Samir Chopra December 17, 2008

Sehwag's debut

That he survived was not such a mystery

Somewhere out there in bittorrent land is the video of Sehwag's debut innings against South Africa in the 2001 test series. I watched that innings, live on a large screen television, at the Crown Hotel on Cleveland Street in Surry Hills, Sydney, on 3rd November 2001. This past weekend, just because I felt like reliving one of my favorite cricketing memories, I decided to view it again.

I didn't regret that decision and have played the 22-minute long video again and again reminding myself this was someone playing his first Test innings. As far as debut tons go, it is hard to imagine another innings which so definitively sounded an advance warning to the rest of the world that a bright new talent was on the world's stage.

Earlier that day I'd played cricket with my Northern Sydney team, the Centrals, and had enjoyed a good, hard day in the sun. We won our match and shortly afterwards, a friend and I were dropped back in the City center before beginning the walk back home. I knew the Test started in the late afternoon, so we decided to stop off at the Crown for a couple of beers (the atmosphere was all skank, but they had several large televisions). When I checked the score, I was taken aback. India had already slumped to 68-4, and a young debutant was batting at #6, heading out to face the music, to join Sachin Tendulkar in the middle. The partnership that followed was worth 220 runs, and it took all of 46 overs. South Africa did not know what hit them. But fans like us were equally gobsmacked.

I have one abiding memory of that evening. Which was that of sitting in the pub, still wearing my sweaty cricket whites, sore all over from bowling and fielding, drinking my cold beers, stunned by the audacity and brilliance of the Tendulkar-Sehwag partnership. It was hard to believe Sehwag was making his Test debut, hard to believe this lad was playing away from home, dealing with a collapse, and a South African pace attack, at home, in their element. That he survived was not such a mystery. The manner of his survival was the truly revelatory feature: he batted with the solidity of a Mumbai opener, the flair of a Napoleonic hussar, the power of a Bajan middle-order bat. His shot-making was precise and powerful, his demeanor utterly relaxed. He looked like someone playing his 20th Test, playing a role familiar to him.

I should have known more about Virender Sehwag; he is from Delhi, and I followed all Delhi hopefuls' careers with great interest. But all I knew about him was his reputation as a power hitter. I had thought of him as a one-day type. But this innings convinced me he was radically different. Seven years on, he's already done enough to convince me he is moving into the pantheon of Indian greats. If the Indian team had not wasted so many of his stellar efforts over the years, his place would have been assured a few years ago.

There are plenty of writers in the cricket world that love to dismiss Sehwag as a slogger, a mere stand-n-hit type. These slaves of technique, of the cold logic of the cricketing manual, of the merely conventional, are denied the pleasure of being able to appreciate this man's talent. That is their loss.

For all of us, the rest, those that enjoy the contact of bat and ball, and the changing of games' fortunes by singular talents, Viru is a delight. May he continue to entertain and astonish for years to come.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on January 19, 2009, 8:14 GMT

    I think many people dont classify him amongst the greats because he tends to make everything look simple. If suppose he scores runs after working too hard or sweating a lot, it would look as if the batsman has done a lot of work, instead he makes scoring on any kinds of pitches look damn easy.

  • testli5504537 on December 30, 2008, 18:39 GMT

    One of his unintended contributions is opposition is likely to delay a 3rd inings declaration because nobody knows what the $%^k Shewag will do (including himself I suspect). That alone might be worth the difference between a loss and a draw.

  • testli5504537 on December 24, 2008, 6:09 GMT

    What a wonderful batsman he is. His batting average is 51.06. He has scored 5617 runs in 114 innings in 66 test matches with the help of 15 centuries and 18 half centuries in which 11 scores are 150 or plus and then five double hundreds and then two triple hundreds. Suppose if we multiply his test matches by 2 and others factors as well then it means that in 132 test matches he may score 11234 runs in 228 innings with 30 centuries and 36 half centuries in which 150 or plus innings are 22 and 10 double hundreds and then four triple hundreds. Not necessary that he will perform in this manner, more or less anything may happen in future. The main thing is that he should only focus on his concentration as he is only 30 now and he has proved himself too much. He may become no. 1 batsman of his country although his front foot is not like a Tendulkar. Beside his centuries, his innings against Enlgand is mind blowing in which he scored 83 runs in 68 balls and provide a platform to his team.

