Fate brought Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag together for the first time at Bloemfontein (South Africa) in November, 2001.
India had lost Shiv Sundar Das, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman and Sourav Ganguly to the pace of Nantie Hayward, Shaun Pollock and Jacques Kallis.
After the initial wobble Tendulkar, playing his 85th Test, and Sehwag making his debut, changed the script with a series of cut shots over the slip cordon.
Tendulkar started playing the shot, known as the ‘upper cut’ with dexterity and without risk and Sehwag followed suit. They made 220 and took India from 68 for four to 288 for five. It was a fascinating stand between the hero and his disciple; a picture of being completely on top of a rival attack that reflected true hostility.
Sehwag may have been in Tendulkar’s shadow for some years, but the time arrived when the dashing batsman from Delhi held his own and has been in the limelight in his own right.
Sehwag and Tendulkar have been involved in a few bright partnerships, the most notable being the 336-run partnership for the third wicket against Pakistan at Multan in the 2003-04 series. This is an Indian record. They have made 1,217 runs in 19 Tests for the third wicket. The two have also made 3,919 runs in 93 One-Day Internationals.
On the occasion of Sehwag’s 100th Test, Tendulkar told The Hindu: “I remember the first time I batted with him against South Africa at Bloemfontein. As soon as he walked to the wicket I asked him how he was feeling and he said ‘a little nervous’. I told him it was quite normal and happened to me too. I told him to relax and after sometime he would enjoy the moment. Then, once he got going I began to enjoy his batting. What I have really liked about his batting is his approach to the game and his bat swing.”
What did Tendulkar like the most? “I have always felt he approached the game differently and backed his instincts. He may not be necessarily technically right, but he has better footwork than what people think. I would say he has beautiful control of his hands on the bat swing and that’s what makes him so special.
“His approach worked well for the team; India had a talented batsman who could go after the bowlers at the start; it was not planned, Sehwag was a natural. If he got going immediately in the first session the opponent was straightaway on the backfoot.”
Talking about similarities between the two, Tendulkar said he had been told by several people that they are similar in their batting styles. “We play the game basically in a positive frame of mind.”
On Sehwag’s 100th Test, he said: “I am sure it cannot be just another game. When the match starts it would be another game, but it would be a very emotional moment before the match starts. The whole cricketing world is talking about it. To me, Viru’s 100th Test signifies great commitment and dedication to the game and, above all, the great satisfaction of playing for India.”