When it comes to destructive batsmen, Virender Sehwag earned the right to jump the queue, sometimes even marching ahead of his idol Sachin Tendulkar.
Like his teammate Zaheer Khan, a few days earlier, Sehwag’s retirement comes as no shocker, but there was drama alright with him providing indication of his plans on Monday evening in Dubai, at the launch of a Twenty20 league, and then being quoted as saying that he has not yet quit.
In many ways, Sehwag redefined the art of opening the innings, a role that he did justice to ever since skipper Sourav Ganguly and coach John Wright gave him the opportunity in the opening Test at Lord’s against England in 2002.
If Ganguly is credited for sending out a don’t-mess-with-us message to India’s opponents from 2000 to 2005, Sehwag amplified the stress levels for the opposition in their attempt to stop India from running away to victory. Simply put, captains felt the huge Sehwag factor weighing in on their minds whenever they set India a target.
It is only fitting that a batsman as menacing as Sehwag has two Test triple centuries to his name, and had he not been dismissed for 293 against the Sri Lankans at Brabourne Stadium in 2009, he would have gone past Sir Don Bradman. India became the No 1 Test team in the world in that Test and Sehwag had a big hand in the mighty achievement.
As much as his big scores brought about joy, his failures cut Team India deep. And those, who expected a mixture of cavalier and responsibility in his approach, were left utterly disappointed.
Also, the awkward manner in which he got out at times, gave his critics the impression that he cared little for a tight match situation.
Sehwag’s confidence was special if not unique. When he walked out to open the innings with Tendulkar in the heat of an India vs Pakistan battle during the 2003 World Cup game at Centurion in South Africa, Sehwag said to his more illustrious partner: “Don’t say anything to me about my batting, except ‘go and lagao’.
A few overseas experts pronounced his name as ‘Seewag.’ In a way, they were right because he always viewed the cricket ball as something to be hit to the fence.