  • testli5504537 on December 23, 2008, 6:14 GMT

    Multan Ke Sultan.......he is the most terrific and dangerpis batsman in world currectly. Up to the time he is on the crease, he has surely done a great damage on the opponent and thus gives other teammates some opportunities to get set. BTW he is generally set for any ball since the very first over!...Got amazing skills and will surely be the greatest over the times. Go VIRU GO.....

  • testli5504537 on December 18, 2008, 17:36 GMT

    Viru is already a legend. He is a match winner who can change the complexion of a game in no time. He threw out the rule book, ignored the naysayers and achieved success by having confidence in himself. He is not just an entertainer on the cricket field but also an inspiration to people in all walks of life. Viru ki jitni bhi tareef kiya jai, kam hai.

  • testli5504537 on December 18, 2008, 9:57 GMT

    does someone remember that in the same series 2nd match I guess (the controversial one), during a post innings analysis, i recollect Sunil Gavaskar saying to Harsha Bhogle that "Just by one innings we cannot compare Sehwag to Tendulkar" he also said something in the lines of "he is not there yet to even tie tendulkar's shoe laces"... I still remember it... can cricinfo get a hand on the video to confirm...

    whaever he might say, I was, am and shall be a true fan of sehwag... just before making his one day debut against australia in 2001, he was playing a challenger series match in which he hit a 50 or 56 i guess in just 18 balls...

    may he keep this spirit going on...

  • testli5504537 on December 18, 2008, 9:57 GMT

    sehwag is really a wonederful player.I want to his first test ining vedio which place can i get it?

  • testli5504537 on December 18, 2008, 7:46 GMT

    What a wonderful batsman he is. Tendency to build big hundreds is another plus point of his batting. He crossed 150 or more 11 times in 112 innings means in every 10 innings he reaches 150 or more easily. Beside this, he has transformed eleven 150 or more to five double hundreds and then into two triple hundreds. His record against all test playing nation is mind blowing except England, New Zealand and Bangladesh. He crossed 1000 or more second time in calender year in test cricket. His runs per inning is 50. After Brain Lara 51.52 runs per inning, his runs per inning is highest than any other test betsmen of current era. Although his performace has more fluctuation than others but when he is on his way, he is the most dangerous batsmen. If he will continue his this form in future also, there is possiblity that he will score twenty 150 or plus scores in 204 innings and he will cross 9 double hundred at that time also. There is possiblity of three to four triple hundreds as well.

  • testli5504537 on December 18, 2008, 6:24 GMT

    He is the boss! The good thing is that Gautam Gambhir is also turning out to be a great attacking player, in his company. I hope they play together and Gautam becomes his true follower. In fact Sehbag is a phenomenal player in that he raised the bar of attacking play to a new height, as seen in the latest test by which he changed the course of the match. He also had his share of lean patch before, but thanks to Vengsarkar for bringing him back before the last Australia tour. He saved a match there single-handedly. Go sehbag! Go bang them over the thirdman.

  • testli5504537 on December 18, 2008, 6:08 GMT

    Sehwag has been and will always be India's biggest talent. Only problem is the bearocrats and politicians don't want to believe it. He isn't the poster boy that yuvraj is or the fluent english speaking gentleman that sachin is. He is Sehwag, the one who refused a single on 199 to protect Ishant from dangerous SriLankan spinners. He is Sehwag who hammered 300 plus agaisnt arch enemies pakistan and averaged 90+ against them, only to be dropped a few yrs later for one bad series. He is the main reason why Indian opening pair have done so well of late and allowed the likes of sachin and laxman to build big innings. Sehwag is the most feared indian batsman. He is one than becomes bigger in front of a challenge and when he is batting India always has a chance(for eg. 2003 WC final) to win. He doesnt believe in draws. India need to look up to this man and notice what he has done for us. His efforts go unrecognised which must be disheartening for him. He deserves much more. Hail Viru!

  • No featured comments at the moment.