'I would like to go for 300'
Virender Sehwag lit up the opening day of India's first Test match in Pakistan for almost 15 years, and afterwards expressed a desire to go on tomorrow morning and become the first Indian to score a triple-century. He also surprised many by saying that he would still prefer to bat in the middle order if there was a vacant slot.
"It's my best innings in Test cricket," he said of his 228 not out, refreshingly devoid of doubt at the end of a day of exhilarating batting. "And I would definitely like to go for 300 tomorrow."
Sehwag was candid in his assessment of the pitch, saying that it was loaded in the batsmen's favour, but adding, "You still have to apply yourself to make runs."
After a blistering start to the one-day series at Karachi, Sehwag did little of note in the remaining four games. But he said that Test cricket was perfectly suited to his brand of batting. "In one-day cricket, you have to try and play a lot of shots in the first 15 overs. In Tests, you can wait for the loose balls, and it's easier to hit boundaries." Pakistan learnt that the hard way, conceding a whopping 30 fours and five sixes to him.
He added 183 with Sachin Tendulkar, whose contribution to the partnership was a subdued 60, and said that having his hero at the other end had been a big help. "Whenever I made a mistake or played a false shot, he would tell me from the non-striker's end to just stick around and wait for the loose balls."
Sehwag insisted that there were no nerves when he was on 199 for ten deliveries. "I was just waiting for the loose ball," he said, before adding that it was vitally important that he carried on rather than giving it away.
"At Melbourne [he made a dazzling 195 in five hours on Boxing Day], I got out and the team struggled afterwards," he said. "I knew that if I stayed not out today, it would benefit the side much more."
When asked what words he had exchanged with Shoaib Akhtar, he smiled and said, "Nothing much, it was just banter." Shoaib, who went wicketless in 18 overs today, clearly didn't see the funny side.
Sehwag dedicated his innings to his parents and bride-to-be, adding that the innings was even more valuable given that it was India's first match here in such a long time. "There are four days left," he said, "and if we play well tomorrow, we can win the game." A couple more hours of controlled mayhem will go a long way towards bringing that about.