Sehwag finds runs but searching for swiftness
The numbers in this piece are updated as after the last Kings XI Punjab game, on 11th May
Virender Sehwag finally got a fifty against his name in this IPL and it was a long time coming. The batsman had gone 18 innings since his last half-century, which was an unbeaten 95 against Mumbai Indians last year. That was his only fifty-plus score last season and it had come fairly early too - four innings into the tournament. Sehwag played nine more innings after that last season, and the highest he managed to score from them was 30. He hit just 146 runs at 16.22 from those nine innings.
He had barely managed to improve his numbers from last year, scoring 181 runs at 22.62 for Kings XI Punjab before his innings against Kolkata Knight Riders. However, what was different this time was that he was getting starts: he had five scores in the 30s, equaling the most 30s made by any batsman in an IPL season. He finally managed to break the 30-barrier in Kings XI Punjab's last match, scoring 72 off 50 balls at strike-rate of 144.
What puts Sehwag's numbers in perspective, though, is how the other Indian batsmen have done in this year's IPL. In spite of his scratchy form, Sehwag has scored 253 runs at an average of 28.11 and is the second-highest run-scorer among Indians in the tournament. Only Robin Uthappa, with 302 runs at 33.55 from nine innings, has compiled more than him. Sehwag's 253 runs are also the third-highest by an opener in this IPL.
* Numbers as on 11th May
Nevertheless, how does Sehwag of yore compare with Sehwag of the present? The stat that really answers this question is his strike rate - he has scored at a strike rate of 130.41 this season. Last season, his strike rate was 126.60. Before that Sehwag used to score at 167.31 in the IPL and he had scored 1879 runs at that rate. No batsman with even 100 IPL runs had scored faster than Sehwag at that time.
While his most ardent fans would like to believe that Sehwag's innings against Knight Riders was an early sign of his resurgence as an explosive batsman, it is hard to ignore the numbers that indicate that he's far from being at his best. In his innings against Knight Riders, he was not in control of more than one-third of the legal deliveries (17 out of 50, 34%) that were bowled at him. That's eight percent more than an average top-order batsman (positions No. 1 to No. 7) in an innings of fifty or more in this tournament.
|Batsman||Total balls faced||balls - in control||control %age||balls - not in control||beaten %age|
|Virender Sehwag v KKR||50||33||66%||17||34%|
|Other batsmen in IPL 2014*||1971||1459||74%||512||26%|
True to his indifferent form, Sehwag was not able to accelerate even after getting to his fifty in this innings. Sehwag batted on for 15 more deliveries and managed 22 runs at a strike rate of 146.7, including four boundaries. Of the ten instances when Sehwag has batted on for ten or more deliveries after getting to a fifty, he has failed to push-on only once before - against Chennai Super Kings in 2010. In that innings though, he ended up scoring 74 off 38 deliveries at a strike rate of 194.7: hardly an innings that can be qualified as slow by any standards.
There are two other instances that are apparently slower than his last one, but those came in chases, after Sehwag had already all but secured a win for his team. The first one was against Super Kings in 2008. Chasing 170 to win, he smashed a fifty off 24 deliveries before slowing down to get 20 runs off the next 17 balls he faced. But by the time Sehwag had got his fifty, Delhi Daredevils were the firm favourites to win the game, requiring 91 off 13.1 overs with all ten wickets in hand. In the other instance, against Rajasthan Royals in 2012, he was even faster to his fifty - he took just 20 deliveries - but then slowed down having done most of the work. When he reached his fifty, Delhi needed just 58 from 12.1 overs with nine wickets in hand.
|Match||inns runs||inns balls||inns SR||runs after 50||balls faced after 50||SR after 50|
|v KKR, 2014||72||50||144.0||22||15||146.7|
|ave 50+ inns||85||44||192.0||34||18||186.6|
|v MI, 2013||95*||57||166.7||45||26||173.1|
|v Kochi, 2011||80||47||170.2||30||11||272.7|
|v CSK, 2008||71||41||173.2||20||17||117.6|
|v PW, 2012||87||48||181.3||37||20||185.0|
|v RR, 2012||73||38||192.1||22||18||122.2|
|v CSK, 2010||74||38||194.7||23||16||143.8|
|v DC, 2011||119||56||212.5||65||29||224.1|
|v RR, 2010||75||34||220.6||22||13||169.2|
|v DC, 2008||94*||41||229.3||42||14||300.0|
Sehwag's 50-ball 72 on Saturday was his slowest innings of fifty or more runs, but it wasn't the slowest he got to his fifty in the IPL. He has been slower than this on one occasion - he took 36 balls against Kochi Tuskers Kerala in 2011. In that innings though, Sehwag made up for his initial sluggishness by smashing 30 off the next 11 balls he faced. That is the version of Sehwag his fans are eager to see again.
Shiva Jayaraman is a stats sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo