A match-winner in the subcontinent
For a batsman who scored a century at No.6 on debut and prefers to bat in the middle order, Virender Sehwag has had an incredibly successful career as a Test opener. Sehwag's aggressive style of batting and potential to rack up massive scores place him in an elite list of match-winning Test batsmen. Sehwag, who is poised to become the ninth Indian players to feature in 100 Tests, is the joint-quickest to the 7000-run mark in terms of matches (79). He is also one of only four batsmen (Don Bradman, Brian Lara and Chris Gayle being the others) to register two 300-plus scores in Tests. Despite his form outside the subcontinent dropping off alarmingly in the last few years, he still remains one of the most feared batsmen in the Indian line-up considering his ability to score at a fast clip off both pace and spin.
In 99 Tests so far, Sehwag has scored 8448 runs at an average of 50.89. Among Indian batsmen who have played 100 Tests and scored 7000-plus runs, only Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sunil Gavaskar have a higher average and century tally than Sehwag. However, Sehwag's ratio of centuries to fifties (0.71) is the third-highest in the group behind those of Tendulkar (0.78) and Gavaskar (0.75). Sehwag's batting stats are sharply skewed towards the first innings, which shows he has been superb at setting up matches for India. In the team first innings, Sehwag's average of 64.95 is by far the highest among Indian batsmen who have scored at least 4000 runs in the first innings. In the team's second innings (third and fourth innings of the match), his average of 30.80 is the lowest among batsmen with 2000-plus second-innings runs. A further indicator of the first-innings bias is the fact that only one of Sehwag's 23 centuries has come in the team's second innings.
Throughout his career, Sehwag has established himself as one of the most destructive opening batsmen. He has showcased his ability to score rapidly on more than one occasion in home and away Tests. One of his finest knocks outside the subcontinent was the 195 he made on the opening day of the Boxing Day Test in 2003 at the MCG. He twice scored over 300 (Multan and Chennai) and fell short by seven runs on a third occasion (Mumbai 2009). Among opening batsmen with 6000-plus runs, Sehwag's average of 51.72 is second only to Len Hutton's 56.47. All but one of Sehwag's centuries have come when he has opened the innings. Sehwag's ratio of centuries to fifties (0.73) is, however, fourth on the list ahead of Hutton and Alastair Cook.
In the first five years of his career (2001-2006), Sehwag was a highly consistent performer in overseas Tests too. Although his style of batting was far more successful in subcontinent conditions, he averaged 41.02 outside the subcontinent during that phase. In the subcontinent, he averaged 57.26 with eight centuries. His strike rates in the subcontinent (74.93) and outside (77.04) were well below his career mark of 82.45. In the second phase of his career (2007-2012), Sehwag struggled to score outside the subcontinent and managed just one century (Adelaide in 2008). His average outside the subcontinent plummeted to 29.41. However, he encountered no such problems in matches played in the subcontinent. In the last five years, Sehwag has scored ten centuries in 33 Tests at an average of 63.34 and an incredible strike rate of 95.34. His overall numbers also point to a dominant run in the subcontinent (average 60.57 with 18 centuries) as opposed to outside Asia (average 35.84 with five centuries).
|Phase 1 (debut-2006)||In subcontinent||30||2634||57.26||8/8||74.93|
|Phase 1 (debut-2006)||Outside subcontinent||21||1477||41.02||4/4||77.04|
|Phase 2 (2007-2012)||In subcontinent||33||3484||63.34||10/16||95.34|
|Phase 2 (2007-2012)||Outside subcontinent||15||853||29.41||1/4||73.53|
Sehwag started his career with a bang scoring a century on debut against South Africa. His record against them through his career has also been excellent although most of the significant performances have come in India. While he averages 84 in India (four centuries), he has managed an average of 25.46 in South Africa with one century. Against Australia, Sehwag has had a much more even run home and away (average 40.15 and 46.86 respectively). Sehwag's worst record is against England: he averages 33.23 in home Tests and 27.80 in Tests in England. Against New Zealand too, he has a top-class record at home (average 63.90) but has been ordinary in away games (average 20.00).
His record against the two major subcontinent teams (Pakistan and Sri Lanka) is superb both home and away. Against Pakistan, Sehwag has scored four centuries overall and averages 91.14. Five of his 23 centuries have come in matches against Sri Lanka. While he averages 78.14 in five home Tests against Sri Lanka, his record in Sri Lanka is also equally good (average 69.20 with three centuries). Overall, against top teams (excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe), Sehwag averages 57.71 at home (13 centuries) and 45.08 in away Tests (ten centuries).
