Swashbuckling Indian opener Virender Sehwag, who is set to play his landmark 100th Test match against England in Mumbai on Tuesday, received rich tributes from two former players belonging to the elite club who wanted him to celebrate the occasion by notching up a ton.
“There should be more players like Sehwag. Players like him would bring back crowd to Test cricket. I want him to score a hundred in his 100th match,” said 1983 World Cup winning captain Kapil Dev on the sidelines of the release of a book on Sehwag’s teammate Yuvraj Singh.
The 34-year-old Sehwag scored his first Test century in almost two years in the first game of the ongoing four-match series against England at Ahmedabad - a blistering 117 - to set up the platform for the huge Indian first innings score of 521 for 9 declared.
India rode on the 34-year-old Delhi star’s ton, an unbeaten double century by young batsman Cheteshwar Pujara and a nine-wicket haul by left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha to carve out a thumping nine-wicket victory and go 1-0 ahead in the series.
Former chief selector and ex-India skipper Dilip Vengsarkar said he was a big fan of Sehwag, popularly known as “Nawab of Najafgarh”.
“He is an outstanding cricketer. He has played his (style of) game every time. There was a lean patch (in between) but he went on with aggression. If you see his Test record it is amazing, it’s a milestone for him. I am a huge fan of his. I hope he scores a hundred in his 100th test match,” Vengsarkar said.
Sehwag, who is set to join a select list of eight other Indian batsmen, including Kapil and Vengsarkar, who have played 100 Tests, made a sensational debut by scoring 105 at number six in 2001 against South Africa at Bloemfontein.
Asked if Sehwag should change his batting style in Test cricket in the absence of senior players like Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman, Vengsarkar said, “No. He is doing well. He is an outstanding cricketer.”
The eight Indian cricketers who have played 100 Tests are: Sachin Tendulkar (191), Rahul Dravid (163), V V S Laxman (134), Anil Kumble (132), Kapil Dev (131), Sunil Gavaskar (125), Dilip Vengsarkar (116) and Sourav Ganguly (113).
In 99 Tests, Sehwag has amassed 8,448 runs at a commendable average of 50—plus and a fabulous rate of scoring 82 runs per 100 balls, amazing for an opener who is traditionally looked at as the man to take the shine off the new ball for the other batsmen to feast on.
Sehwag not only holds the record of being the only Indian batsman to score a Test triple hundred, that too on two occasions, but has also six scores of 200-plus in the highest form of the game.
His 200-plus knocks are: 319 (the highest individual Test innings score by an Indian) versus South Africa at Chennai in March 2006, 309 versus Pakistan at Multan in March 2004, 293 versus Sri Lanka at Mumbai (Brabourne Stadium) in December 2009, 254 versus Pakistan at Lahore in January 2006, 201 not out versus Sri Lanka at Galle in July 2008 and 201 versus Pakistan at Bangalore in March 2005.
The Delhi marauder’s style is based on a superb hand-eye coordination, excellent judgement about length of delivery, no half-measure in his shots, fine timing and a compact defence.
He makes runs at such a fast pace that the fielding team looks punch-drunk, indicated by his 14 innings of 150-plus where the opposition has been clueless how to stop his massacre.
He has fallen in the 90s on five occasions, including on 99 once, and missed a double century in Melbourne when it was his for the taking by attempting to hit a six when on 195 in December 2003.
“The way I am getting out people say I am throwing my wicket. Not correct at all. I get out playing a shot and they say irresponsible. If the same shot fetches a boundary, they applaud,” he said in a recent interview to “Sportstar” magazine, to sum up his batting mantra.