India v New Zealand, 1st Test, Ahmedabad, 1st day November 4, 2010

Sehwag cool in the heat of the battle

ESPNcricinfo staff
There is an air of casualness about Virender Sehwag, so casual that it feels eerie, as seen again at Motera

You associate attacking batsmen with their aggressive aura, the bossiness of their body language. It wasn't just how they batted but how they moved around in the middle that said much about them. Viv Richards would swagger and Matthew Hayden would snarl, Adam Gilchrist was restless, Michael Slater was possessed by a nervous energy and Shahid Afridi brims with adrenaline. Virender Sehwag remains calm.

His batsmanship might hint at insolence but his body language doesn't. There is an air of casualness about him - so casual that it feels eerie - as seen again today at Motera. He doesn't look intense nor try acting cool; he doesn't draw from verbals with bowlers, nor does he try to avoid them. He just bats. And he chats - with the umpire, his partner, even a friendly opposition player. He also hums tunes, as he explained at length in the post-match pitchside interview. He puts in a lot in a hostile, demanding environment?

If you weren't closely watching today, you'd probably have been deceived by his relaxed composure and thought there was no contest. Wrong. There was no hard-fought battle but there were several interesting moments. Some involved Daniel Vettori, who spent much of the day trying to get him lbw with the deliveries that swerved in and straightened. A couple of times, very early on, Sehwag edged his defensive pushes to pad. He adjusted very quickly, though, by shifting his guard towards leg. The feet were aligned on the leg stump line with the bat placed in the middle and not once did he push his front leg across after that. Not once.

He stayed so true to that intent that it eventually led to his dismissal. By then he was also tired, he'd hurt his knee and had a runner. The front leg should have come across a bit then but it didn't. Neither did he lean forward, allowing the arm-ball to move past the casual waft, hit the back pad and fall on the stumps.

There were a couple of moments against Jeetan Patel too. Sehwag tried to impose himself first ball with an aggressive shot and ended up slashing high over point. Patel then floated it well outside off; Sehwag hit one through covers and was beaten immediately trying to play a weak defensive prod. His immediate response was to practice a crashing drive. Soon, he blasted one aerially past short extra cover and hit another through cover point.

Patel gave up and went round the stumps with a deep point in place. No respite, though. Sehwag pressed back, collapsed his arms and carved the deliveries very late and well to the left of that deep point. Vettori knew moving that fielder finer wouldn't help as Sehwag would have then kept playing the shot more square. And so Sehwag kept carving and cutting it late wide of that fielder - and not once did it seem risky.

During one of Martin's later spells, the bowler started without a third man; his first ball was a length delivery that homed in on the off stump but Sehwag stood motionless. The ball kept moving towards the stump and there was still no response from Sehwag. At the very last instant, he stirred: he bent his knees, collapsed his arms, and steered it very late to the unmanned third man boundary.

All through there were the usual fun Sehwag moments. When Martin banged in a bouncer, Sehwag had to arch back a long way to avoid it; Martin looked across at Sehwag, signalling a rare win for the bowler. Sehwag's response: he practiced his upper cut over backward point and Martin turned and walked back quietly.

After the day's play, he showed no effects of those hours in the sun and heat. Asked whether he kept track of the score while batting, he said, with a straight face: "Sochna padhta hai. Scorers galti kar sakthe hain. (I have to. Scorers can make mistakes!)" It didn't seem arrogant, it didn't seem flippant or serious. It was Sehwag: great skills, great fun.