Carving a path of his own

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THE BATTING MAINSTAYS: Though the team’s success has come off a collective effort, the batting has been dominated by Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh.
THE BATTING MAINSTAYS: Though the team’s success has come off a collective effort, the batting has been dominated by Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh.

K.C. Vijaya Kumar

CRICKET / Sehwag has found ways to impose himself

Bangalore: “There was no pressure,” said Virender Sehwag.

India had just defeated England by 19 runs in the fourth ODI of the seven-match series at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Sunday night, with Sehwag scoring a 69 in an innings interrupted by two rain-breaks. His words reveal a cricketing soul that refuses to shrivel up under the weight of expectations.

The post-match press conference was a breeze for a man used to weightier issues of slamming fast bowlers and spinners. The Sehwag persona, based on reacting instinctively and being decisive, was on view.

A scribe wanted to know whether the rain-breaks that totalled 306 minutes affected him and Gautam Gambhir. Sehwag said: “No. We knew it was a flat wicket with good bounce and our run-rate was good so we were not worried. They tried to bowl back-of-length but I was prepared,” he said.

In a series dominated by Yuvraj Singh’s two hundreds, Sehwag has carved his own path with scores of 85, 68 and 69 with the lone blemish being the solitary run at Indore when he chopped Stuart Broad onto his stumps — a price he has often paid for his penchant for horizontal-bat shots.

Has there been any change in his batting? “It is the same… but now, I give myself time with the new ball. Coach Gary Kirsten has told me to understand the bowlers initially,” Sehwag said.

Contrasting paths

Surprisingly, for all their imperious methods at the crease, Sehwag and Yuvraj have traversed contrasting paths. Yuvraj’s spot in the limited-overs team seems set in stone while a place in the Test side is still under question — despite hundreds against Pakistan.

On the other hand, Sehwag has been a certainty in Tests while losing his way in the ODIs in 2004 before a slump in form forced him out of both versions during India’s last tour of England.

However, prior to the tour of Australia last year, skipper Anil Kumble gave him a lifeline and Sehwag has not looked back since.

A hundred at Adelaide, a triple against the South Africans at Chennai, a double at Galle in Sri Lanka and runs against Australia in the recent home series portray a man well-suited to Test cricket.

Interestingly, in the same phase, he has scored 721 runs averaging 60.08 from his last 12 ODIs. He seems to have balanced himself out across the two forms of the game.

Another fillip

The elevation to vice-captaincy has also been a fillip. “You feel good to see the word vice-captain after your name and it makes you aware of your role within the team, but it has not affected the way I bat,” Sehwag said.

Sehwag, part of the team’s core group, stressed that India has an edge over England.

“I knew if we play to 70 and 80 per cent of our potential, we could defeat England. Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel and Ishant Sharma bowled brilliantly and set the match up for us,” Sehwag said.

For the matches ahead, Sehwag said that players on the bench might get their turn.

“We have won the series and can give exposure to these players. At the next World Cup, these players should have at least 70 to 80 matches under their belt,” he said.

The no-frills attitude was evident when he was asked about the absence of a number on his team shirt.

“Astrologers and family have been putting pressure on me to opt for different numbers and I decided that I don’t need a number,” Sehwag said, while still ruling the numbers game as far as cricket goes.

A tally of 5,508 Test runs and 6,033 from ODIs will testify to that.

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