Virender Sehwag joins a select band of Indian batsmen (Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly) to play 100 Tests. Sachin Tendulkar who played with Sehwag right from the start of his Test career in 2001, speaks about his hard-hitting colleague.
When was the first time you saw Virender Sehwag bat?
The first time I properly watched him bat was in South Africa on his Test debut at Bloemfontein. What struck me was his brilliant his bat swing.
I clearly remember asking him when he walked to the crease whether he was nervous and he said: “Yes, I am a bit nervous.” I told him not to worry: “It’s normal to get nervous and if you didn’t get nervous, I’d be very surprised. Hang around for a while and things will settle down.”
And he got a hundred on debut and turned out to be another great player for India…
Absolutely! And I am very thrilled about that. Viru has played some brilliant knocks and he has done so on various occasions when I was at the non striker’s end. So, I’ve had a closer view on what he has been able to do. It has been fantastic, an absolute treat to watch.
Which of his massive innings would you rate as the best?
The one against Sri Lanka in Mumbai (293) was fantastic. His strokeplay was perfect; wrist work too. He always played big shots, but this was fantastic to watch. The Sri Lankan team went on the defensive and he was just unstoppable and brilliant.
Did you feel sorry for him when his 195 against Australia at Melbourne only ended up in vain?
Yes, it was a beautiful knock. But I felt he batted really well in Adelaide on the 2007-08 tour where he changed his game completely. He scored 151 in the second innings and I would rate that particular innings very high because that was against his character. To be that effective was something really perfect.
Sehwag’s approach at times has been misconstrued as carefree. People believe he doesn’t give much thought to his cricket...
He thinks about his cricket, but he thinks differently. He has his style that is different. He is as keen to get the kind of results like anyone would want to get. When it comes to being careless or rash, I don’t think that is the case.
It’s the way that he approaches the game and that is how he has always been. With so many games being played there are going to be phases when one can question and say, ‘Oh, this shot was not on.’ But that is how he has played and that is how he, on various occasions, has put the opposition on the back foot. If you see his great knocks, he has gone out and played in the same manner where he has backed his instincts and taken the opposition on. On other occasions, he has been dismissed after playing these shots. When it clicks, he finishes the opposition and when it doesn’t, it looks as if he is not bothered about things.
People will have opinions, but he knows exactly what is right, what needs to be done and he sticks to that.
Do you think Sehwag has changed the mindset of captains and they now think of the ‘Sehwag factor’ a lot while setting targets for India?
That is always going to be the case when you have an attacking player who, if gets going, it is not easy to set fields for. With such a batting approach, captains are always going to think twice and make sure that whatever decision is made, is a well thought out one. You just can’t say I’m going to declare now. You’ve got to be really smart and careful.
Your message to Viru?
Fantastic feat, really superb. Welcome to our club!