri Lanka at Mumbai in 2009). This apart, Sehwag has three other double centuries and eight scores between 151 and 195 in Tests.

By cracking the ODI double century, Sehwag did what Brian Lara, Sanath Jayasuriya, Matthew Hayden, Shahid Afridi, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Adam Gilchrist and Chris Gayle could not. Of course, he was overjoyed when Sachin Tendulkar got to that coveted figure at Gwalior.

Why did he remark that the double century in ODI was better than the two triple hundreds in Tests? “Honestly, the triple centuries have their value but this was more satisfying. In Tests, if one team gets out on the first day, you get four more days, you get time to rest and recover, time to think and plan. In an ODI, all you get is 50 overs and there again one has to bat at least 150 balls to realistically have a chance of scoring 200. That is why the ODI double century is more significant.”

Sehwag's batting philosophy is simple. Like any other good batsmen, he hates the ball hitting the pads, or taking the edges. “From outside, cricket looks easy but it is tough. As a batsman, I know it is important to pick the line of the ball early and maintain a decent shot-selection. I also know sometimes I make poor shot-selection. But then it is difficult to maintain concentration all the time because you have to look at the run rate and rotate the strike. Lot of factors come into play. My game is such that batting may look easy. But that's not true always. I do aim to get big scores, like any other batsman. But I can't read the future. The shot that fetches me a boundary can go to a fielder's hands when I play it next. I wish I could see the future and avoid playing such shots.”

He has always been fearless. “That is my strong point. I don't have this fear of failure, fear of getting out. You can't play cricket if you have fear in your heart. You can be positive by being aggressive. You can draw a match by scoring runs and not just being defensive. There is no point being tense and have a defensive mind set. It never helps.”

When he stops playing, what would he like to be remembered for? “I want to be remembered as a good human being. When I retire people would say things about my cricket. But I want them to remember me as a good human being, someone who helped people, helped young cricketers. I want to be remembered as someone who brought smiles in people's faces. There is no greater joy than being the reason for someone's joy.”