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December 26, 2003
Virender Sehwag: blazing like a catherine wheel
Virender Sehwag called it his best innings, even better than the blazing 147 against the West Indies at Mumbai last year. "Coming to Australia, and making runs ... it has to be my best," he said about the magnificent 233-ball 195 that threatened to bury the opposition under the MCG turf while it lasted.
Having taken time to settle down - "The pitch was a little damp, and we decided we would adopt a defensive approach in the first hour ... we only started to play all our shots after lunch" - he quieted the boisterous Aussie fans in the afternoon with some coruscating strokes, each hit with immense power and timing.
Never one for philosophy or long-winding sentences, he was at his pithy best at the press conference, charming those who had never heard him talk before with his straightforward answers and candour. When asked if he was disappointed at getting out the way he did, and missing out on 200, he said, "Not at all. It was a loose ball, and it's in my nature to hit the loose balls."
To be fair to him, he certainly did that, giving Stuart MacGill a right welly when he came on to bowl, and also targeting Steve Waugh's innocuous medium pace for some savage treatment. To watch him bat was to observe a unique blend of textbook shots - played with a distinctive flourish - and innovative swishes and hoicks, perhaps a legacy of gully cricket in the formative years.
There were plenty of queries about his technique later, about whether it conforms to orthodox parameters or not, and he fielded them all with the same aplomb with which he smashed the bowlers around. "I'm very happy with my technique," he said. "There's nothing I'm looking to change. I play my natural game, and it works for me."
Sehwag brushed off the whack on the helmet from Brett Lee early in the piece, saying, "It only made me concentrate harder. My technique was solid and I defended well. It did not bother me." When asked if Akash Chopra, who was struck a sickening blow by Nathan Bracken, had contemplated going off, he said, "No. He just called Andrew [Leipus] out because he was feeling a little dizzy. I just asked him to stay out there as long as he felt he could. He played very well for his 48."
He also refused to be drawn on Australia's performance, and other aspects of their game on the opening day. He wasn't particularly bothered by how Lee had bowled, only saying, "I just know that we batted well." There was also a smug retort when he was asked what Brad Williams had said as he crossed for the single that brought him his century. "I don't know, I wasn't listening. I was too busy enjoying making a hundred." Thousands of Indian fans who cheered every run enjoyed it as well. Sehwag is never going to be the type of player to make a dent each time he goes out to bat - like a Rahul Dravid or Tendulkar in his pomp - but when he blazes like a Catherine Wheel, there are few who can light up a stage as brightly.
Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo in India. He will be following the team throughout the course of this series.
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