Virender Sehwag’s s driving skills match his composed character even though it is in striking contrast to persona at the crease.
As he drives his Audi A7 to the Ferozeshah Kotla, he says: “Have to pick Ashish (Nehra),” and shifts into top gear.
For Sehwag, this is a throwback to the days when he and Nehra were trying to make a mark.
“We would take Bus No.783. Or I would pick him up on my scooter (a Vespa) and we would be off to the Kotla. Same routine for years, and now again it is the same routine. Only the distance has reduced. Instead of the scooter, it is a car now.
“Those were memorable days…going together for practice.”
“Memorable days, indeed,” agrees Nehra from the backseat.
“From scooter to car, but the driver remains the same.”
Their laughter drowns the peppy music that Sehwag has playing in the car.
Sehwag, with 8,306 Test runs and 8,238 runs in one-dayers, is on the way to join the Delhi Ranji team for a training session ahead of the match against Uttar Pradesh from November 2. He will be playing a Ranji Trophy match after five years.
“It is always good to be back with the Delhi team — meeting new and old colleagues, interacting with them, trading banter. I have some very fond memories.
“There is no doubt that domestic cricket is very important. It helps you, like now, to get ready for the season. When you play domestic cricket, you get to know about the up and coming talent, and can share your views with the selectors,” he says.
How seriously does he take these matches?
“As seriously as any other match! I don’t look at the bowler. I look at the ball. In cricket, anyone can get anyone out. One ball is all you need to get out. One good ball can get Sachin (Tendulkar) or (Ricky) Ponting. A good ball is a good ball, and it does not mean you won’t get it in domestic cricket.
“You can’t lose your focus or get complacent just because you are playing domestic cricket,” he says.
Advice for youngsters
Sehwag, who scored a century on debut against South Africa in Bloemfontein in 2001 — two of his 22 Test hundreds are triples — reminds the youngsters to be at their best.
“They should look to score big runs — maybe 800-1000 in a season, or try and take 30-40 wickets. Nothing comes easy. You have to believe in yourself,” he says.
“Look at Robin Bist. He is a Delhi boy but went to Rajasthan and has done extremely well. We love to discuss domestic cricket, the rivalries and the big contests. Some bowler would remember how he would have taken the wickets of Rahul (Dravid) or (V.V.S.) Laxman or how some batsman would have hit Zaheer (Khan) or RP (Singh). It is good fun and you have to be passionate about your state team to excel at the next level.”
Sehwag is geared up for the forthcoming series against England and Australia.
“Both will be important series. It is always challenging to play these two teams. I am looking forward to it. We have prepared well and will need to score big runs against England and Australia to create pressure on them.”
On the presence of Kevin Pietersen, his Delhi Daredevils colleague, Sehwag said, “KP is a very dangerous player. He is good against pace and spin. I am sure (Pragyan) Ojha will have a job to do.”
Sehwag also dismissed speculation that there was a rift between him and skipper M.S. Dhoni.
“It is utter rubbish. I never had any rift with Dhoni. Why should I have a rift with him. The team is like a family. I never said anything and Dhoni too has made it clear,” he said.
“I never questioned Dhoni’s decision (to drop him in a Twenty20 World Cup match). I respect my captain. I have been a captain and I know how it is.
“The captain takes decisions that benefit the team and not some individual. Whatever Dhoni decided was for the team and I respect that.
“We are both playing for India and it hurts when such stories are floated. People tend to believe what comes in the media even when it is not true.”