Saluting India’s greatest match-winner: The one and only, Virender Sehwag

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Virender Sehwag
Virender Sehwag

Just days after Indian speedster Zaheer Khan called it quits from International cricket, it came as a  bolt, out of the blue of Virender Sehwag’s decision to retire from all forms of cricket. “The Nawab of Najafgarh’, ‘The sultan of Multan’, are some of the adjectives that Viru earned through his sterling career.

The one thing that comes to mind when talking about Sehwag is that, he did things his own way; there was no thinking back in his dictionary. How many batsmen in world cricket would have the guts to go on and hit sixes when approaching  a 100, and a triple hundred, at Multan, in 2004, against Pakistan? Nobody. That was Viru, fearless and audacious.

Attributes that were to become the hallmark of his batting in the years to follow, and transform him into one of the greats of the gentleman’s game. He was a nightmare for the bowlers, all round the world, there certainly isn’t a doubt why he has left an indelible mark at the top of the order, for India. His records are proof enough of his stature as a class cricketer.

In his international run, Sehwag played 104 Testsm, scoring 8586 runs, at an impressive average of 49.34, hitting 23 centuries, and 32 half-centuries. He is the only triple centurion in Tests for India, having scored a career-best knock of 319, against Pakistan at Multan, which also is an Indian record. He went on to score his second triple ton, in 2008, against South Africa. In 251 ODIs, he scored 8273 runs at an average of 35.05, along with 15 hundreds, apart from hitting 38 fifties. The unpredictable batsman was also a part of the World Cup winning teams in 2007, and 2011.

But Sehwag was much more than his statistics; he was the batsman who set the tempo for the likes of “The Wall” Rahul Dravid , ‘Genius’ Sachin Tendulkar, and classy VVS Laxman, who took control of the match for India after a typical Viru blitz . He took the new ball bowlers with his daring stroke-play, upsetting their rhythm, and on numerous ocsassions, helped Team India post a big total. Sehwag did it with regular consistency, at home and abroad. He can thus, without a blink of an eye, be termed as one of India’s greatest match-winner.

He has given this cricket crazy nation some truly wonderful moments, courtesy his batting prowess. There are many instances where he single-handedly changed the complexion of the game with his style of play. In a career loaded with great moments, there some which clearly stand out, and establish Sehwag as a legend in his own inimitable way; one such instance is the stunning triple ton at Multan 2004 .

The way he hammered the Pakistani bowlers was a treat to watch. The Sehwag demolition of Pakistan in 2004 is reminiscent of the similar destruction at Centurion during the World Cup clash against Pakistan in 2003. Along with the maestro, Sachin Tendulkar, one can vividly recollect how Viru treated with utter disdain, Pakistan as well as world cricket’s most fearsome combination: Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar. Viru’s batting on the day can most definitely be termed as phenomenal. The trio hurled all they had in their armoury, but Viru had his answer set out  for them .

Indian batting always comes under scrutiny when they play abroad. But on day one of the 2003 Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, Sehwag gave the Aussies a taste of their own medicine. He scored a blistering 195 of 233 balls, studded with 25 fours, and 5 sixes.

The manner in which he hammered the Aussie bowlers was a delightful sight. Even good length balls were dispatched to the fence with ease, and something loose was hit over the top, with power. This was Sehwag at his very best. He terrorized the bowlers.

After having lost in the first round in Bangladesh, in 2007 World Cup, India took on Bangladesh, in the opener at Dhaka, in 2011. Sehwag was under intense criticism when India crashed out to Bangladesh in 2007. So in the revenge match, Sehwag exploded with all guns blazing. He gave enough intent to the rivals on  how India wanted the World Cup in 2011. He hit the helpless Bangladesh bowlers all round the park stunning the large audience turn-out. He was like a wounded tiger, in the middle, out to take his revenge. He hit the first ball of the tournament for a four, and the rest, as they say, is history. He played an astonishing innings of 175, along with the then young Virat Kohli complimenting his innings with a powerful ton, India took a sweet revenge, for the 2007 loss.

In the last few years leading up to his retirement, however,  Sehwag was virtually ignored. The fact that he not getting any younger removed him from the scheme of things as far as the selectors were concerned. At 37, Viru was certainly not in the selectors radar to build a young Test team under Virat Kohli, so his retirement was inevitable; it was only a matter of time before the announcement came. He has, however, gone out of the game, leaving behind a terrific impact .

Besides being a great player, what made Sehwag truly endearing was that he has always been an affable human being. He really was a sportsman, in truest sense of the word. There was never a hit of arrogance or rudeness about him. He never sledged nor did he flaunt his aggressive persona. He was a rare combination of cool, calm, composed, and destructive. He formed a superb opening combination with the great Sachin Tendulkar, and later on with his long-time close friend, Gautam Gambhir.

It was sheer joy watching him bat, and belt the bowlers all over the park. His ruthless ability to treat bowling with ease could be seen at the IPL too, for whichever team he played, be it the Delhi Daredevils or The Kings XI Punjab. Sehwag, many a time, rolled back years, playing scintillating cameos for these team, reminding his fans of  the kind of player he was and how much the bowlers feared him.

Now that he has bid adieu to the sport, bowlers round the world  would sure be heaving a huge sigh of relief, since their most lethal tormentor has called it a day, on his own terms, very much like the way he played throughout his career. So, thank you,  Virender ‘Destroyer’ Sehwag, for being a fantastic entertainer, for 12 long, illustrious years.

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