|Opposition||Matches/Runs (h)||Avg, 100/50 (h)||Matches/Runs (a)
||Avg, 100/50 (a)||Matches/Runs (overall)||Avg, 100/50 (overall)|
|Australia||10/763||40.15, 1/5||11/1031||46.86, 2/5||21/1794||43.75, 3/10|
|England||8/432||33.23, 1/3||6/278||27.80, 1/1||14/710||30.86, 2/4|
|New Zealand||7/703||63.90, 2/3||5/180||20.00, 0/0||12/883||44.15, 2/3|
|Pakistan||3/544||90.66, 2/1||6/732||91.50, 2/1||9/1276||91.14, 4/2|
|South Africa||7/924||84.00, 4/1||8/382||25.46, 1/1||15/1306||50.23, 5/2|
|Sri Lanka||5/547||78.14, 2/1||6/692||69.20, 3/2||11/1239||72.88, 5/3|
|West Indies||6/531||53.10, 1/4||4/357||51.00, 1/1||10/888||52.23, 2/5|
|Overall||46/4444||57.71, 13/18||46/3652||45.08, 10/11||92/8096||51.24, 23/29|
A stand-out aspect of Sehwag's career has been his ability to score big centuries. Of his 23 centuries, 14 have been scores of 150 or more. He has also scored two triple-centuries and four double-centuries. Among batsmen who have scored at least 8000 runs, Sehwag's 150-plus scores as a percentage of his hundreds (60.86) is the highest. Lara (55.88%) and Kumar Sangakkara (53.33%) are second and third respectively. Among batsmen with ten or more 150-plus scores, only Bradman has a higher 150-plus score percentage (62.09) than that of Sehwag. Owing to his attacking style, Sehwag's average in 150-plus knocks only) is the lowest on the list (225.61). In contrast, a high percentage of not-outs has ensured a much higher average for David Gower (343.50) and Steve Waugh (328.71).
|Batsman||Inns||100s||150-plus||% of 150-plus||Avg (in 150-plus knocks)|
Sehwag's strike rate of 82.45 is easily the best among batsmen who have scored 2000-plus runs (Tests since 1995). Adam Gilchrist, who is second on the overall list, has a much higher strike rate for 100-plus knocks (96.64) than Sehwag (83.49). Sehwag has also scored six centuries at a strike rate greater than 100. Only Gilchrist (seven scores) has done so more often than Sehwag. The boundary-run percentage (in 100-plus knocks) for Sehwag (62.36) is below Gilchrist's (64.38) but well ahead of Lara's corresponding figure of 55.70.
|Batsman||Centuries||Strike rate||Inns with SR of 100 or more||% boundary runs|
With Gautam Gambhir, Sehwag formed one of the most prolific opening combinations in Tests. In 82 innings, the pair averaged 53.72 with 11 century stands. Sehwag also had a very fruitful association with Rahul Dravid. They are one of only three batting pairs to share a 400-run opening stand (410 in Lahore 2006). In his partnerships with Dravid, however, Sehwag was the more dominant batsman scoring nearly 63% of the runs. The Tendulkar-Sehwag partnership began with a century stand on Sehwag's debut in 2001 and continued to thrive. In 23 innings, the partnership aggregate was 1560 runs at an average of 67.82. Sehwag, who also forged successful partnerships with Aakash Chopra and M Vijay, never quite managed the same with VVS Laxman. In 18 innings, the pair managed an aggregate of just 529 runs at an average of 29.38 with a solitary century stand.
When Sehwag's stats against pace and spin are compared, quite a few interesting numbers emerge. In the subcontinent, Sehwag was exceptionally good against spinners. Not only is his average against the slow bowlers very high (86.58), the balls-per-dismissal figure is also good (93.70). His scoring rate (5.54) and boundary-run percentage (61.69) against spinners are also excellent. Against pace bowlers in the subcontinent, he has been dismissed far more often (68 times) and averages 56.42. He has a lower value of balls-per-dismissal (69.01) and scoring rate (4.90) but a higher boundary-run percentage (66.25) as compared to his corresponding numbers against spin.
Sehwag has been vulnerable in conditions which offer lateral movement and as a result, his numbers outside the subcontinent are poorer. He has been dismissed 48 times by fast bowlers and averages 39.41. Both the balls-per-dismissal (54.67) and scoring rate (4.32) are much lower than the stats in subcontinent Tests. Surprisingly, his numbers against spinners outside the subcontinent are ordinary. While his scoring rate of 6.21 is superb, the aggressive approach has meant that he has been dismissed far more often (balls-per-dismissal value of 22.75) and averages just 23.58. Overall, Sehwag's average and scoring rate against pace bowlers (49.38 and 4.69) are well below his corresponding numbers against spinners (65.58 and 5.61). The bowlers who have had the most success against Sehwag are Dale Steyn (seven dismissals), Ben Hilfenhaus and Matthew Hoggard (six dismissals each).
|Bowler type||Venue||Dismissals||Avg||Balls per dismissal||Scoring rate||Boundary %|
Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan is a sub-editor (stats) at ESPNcricinfo