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Virender Sehwag bats in a manner all his own and with an approach that is unfettered by the concerns most batsmen have

Outside of incompetent tailenders who average in single figures, Virender Sehwag now possesses perhaps the most original technique in contemporary international cricket. No other batsman in world cricket hangs so far back inside his crease to the quicks, waiting for the ball to come to him, and choosing to play beside rather than behind the line. Often his back foot is outside the line of leg stump - again, something more commonly seen from tailenders as they back away to leg against fast bowlers - as he meets the ball.

Sehwag's signature style means that the faster the bowler, the faster the ball speeds off the bat, as he deflects full-length balls behind point, and shorter balls over the slips and often over third man for six. And should the bowler be no more than medium pace, the extra split-second that Sehwag allows himself by staying back gives him the time to generate enormous power of his own, with which he treats the bowlers to a variety of flays and slaps, cuffs and punches - his own versions of the shots referred to in the textbook as the drive and the cut.

This is one distinct trait of Sehwag's batting. But as many observers have remarked, Sehwag also seems to possess a mind, an approach to batting, singularly unconcerned with the things that trouble other batsmen, such as the memory of the last ball or of previous encounters with the bowler, the demands made by the state of the game, the deployment of a field inviting him to play a particular shot, or else the caution and circumspection that batsmen feel when they approach a personal landmark. Yesterday he brought up his hundred with a six off Shoaib Akhtar, and this afternoon, when on the verge of a triple-century for the first time in his career, he had no qualms about swinging Saqlain Mushtaq over the deep fielder at long-on for another six.

Sehwag has many gifts of technique and skill: a fine eye and quick general reactions, brute power (no Indian batsman has ever approached the savagery of his cutting) and at the same time beautiful "touch" on the ball - consider his first boundary on the second morning, from a full delivery on the stumps from Mohammad Sami, that he met just below his eyes and, with a turn of the wrists, sent speeding backward of square leg for four.

But it is his approach to the game - his gambler's instinct and his insouciance, the free and easy air with which he plays his slightly chancy game - that is his most charming and attractive quality, made all the more endearing because of the intense and competitive world in which he practises his craft. To me there is no stroke in the game more beautiful than a cover drive or a flick from the bat of VVS Laxman, and yet there is no prospect as pleasurable in general as that of watching Sehwag bat. There is something irresistible about such bravado and dash, such disregard of rules of batsmanship thought to be almost sacrosanct. Even strolling about the crease between deliveries, he appears to be thinking not about the bowler changing his line of attack, or of this fielder going here and that one there, but rather of palm trees and golden beaches.

Who does not feel less afflicted by the cares of the world after watching Sehwag bat?

It is this very style that earned Sehwag the reputation of a "dasher" in his early days in international cricket, but there is something about that label that suggests style over substance, and also hints at a certain weakness - at faults and chinks waiting to be exposed. Sehwag has proved without doubt that he is not just a dasher. In fact, he has readily agreed to open - the position where dashers are most susceptible, against the new ball in Tests, and has responded with five centuries, each one a longer innings than the last, against five different attacks in two seasons. Not so long ago new-ball bowlers around the world used to see Indian openers in their dreams. Now they usually come running in and see the ball disappear over point off the second ball of the game.

It is also worth remembering that early on in his days in international cricket Sehwag was also called "The Tendulkar from Najafgarh", because he had consciously modelled his game on Sachin's. Indeed, at that time many of his strokes did appear to be somewhat rustic versions of those of his hero: he drove down the ground similarly, but with slightly more flourish; he cut similarly but threw himself at the ball a little more. In fact, when England toured India late in 2001 and Tendulkar and Sehwag opened the innings together for the first time in one-day internationals, commentators often mistook one for the other, especially since they are also so similar in height and build.

But over the last two years Sehwag's batting has evolved in a direction of its own, and today nobody could possibly mistake his game for Tendulkar's; he is now very much his own man. Indeed, if Tendulkar's game is unique in its perfection, in the beautifully measured backlift, immaculate footwork, and the bat offered with a lovely full face - in many respects the coaching manual personified - then Sehwag's game is a unique construction of his own conception, without an obvious precursor or model, and perhaps not even replicable by another batsman.

Watch him the next time as he walks out to bat with Aakash Chopra, lets his partner take strike, strolls around the crease at his end, eventually takes strike himself, takes a look around the field, sets down in his stance, and prepares for the bowler's approach. Watch as a full-length delivery just outside off stump, the very delivery that bowlers have aimed to bowl more often than not throughout the history of Test cricket, is met almost on the crease line and rockets through point for four.

