Time flies, as they say, and Virender Sehwag is on the threshold of playing his 100th Test.
Any description of his batting methods would make the discriminating say he makes a mockery of the textbooks and ordinary rules do not apply to him.
He trusts his eyes and hands, whether playing orthodox or unorthodox shots. Batting is a glorious gamble for him. The Wankhede Stadium awaits the momentous occasion on Friday.
After an electrifying first innings century, Sehwag played a cameo in the second and ensured a smooth win for India in the first Test against England at Motera. The crowd cheered the two boundary shots he hammered — a four and a six — before he gave Kevin Pietersen enough time to judge a high catch near the long-on fence off Graeme Swann.
Nearly 15 years ago Sehwag and Swann had a first scrap in the under-19 World Cup at Willomoore Park, Benoni, South Africa and the off-spinner won it dismissing the Indian for 18. Sehwag hit back taking Swann’s wicket and played a part in India’s thumping win over England with three for 32.
Nawab of Najafgarh
Since that initial tussle both have progressed in the cricketing world, with the batsman demanding a place in the Indian team, making an impact with game-changing dynamics and dominating the world to earn the sobriquet ‘Nawab of Najafgarh’.
He will be the ninth Indian to play 100 Tests (54th in the world) and join the celebrated club of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman, Anil Kumble, Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar and Kapil Dev.
Applauding Sehwag’s feat Gavaskar told The Hindu: “It’s a fantastic achievement because it’s not only a question of temperament but also of maintaining fitness in this age of different formats of the game. Injuries lurk around corners and hence to be playing his 100th Test is fantastic.
“He has also played the game his way and given many opportunities for India to win games. People tend to forget his bowling, he has dismissed top-order batsmen.
But his bowling has been overshadowed by his batting style. All good and ambitious players make adjustments to excel in all formats of the game and Sehwag has done just that.”
Sehwag made a memorable debut against South Africa at St. George’s Park, Bloemfontein in November, 2001. He joined his hero Tendulkar when India was tottering at 68 for four and pummelled the likes of Shaun Pollock, Nantie Hayward, Jacques Kallis, Makhaya Ntini, Lance Klusener and Nicky Boje to make 105 off 173 balls with 19 fours.
He and Tendulkar added 220 for the fifth wicket; India still lost the Test. It was in England in 2002 that John Wright and Sourav Ganguly firmed up an opening slot for Sehwag. He made 84 at Lord’s and 106 at Trent Bridge.
He has had his ups and downs, but 14 scores in excess of 150 in his 23 Test centuries is a mind-boggling feat and this includes 309 against Pakistan at Multan and 319 against South Africa at Chennai. Dropped for the first two Tests against Australia he made 29, 43, 63 and 151 at Perth and Adelaide in the 2007-08 series.
Today his record reads: 99 Tests, 172 innings, 8,448 runs at 50.89, with 23 centuries and 32 half-centuries, 90 sixes, 1,204 fours, 81 catches and a winning contribution percentage of 40.40.
The Sehwag legend is not built on figures, which are excellent anyway, but the way he looks at batting; he has perhaps a choice of three shots for a single ball. Gavaskar aptly described it as “His (Sehwag’s) way.”