Quintessential team-man

PTI

“My role (in the Indian team) has not changed. I have to perform. If I perform for myself, the team also benefits. I have to bat at my pace and ensure that the team gains,” says Virender Sehwag in a chat with Vijay Lokapally.

Virender Sehwag is raring to return to international cricket. The India opener, who has fully recovered from a shoulder injury, will be making his comeback in the forthcoming one-day series against Australia (October 25-November 11). Sehwag is expected to enthral his fans at home with his vast range of stroke-play, exciting and exhilarating for those who value quality batsmanship. The master blaster speaks to Sportstar on his comeback.

Excerpts: Question: How frustrating was it to sit out?

Answer: To tell you the truth, very, very boring. I love playing cricket, and when I am not playing I don’t know what to do. This absence from cricket was because of injury and that was a bit annoying. A shoulder injury and then the surgery meant that I was going to miss what I loved most. For almost a month my arm was in a sling.

What was your schedule during that period?

The best part of it was that it allowed me the opportunity to spend time with my family. I enjoyed playing with my son (Aryavir). Of course I missed cricket but this was a pleasant experience, giving quality time to my family. I enjoyed my cricket with my son.

How was the rehab?

It was hard on the body because I had to put in extra hours during workouts. I worked on my fitness for close to five hours daily. Gradually I started my running and then batting in the ‘nets’. It was tough.

It must have also been tough watching the Indian team struggle in the Champions Trophy...

Yes, it was sad. I wish I had been there and been a part of the team. I felt very bad when we did not make it to the semifinals. I would have loved opening the innings and contributing to a victory.

How do you view T20 cricket?

It is entertaining. It is popular. And I think essentially it is good for the game. See, we are playing the IPL and the Champions League. But please remember we are not playing many T20 matches between national teams.

Why do you say IPL and Champions League are good for the game?

These tournaments provide a glorious opportunity for the youngsters to make an impact. It is good for youngsters because they get to play with some big names in international cricket. The exposure helps the youngsters grow. A good performance here obviously brings youngsters into prominence. That to me is the greatest gain from playing these tournaments.

Are we not playing too many T20 matches? Not really.

Will T20 threaten Test cricket’s existence some day?

It will never happen. I don’t think we should compare. Test cricket and T20 cricket are separate formats of the game. There is a place for Test cricket. It is in the hearts of cricketers who know the value of playing Test cricket. There is a place for 50-50 cricket too. T20 is popular but the other two formats of the game are equally important.

Why is Test cricket close to most players?

Because of the quality that it provides. In Tests, there is time to think after every ball. And then there is no compulsion to hit every ball. The bowler is thinking. The batsman is thinking. But it is different in T20. You don’t get time to think. It is actually not at all tough for the players because the focus is on entertainment. In the process, if a youngster makes a mark, it is for him to make the most of it. A Test match tests your technique and patience. In T20, it is about bowling four overs and making some quick runs.

What role do you see for yourself in this Indian team now?

My role has not changed. I have to perform. If I perform for myself, the team also benefits. I have to bat at my pace and ensure that the team gains.

What changes do you notice in international cricket from the time you made your debut?

Not many, but the one big change I see is in the attitude of the batsmen. They have become more aggressive and that is the reason even a total of 300 is not safe anymore in one-day cricket. The captains and bowlers have become more defensive. Right from the first ball the emphasis is on containing, especially in the sub-continent. I think T20 has forced a change in the way batsmen approach their job now. Even 90 runs off the last 10 overs is an achievable target in 50-50 cricket.

What other changes?

To some extent, the quality of the pitches. They have become slower. The thinking has changed in most countries. We hardly see the kind of pitches I had heard of in Perth and Sabina Park. The ball does not fly anymore, only rarely if it does.

Have the bowling standards fallen?

No, they have not. But my concern is that the quality of spinners has deteriorated. Earlier, a team would certainly have one quality spinner. Not anymore.

But we don’t see many bowlers who can swing the ball effectively…

Yes, there are very few good swing bowlers. Maybe the conditions are not suiting them. These days the bowlers look to bowl more dot balls than wicket-taking balls. A majority of them look to hit the deck.

How about batting standards?

Certainly on the upswing. The batsmen have become more positive, optimistic of attaining greater heights.

How much importance do you give to technique and temperament?

They are related to each other in a cricketer’s progress. If you don’t have the temperament, what good is your technique? And if you don’t have the technique, how can you develop your temperament? It is important to have a balance.

What would you like to tell a youngster?

It is important that you should know your game. You have to be mentally strong and technically equipped. You must have a sound knowledge of the game. Unless you are mentally tough you can’t do well in international cricket.