Watch as the bowler, exasperated, aims at the stumps next ball and, at the very moment that he believes he has breached the batsman's defence, sees Sehwag flick wristily across the line and work it sweetly though midwicket. Watch a short and fast ball biffed over third man for six. Watch as the spinner comes on, with three men protecting the boundary, and Sehwag goes down easily on one knee, and with a beautiful unfettered swing of the bat, unmindful of the deep fielders, sends it over their heads for six. Watch as even the infielders drop back, and Sehwag then drops the ball down at his feet and scampers a quick single. Observe the relish with he carries out his game plan, the gusto with which he sets about the bowling!

Who does not feel less afflicted by the cares of the world after watching Sehwag bat?

Chandrahas Choudhury is a writer in Mumbai


Posted by   on (November 11, 2013, 17:33 GMT)

Chandrahas Choudhury truly truly succeeded in illustrating Viru's caliber in this article. Khudos to him.

A keen Cricketer can only realize that Sehawag's 8500 runs at the opening slot are far brighter, far majestic, and truly gutsy than Tendulkar's 14000 runs in Test Cricket at #4 spot.

Posted by   on (November 11, 2013, 15:28 GMT)

Sehwag is in my top ten specialists test batsmen of all time. He is only the second batsman after Don Bradman to score two tripples and a 290 score. The other nine would be Tendulkar, Bradman, Ponting, Hobbs, Hammond, Richards, Lara, Miandad and Sangakara.

Posted by Dev23 on (November 11, 2013, 15:09 GMT)

I accept comparisons are odious but may I dare make a comparison between Viv Richards who is considered probably the greatest Right hand batsman the world has seen after Don Bradman. Following stats have been taken fro ESPN. Viv Richards Test Runs HS Av. SR 100's 50's 6's 121 8540 291 50.23 N/A 24 45 84 ODI's 187 6721 189 47.00 90.20 11 45 N/A Virender Sehwag Test Runs HS Av. SR 100's 50's 6's Century on debut 104 8586 319 49.34 82.23 23 32 91 ODI's 251 8273 219 35.05 104.33 15 38 136

I would like the Cricketing fraternity to draw a fair conclusion.

Posted by espncricinfomobile on (November 11, 2013, 13:29 GMT)

thanks a lot for such a beautiful article. I miss Sehwag's batting a lot. i agree there are quite a few batsmen who scored runs...but then cricket is not just about numbers right....its about an ecstacy when a batsman hits a jaffa out of the park...the beauty of just sport without the burden of anything else....here i dont mean carelessness...but if i may say a certian disregard for some rules of batsmanship that come in the way of joy of the sport.

Posted by   on (November 11, 2013, 12:41 GMT)

i love sewag very much........

Posted by Dev23 on (November 11, 2013, 11:07 GMT)

Sehwag is the greatest batsman of the last decade in International Cricket. Records show that he scored more Test and ODI runs than any other batsman, in most cases at more than a run a ball in this period. Two triple hundreds he scored against Pakistan and SA were sublime. No one else in World Cricket has even come close to that fierce strokeplay and deserves to go down as a Great on these performances. Ofcourse, he has his own method and a very effective one. Unfortunately he has not got the credit he actually deserves because of so many prominent batsmen in the Indian side. I think he had a good break and Indian Cricket owe him an opportunity to have his last say in the game and have a dignified farewell. Manmohan Dev Bawa

Posted by cricmatters on (November 10, 2013, 22:59 GMT)

Sehwag was thrown into the opening position and he made the best of it by inventing shots of his own against the hard new ball. Aggressive fields set at the beginning meant any shot which pierced through the gap would fetch him four runs suited his brand of batting. It is true that he used to copy Tendulkar but unlike Tendulkar, he never cared about records and that gave him an edge in playing freely. Sehwag was a gambler who took his chances and never shied away from taking risks and as his triple tons indicate that you need that freedom of mind to succeed at highest level. My theory is that he would not achieved same level of success as middle order batsman due to spread out fields and his impatient against spinners. For the same reason he didn't do that well in T20 format as he did in one day and Test matches. He found the right balance between caution and aggression in the longer formats.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2013, 17:20 GMT)

Viru is one of the most aggresive batsmen in the history of cricket. Shikhar Dhawan has been doing a great job of filing in those attacking shoes.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2013, 16:04 GMT)

Old is Gold. We hope to good come back by Sehwag very soon.

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