Indian cricket August 16, 2010

Why Sehwag isn't so hot in ODIs

Virender Sehwag scores consistently at a rapid pace in Test cricket but hasn't had the same success in ODIs perhaps because he feels the need to accelerate all the time

Sample this: Lasith Malinga bowls a barrage of well-directed bouncers, Virender Sehwag looks right through and refuses to bite. He either ducks or simply moves away from the line almost every single time. Malinga keeps him quiet for a few deliveries but Viru persists and rejects the temptation to go for the kill, instead waits patiently for the ball to pitch in his area of dominance. And just when the moment arrives, he abandons restrain and flings the ball in style. He does so not because he has played a few dot balls but because the ball ought to be hit and he obliges. That's Virender Sehwag for you in Test cricket.

Change the colour of the ball from red to white, the clothing from white to blue, and Sehwag would not only bite but might also succumb in the process. Viru boasts of scoring a mammoth 7000 runs in both Test and ODI cricket, yet his lack of consistency in the shorter format continues to be a bane. Ironically, though, his batting seems to be tailor-made for the slam-bang shorter format. So, what's the logic behind such patchy performances in ODIs?

Lets first make sense of what makes Viru tick in the longer format, because it is the exact opposite of this that somewhat explains his instability in the shorter formats. Sehwag's game is built around hitting boundaries for he's definitely not one who'd happily rotate strike for a few overs without finding the fence. Regardless of however defensive the fielding captain is, it's imperative to start with attacking field positions which means all bad balls and good shots reach the fence. Contrary to the popular belief that Sehwag follows the simple formula of seeing-and-hitting, in Test cricket, he not only has a specific plan but also the discipline to follow it to the T.

Delhi had lost an early wicket in an inconsequential Ranji trophy game against minnows Orissa. The track was wet and had plenty in it for the quick bowlers. In came Viru, he danced down the track and played a wild slog, missing the ball by a mile. I, at the other end, went down to reason it out with him. To my utter disbelief he said he'd missed the ball on purpose because the chances of connecting cleanly were minimal. Instead, he wanted the bowler to pitch it short the following delivery. The bowler fell for it, obliged and Viru smashed him for four. That incident, followed by quite a few like it, gave me an insight into Viru's mind. After all, he doesn't keep it as simple as it looks, at least not at the planning level.

But an inverse logic is brought into action every time Sehwag goes for an outing in the shorter format. He doesn't have the same planning in place or the patience to follow it, for he believes that it's almost mandatory to up the ante all the time. Even if he's already hit two fours in an over, he believes he must go for the third one. His success in Test cricket lies in choosing the right balls to hit, and not in hitting every single ball, which he tries to do in an ODI. He plays shots like the pull and hook, which don't come naturally to him. He would take the aerial route not because it was the need of the hour but because that's what you must do in shorter formats, or so he feels. Little does he realise that if you're already driving at 150kmph, there's only so much faster you can go and be safe. If you're driving in the fifth gear, you must be ready to apply the brakes. And regardless of the format, Sehwag always bats in the fifth gear with the only option of slowing down available to him.

The shots which find the boundary ropes in Test cricket don't reach the fence in the shorter format due to defensive field placements and that, perhaps, forces him to raise the bar even further. Whatever the reason for his not climbing the summit in the shorter formats, he must find a way out of it. For the average of less than 34 in ODIs doesn't do justice to the talent this man possesses.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on October 19, 2010, 14:55 GMT

    xlnt analysis AKASH ....

  • testli5504537 on September 5, 2010, 11:53 GMT

    what a cute article it is. me much agreed wid it. but as suraj has commented was too fantastic. sehwag is the same person what he has described....

  • testli5504537 on September 3, 2010, 12:54 GMT

    the article is rit. anyway east or west sehwag is the best. he is the only player who can upcome wid tendulkar's 200* in odi n lara's 400* in tests n even in t20s. only viru can do that.

  • testli5504537 on August 31, 2010, 9:51 GMT

    Hi Akash. I think it wouldn't be fair to take on or disect Sehwag after this tour. He is the only one who played consistently and gives India the boost we require. Viru's style is such. I Remember him saying he could get out on any ball; so hitting it is the best option. Let us not change his style but think about what happened to the rest of our players. Let us leave the poor viru alone. Our batsmen (no more a secret) are poor against quality pace (with an exception of may be Sachin). What have we done to strengthen that? I remember a comment made by Mohd. Azharuddin a long time back on Sachin's attitude. Sachin identifies his weakness and converts them into his strengths through sheer persistence and hard work. Azhar said he remembers hearing Sachin practicing shots (with the bowling machine) after all have returned to bed after a hard day's match or practice session.

  • testli5504537 on August 31, 2010, 6:32 GMT

    well said george, as an opener, all viru needs to do is score quick runs to lay the platform for the rest of the order to capatalise. Anyway, if you consider his strike rate, then his average isn't so bad.

  • testli5504537 on August 30, 2010, 18:58 GMT

    hi akash! sehwag is a very dangerous in both 4 apposition.

  • testli5504537 on August 26, 2010, 18:02 GMT

    Have you heard ne one day agressive opener having a strikerate of more than 35 ,jaysuria,gilchrist,gayle,every1 averages like sehwag

  • testli5504537 on August 26, 2010, 7:50 GMT

    Hey aakash i m totally agree with u tha sehwag is nt that gud in short form of the game becoz of tight field is set in the short format games.. N while sehwag is hitting he just smashed that ball dnt know frm where it goes thats why in ODI's he founds the fielder all around but we cnt see such a things in test cricket... M i right mr aakash?

  • testli5504537 on August 25, 2010, 3:12 GMT

    I disagree with your comments. You don't need to have a average of 40 or 50 in ODI. You need quick runs to be a match winner. Scoring quick runs will set the trend for the batting to follow. For chasing, that will reduce the RRR considerably. He flips the table around in a short time with his risk taking ability. So you can't expect him to shine in every match. Viru is a star.. and he will still be a nightmare for the bowlers.

  • testli5504537 on August 22, 2010, 11:07 GMT

    Really enjoyed the insights into a mind like Sehwag's. An interesting thing I noticed just now while following the India/Sri Lanka game,

    Sehwag Test Avg 54.14 ODI Avg 34.42 Sangakkara Test Avg 56.85 ODI Avg 36.63 Mahela Test Avg 54.06 ODI Avg 32.71

    Three great batsmen with different styles but a similar pattern in their Test and ODI averages.

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