England v India, 3rd npower Test, Edgbaston, 3rd day August 13, 2011

Sehwag's moment of madness

India needed to survive 13 overs but Virender Sehwag was dismissed first ball, attempting an ambitious drive, for the second time in the Test

Even at the best of times batting is a matter of chance. Every stroke carries the prospect of dismissal. A half-volley can be dragged onto the stumps and a long hop can land in the hands of an outfielder. Batting involves constantly balancing risk and opportunity, and the assessment of risk varies from batsman to batsman. Alastair Cook hit only three boundaries in the first two sessions of the third day at Edgbaston, but he ended with 294 runs. Virender Sehwag aimed to cream the first ball he received through the covers and ended with his second golden duck of the match.

Cook began the day with England leading India by 232 runs with seven wickets in hand; Sehwag took guard with India needing to score 486 to avoid innings defeat. When Cook's innings ended, ironically with a forcing shot, he had batted over 13 hours; Sehwag lasted only eight minutes over both innings. Barring a miracle, or a washout, England will win.

Rewind to December 2008 in Chennai. Andrew Strauss, Cook's opening partner, scored 123 and 108, batting for more than 12 hours in the Test. Sehwag played a leaden-footed drive in the first innings to be bowled for 9, but two hours of extraordinary hitting from him in the final session on the fourth day set India on the road to an improbable chase. His 68-ball 83 was good enough to earn him the Man-of-the-Match award. It was the defining innings of the Test.

When Sehwag belted his first hundred as a Test opener, in Nottingham in 2002, his methods seemed too outrageous to survive the rigours and scrutiny of international cricket. But with more than 7500 runs scored at a strike rate of 81.89, it can be argued he has earned the right to bat as he pleases; or rather to bat in the manner that is most profitable to him. After all, a couple of hours of mayhem from Sehwag can ease the path for those to follow.

Why is it considered more criminal for a batsman to lose his wicket to an aggressive stroke than to a defensive one? After all, in the first innings at Edgbaston, Sehwag was dismissed not attempting a stroke and it was deemed merely unfortunate.

These arguments are not without merit. That Cook's epic was the result of monumental patience and meticulous application is of little consequence to Sehwag's approach to batting. He is entitled to choose the method most likely to bring him success. However, to apply this argument without a caveat would be both naïve and simplistic.

Batting in Test cricket is also about adapting to varying conditions and match situations. That Sehwag had consigned the first ball to the boundary almost all through the World Cup didn't meant anything when it came to opening in Test cricket in England. Even Sehwag knows the virtue of grafting, of playing out a tough period to set a base. He did so in Melbourne in 2003, when the pitch was damp on the first morning, and ended up with 195. More tellingly, he batted out a whole session in Adelaide in 2008 without hitting a four, to save India a Test.

Runs were of little consequence to India this evening. Their only logical target was to bat out 13 overs. James Anderson was likely to nip the ball away. Sehwag hadn't played a Test since January, and had batted only half an hour in the practice match after missing the first two Tests. And Rahul Dravid, India's best batsman in the series, deserved to be given the best chance to succeed. Trying to hit the cover off the first ball wasn't the smartest way to begin.

Perhaps the stroke came out of nervousness. Or perhaps Sehwag was as dead sure that he could hit it for four as Dravid was when he cut the first ball of Anderson's second over to the point boundary. But given that the percentages were loaded against a drive on the up, and that it brought about his dismissal when India needed to sell every wicket dear, it was a moment of madness that described the shambolic nature of India's campaign in England.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Senthil on August 15, 2011, 2:43 GMT

    Yes BCCI should ban IPL and concentrate in bringing Indian team. I think it is time to see Sachin, Laxman, Raina, Gambir and Shewag off. Just include juniors, even if India lost few tests no problem. Let all these players go for ad. Even Dhoni can be given a break. India now has already lost Australia (year end tour). Change Selectors also.

  • Kaze on August 15, 2011, 0:21 GMT

    Lol excuses first Sehwag was to be the savior then he fell flat on his face did anyone expect any better from a flat track bullly/slogger on a swinging wicket ?!

  • Srinivas on August 14, 2011, 23:14 GMT

    I have been one of the most vocal fans who was against Sehwag's inclusion for the third test. What kind of match readiness did he prove to walk straight into the final xi? Drop him from the fourth test and take in Mukund. You just can't take your own jolly time to get surgery and then delude yourself and others around you that you can just force yourself into international cricket. Pathetic Dhoni. Pathetic selection. Drop Raina and get another bowler please. Shameful selection sans any basics.

  • Dummy4 on August 14, 2011, 17:01 GMT

    Indian cricket should forget about past records and professionaly allow people who are 100% fit tp play. Abhinav mukund who scored a century and looked promising was left out for a big name and past laurel. Sehwag could not throw or bowl , Cook batted for 90 overs alone. Please do not demoralise new talent. Sehwag should be called back and play for England series in India

  • najaf on August 14, 2011, 3:12 GMT

    Sehwag is best at playing dead wickets where ball comes slow ,no movement in the ball and no bounce in the wicket, and yes mediocre fast bowling.i have seen many times Sehwag getting out single digit or double digits on the pitches where ball was moving even slightly.He has scored majority of his runs in Indian Sub-continent, specially all his double and triple hundred are in India,Pakistan and Sri lanka. Sehwag has never scored a century in fourth inning , he averages 28.86 runs in fourth innings. Sehwag is not good choice to play in England, India should opt for another player for remaining one test and one day matches because India need runs and Sehwag is not going to score any fifties or hundreds in those matches.

  • Anurag on August 14, 2011, 0:12 GMT

    Sehwag needs to remain calm for the first 5 overs of his innings and then the entire day is his...the question is can he do that??

  • Dummy4 on August 13, 2011, 23:20 GMT

    Sehwag played a poor shot. Big deal. He averages over 50 as an opener and a s/r above 80. Definitely a true great. And the first batsman I'd pick in my team. As for the 2nd innings comments. How come you didn't mention his 1st innings figures??? Everyone knows it's the first innings that sets the tone for a game.

  • Dummy4 on August 13, 2011, 20:43 GMT

    I never expected anything from Shewag. How can selecters, team coach and captain feel that someone coming off the flight, not playing any cricket for 6 months can score let alone open against a world class bowling!!!!!!!! I hope they gotr their lesson and rest him from next test match. It shows how little team india understands english conditions!!!!

  • gourab on August 13, 2011, 19:29 GMT

    in Africa 10 18 1 484 28.47 in Americas 4 7 0 357 51.00 in Asia 16-1600 -69.56 in Europe 5-29.62 in Oceania 12-1013- 44.04

    this is sehwags form while playing in oppositions ground. This sort of player is voted by indians as the opener in all time ICC XI

  • Dummy4 on August 13, 2011, 18:36 GMT

    We all babble day in day out and satisfy our appetite by posting scornful comments. Great players don't play with ego in their mind. They battle tough situation and sometimes play against the reputation for what they are meant but they succeed in tackling down the riddle. Great players master all the situation and faced fearest of the opposition with respect. Natural game doesn't lie in hitting the very first ball for four, if sehwag would have shown greater solidarity and proper defense against his reputation of attacking the bowler, english bowler might have tried something different. Younger generation players are of that fickle mind and play with ego, for them entertaining crowd is more important. Sachin, ponting are more devastating than sehwag but look how they adjust themselves in numerous circumstances. When they confront adverse condition and takes time to settle down, they treat the ball with respect and later on treat the same ball with utter disdain.

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