Super Kings v Kings XI, IPL 2014, Qualifier 2, Mumbai May 30, 2014

Vintage Sehwag revives old memories

A small component in Kings XI's new designs, Virender Sehwag turned the clock back and surprised one and all by playing a big hand to take the team into its first IPL final
34

We have been expecting you Mr Sehwag © BCCI

The queues extended from Churchgate station on either side of the railway tracks. Most of them came dressed in yellow with a Dhoni No. 7 emblazoned on the back - it's a shirt that doesn't go out of fashion. However, the red shirts were the ones being enthusiastically picked up on the pavements. All of them, absolutely all of them, had the same text on their backs - 32, Maxwell. Inside the ground, Maxwell treated the crowd to some big shots from the practice pitch before the toss. When Kings XI Punjab were asked to bat, they all let out a shriek of excitement for Maxwell. However, by the end of the first innings, Maxwell's reds - and the rest - had been reminded of something far closer to their hearts: Virender Sehwag.

If Kings XI's winning formula was written in the form of a mathematical equation, Sehwag's presence would appear as a minor variable after the consideration of exponential effects from Glenn Maxwell and Co. Sehwag had given the team its solid starts, scored 326 runs in 15 innings in the shadows of blinding onslaughts from others. Bespectacled, restrained, unassuming, a bit dated, and reduced to a small component in Kings XI's larger designs. Did anyone care about the Sehwag factor? Probably not. Even R Ashwin, at the end of Chennai Super Kings' previous match, was only concerned about his plans for Maxwell.

Super Kings haven't played a real home game (in Chennai) this season, but on Friday, they were on home turf - the knockouts. So on Friday, if any team was going to feel the pinch of the situation, it was Kings XI. They had already faltered in Kolkata two days ago. The way the innings started - Manan Vohra struggling to get bat on ball - it certainly seemed that the occasion might be getting bigger on the in-form team. What better man then to have than Sehwag, whose game has always made mockery of that term - pressure.

His first two boundaries - one through cover and the other through point - would have excited most people 10 years ago. Not now. It's not fashionable anymore. All eyes were on Vohra instead, who did provide the first release in the fourth over with a six over long-on. The next ball, Vohra mistimed a pull, but ran three. Interestingly, it was not Vohra who made the third possible, it was Sehwag. Next ball, Sehwag arched back and guided one through the tiny gap at gully. It was that shot, the cheeky vintage Sehwag manoeuvre, that brought the attention to him.

A hat-trick of boundaries in the next over, bowled by his Delhi team-mate Ashish Nehra, had that Sehwag signature of teasing the opposition captain and his field placements. One straight, one over cover, and as the deep cover was put in place, one through gully. It was only when he reached his half-century of 21 balls that Wankhede woke up to the main show of the night. Spinners were treated as they ought to be in the Sehwag world - Ashwin was greeted with a straight six, Jadeja was similarly dispatched second ball. Sehwag's smile widened. He was having fun. After Jadeja was hit for a third six, MS Dhoni had to walk over and put his arms around his bowler's drooping shoulders. This was helpnessness. This could have been a one-dayer, a Test. This was Multan. This was Chennai. This was Brabourne all over again.

As Sehwag took his 100th run, the crowd rose on its feet and by the time he got out, the score read 211, far beyond just being a platform. The innings had launched Kings XI into the stratosphere.

Sehwag has been in the twilight of his career for quite some time now and there cannot be many such innings left in the tank. Unlike some of his other former India team-mates who have kept the desire of a comeback burning, Sehwag has appeared too casual to harbour such ambitions. He has, throughout a tough domestic season, spoken out about his hard work, but adaptability is one word that cannot be associated with Sehwag.

A lot of players from his generation turned into something else just to stretch careers, but that narrative doesn't fit well with Sehwag. Even during his worst phase, Sehwag didn't make himself last long enough to reveal his struggle.

Still, there was sadness. You knew he wasn't coming back; he didn't even show any intent to raise any hope. Were we just going to see him fade away? Sehwag's innings on Friday night didn't change anything. It just gave his followers a chance to relive his glory days and to celebrate Sehwag.

"There is one thing I was inspired by, whenever I got out early," Sehwag said after the match. "I called my son and he said, 'Papa, you are not a good player, you are not scoring runs,' so I said, 'Hold on, there are a couple of games left, so maybe I'll show you what I'm capable of.'"

The innings had painted Wankhede red - it was Sehwag's first century in India since the 117 against England in Ahmedabad in 2012. Suresh Raina played a numbing knock of 87, but his dismissal drew loud cheers. No one wanted Kings XI to lose. No one wanted Sehwag to lose. A spectator in the adjacent seat summed up the mood: "Maxwell maare to theek hai, but Sehwag maare to andar se khushi hoti hai" [If Maxwell hits it, it's fun, but if Sehwag hits it, it makes you happy from inside].

Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on June 5, 2014, 12:22 GMT

    Hi There, Virender Sehwag should be in India's Test team he's one of the greatest batsmen of all time. I'm Australian and I love watching him play he's the best opener with Sir Viv Richards to play the game. Sehwag is a match winner yes he will fail on occasions but he will win matches for you. Okay if you don't bring him back in one dayer's but for test matches it's a mistake to leave him out. He single handedly can take the match away from any team you are playing against. I can't understand why he's been dropped. Okay he failed a few times big deal bring Sehwag back please… Highest individual scorer in test match cricket for India. Many records that players dream about having. He's in my team everyday of the week no second thoughts. Pick him every time over anyone else to open the batting. Please bring him back don't waste his talent!

  • dummy4fb on June 2, 2014, 1:36 GMT

    Wow.. its superb show and nostalgic of his past era. The article is well written. I missed the match and the innings but this report has pacified my regrets.

  • baghels.a on June 1, 2014, 8:18 GMT

    Brilliantly written,well crafted piece Mr Fuloria !!!

  • dummy4fb on June 1, 2014, 6:38 GMT

    It has indeed been quite a while since I have read an article so well written, and by no means it could have been more apt for a personality like Viru, or should I say this man really bring out the best when it comes to asking anyone to describe him. Following his life both on and off the field, I must add, this man has not lost his humility and neither his means of entertaining the billion plus Indians. A decade and a half or probably more on, I can only say... the magic has not deserted the man; only his luck has... Viru; you are the best there was and probably will be.

  • D.Sharma on June 1, 2014, 4:05 GMT

    This was a flat track and people want him in the team for England LOL. He struggled in England last time and should be nowhere near test team given his below par fielding.

  • ajayp93 on June 1, 2014, 3:27 GMT

    This article is heart-warming: written in an unusual, yet utterly charming style, with energy reverberating throughout; and, something absent in most cricket journalism - a depressing, but refreshing honesty. Sehwag will not make a national comeback. That's not the point. This was a day - at 36 years of age - no less, where he turned back the years and gave the youth of today an inkling of why the man is so revered worldwide. Alas, that will be one of few innings where he lights up and imposes himself in a game as dramatically as he has done here; no matter, as the man said himself, "I have nothing to prove".

  • dummy4fb on June 1, 2014, 3:24 GMT

    Can we see another triple hundred from you ?

  • Retour on May 31, 2014, 21:18 GMT

    Among the famous five in their respective best form, Sehwag to me is the best in test considering his unbeatable combination of high SR and Avg. This places him in the league of his own. Would love to see him play test or even lead the test side for a few more years. It appears as if he looks forward to guiding youngsters and is an aggressive captain as well. Considering that the ODI WC is in Aus where he has a couple of test 100s, it may not be a bad idea to call upon his experience in that WC.

  • dummy4fb on May 31, 2014, 21:13 GMT

    It was really amazing inning by Viru.... no words can satisfy him for this performance... all Indian has a desire for Sehwag to play for Indian cricket team again... God bless :)

  • dummy4fb on May 31, 2014, 17:28 GMT

    Nicely written Mr Author. We would love to see more such innings from Sehwag and more reports like this one from you :-)