Sehwag's daring meets discretion
Five days ago, Virender Sehwag had come up against a pitch in Kochi that was keeping so low that batsmen were being dismissed boot before wicket. Sehwag responded with 80 off 47 deliveries, when survival was a lottery for others. Five days later, Sehwag came up against his own team-mates in Hyderabad. His fielders forgot to hold catches. His bowlers chose no-balls to take wickets. His batsmen took turns at pressing the self-destruct button. Sehwag responded with 119 off 56, when it would have been easy to throw it away with a shot in anger and frustration.
Delhi Daredevils needed 144 from 13 overs. They won with an over to spare, and the margin would have been wider had Sehwag not been dismissed in the 17th over. Twice in three games, Sehwag has shown that he is to Delhi what Sachin Tendulkar was to India for a large part of his career. The show begins and ends with Sehwag. The man knows it, and is candid enough to acknowledge that he is special. "Batsmen like Warner, or me, or Gilchrist or Tendulkar, can do anything if we play for so many overs," Sehwag said. "I told my boys, just play fearless cricket."
Fearlessness is one of the foundations of Sehwag's batting. Discretion, however, is not a measure that he applies in abundance, especially in the shorter formats of the game. When both virtues combine, his batting scales another level. On such days, his targeting of the weak links in the opposition bowling attack is almost predictable. Inevitably, Ishan Malhotra and Bharat Chipli disappeared for 43 in two overs.
On such days, he also realises that the contest between him and the cream of the opposition attack need not be a gladiatorial showdown. Dale Steyn and Ishant Sharma were given the respect they deserved on a bouncy pitch, though Sehwag still managed four boundaries off them.
Spin and Sehwag have a tempestuous relationship. It brings the best and worst out of him. Predictably, Amit Mishra was taken for 37 in 14 deliveries. Predictably, the two dropped catches also came off Mishra.
"I was telling myself that just play through the spell of Steyn and Ishant. They don't have a fifth bowler and I have played Amit Mishra a lot in the nets," Sehwag said. "I knew I could come hard at them. I just thought let me play my shots and if we can get momentum, we can do this."
Despite their indifferent performance, Sehwag did not think it was correct to blame his team-mates for not pulling their weight. "We have played ten games, and I have clicked only in three. So I have not been consistent, and I can't really blame the others. I have more responsibility. The others are not that experienced; only Venugopal Rao is a bit experienced. They will take time; it takes time to build a good team."
Even as Delhi's campaign has now come down to them needing a win almost every time they step out on to the field, Sehwag has carried his heavy responsibility as lightly as only he can. In five days, he has overcome a minefield on one occasion and on another a team that seemed intent on scoring own goals. Today, he scored 102 more runs than his side's next-highest scorer in the game, James Hopes. "That's the kind of player he is mate," Hopes said. "He is as good as it gets in world cricket."
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo