Being dropped motivated me - Sehwag
Virender Sehwag admitted that being dropped from the Test side "motivated" him to concentrate better, enabling him to produce what he termed as his "best innings". Sehwag spent the whole of the last year out of the Test side but returned with two outstanding hundreds in consecutive Tests.
"When I was dropped from the Test squad I was hurt because I have a good record in Test cricket," he said after his 278-ball triple hundred on the third day of the first Test. "So I was looking to prove to myself that I am a good Test player and deserve a place in the team. But that feeling of hurt was also good for me because I was able to motivate myself and concentrate better."
Exactly four years earlier Sehwag started his other epic (309 against Pakistan in Multan) but rated this innings ahead of that one. "I will say this is my best Test innings because I made 300 and scored at more than run a ball," he said. "In Multan the wicket was better than this and the conditions were not hot and humid when we played there. I don't think I showed so much patience and concentration in Pakistan. I wanted to prove to myself that I belong here and there is no better way than playing a big knock and scoring a triple century."
Sehwag is now 91 short of Brian Lara's world-record 400 but he insisted that it wouldn't be on his mind when he took the field tomorrow. "I was not thinking about Lara's record at all. Anil Kumble told me that my job is to stay till the end. Even tomorrow when I come to bat I won't be thinking about Lara's record. I will just look to bat for one session and I think if I bat till lunch I will come close to Lara's record."
He admitted he wasn't tired - "My face will tell you that I am pretty fresh now" - but added that he had to counter demanding conditions. "It is very difficult in Chennai because it is very humid," he said. "You lose a lot of water from your body and a lot of salt. Thanks to the physio [Paul Close] and Paddy [Upton] who was looking after me very well and sending some salt water and coconut water every time the drinks came on. I want to thank even my colleagues like Irfan Pathan, Piyush Chawla and Yuvraj Singh, who were looking after my drinks. They helped me a lot during the drinks break."
Sehwag's innings was filled with unconventional stroke-play, including several cheeky reverse-sweeps off left-arm spinner Paul Harris. "I was trying not to let him settle down," he said. "If I would have looked to pad down his negative line the whole day maybe I would not have scored 300. I was positive because I knew that the wicket was not that rough so there would not be much spin. I was confident that when I stepped down the wicket or played the reverse sweep, it would connect and it did."
Did he think he had put India in a position to win the match? "Our chances of winning are bright but it depends on how we bat tomorrow. If we bat well and cross their score then maybe they will feel the pressure of batting on the last day and will look to play for a draw. [We're looking for a lead of] anything over 200 runs. South Africa scored 540 so we will look to score more than 700 and declare. And with Kumble and Harbhajan Singh getting to turn the ball hopefully we will get some result."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo