Samir Chopra July 28, 2010

Viru the Incorrigible

Perhaps he will set himself some new target

On 26 December 2003, sitting high up in the stands of the still-under-construction MCG, I watched with dismay as Virender Sehwag, after having gone to 195 with a six off Simon Katich, holed out in an attempt to go for the double-century-clinching six. At that moment, I wasn't sure what I was more upset about: an Indian batsman getting out, missing out on a chance to see a Boxing Day double-hundred scored by an Indian, or even more importantly, the anxiety over a possible collapse. India slid from 278 for 1 to 366 all out [India were 311 for 3 when Sehwag was dismissed]; Australia racked up a huge lead in response, and by the end of the match India had surrendered a precious 1-0 lead in the series. With that, India's best chance of ever winning a series in Australia went down the proverbial drain.

This morning, I woke to find out that Sehwag had gone for 99, rushing out to a spinner to get a six and his ton, and merely earning himself a stumping in the process. India were 165 for no loss (in response to a Sri Lankan score of 642 for 4) and promptly subsided to 173 for 3). Thanks to the Tendulkar-Raina stand, all is not lost for India yet but there is still plenty of time left in this game. They could still go down 0-2 by the game's end.

So, shall we all do a Boycott, and ask for a look at Viru's cranium to see if there is anything in there? I might but if I did, my interests would lie in the direction of checking to see if there was anything in there that I could possibly emulate. I wouldn't mind being in a position where I get to score Test centuries thrice in a row, and miss out on the fourth one by a solitary run.

Clichés about living and dying by swords, and about sticking to what works for you aside, it would be spectacularly churlish to blame Sehwag for the loss of the MCG Test (or the SSC Test if that is how things turn out). He made more than half the Indian total at the MCG; the game was lost because the remaining 10 men on the team failed to pull their weight. If India lose at SSC, it won't be because Sehwag batted in the only way he knows; it will be because the Indian bowling had already allowed 600 runs on the board. Indeed, it is a singularly depressing fact to note that India have, by and large, wasted Sehwag's tons. (The stats are worth looking at for the curious).

I suspect that once the disappointment of the missed ton faded, Sehwag was the first one to allow himself a chuckle at how things turned out. But I don't think the frivolity will last long. Sehwag's reaction to the MCG loss was, as he pointed out himself in interviews later, the spur to go on and make bigger scores (he went to a triple-ton with a six in Pakistan a few months later). Perhaps he will set himself some new target. Perhaps he will have his eye on Randiv for some special treatment in the next Test. All of which is only good news for those of us that like watching Sehwag bat.

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