November 8, 2010

Cricket's modern Zen master

It is tempting to see Virender Sehwag as a product of the limited-overs age, but he uses more or less orthodox strokes. The key to his success is that he has the ability to live in the present
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Virender Sehwag, who has just hit yet another fast-forward century in the Test being played against New Zealand in Ahmedabad, is the most interesting cricketer in the world today. He is at once a genius, set apart from his peers by his extraordinary gifts, and a player who embodies the changing history of the game he plays.

Sehwag's success in Test cricket sometimes obscures the fact that he got his start in the one-day game. It's hard to remember that he played more than 20 ODIs before he played his debut Test against South Africa exactly nine years ago, in the first week of November 2001. His international debut was a limited-overs match against Pakistan in early 1999 in which he played as a bits-and-pieces allrounder, as someone who bowled offspin and batted at No. 7. A year and a half later, a century against the Sri Lankans and a couple of undefeated fifties against South Africa got him a place in the Bloemfontein Test, where he declared himself by making a century.

The relevance of his early one-day career is that Sehwag was the first of a new breed of batsmen who won their Test match spurs by first getting a break in limited-overs cricket. Cricketers like Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina have made us take this one-day route to the top for granted, but in retrospect, Sehwag is a pioneer. Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid and Laxman caught the public eye in what was then the conventional way, as Test players; alone amongst the golden greats of Indian batsmen, Sehwag entered Test cricket through what was then the side door.

In a curious way, then, this Kohinoor of Test batsmanship, is a symptom of the decline of Test cricket as the premier form of the game. In Indian cricket, certainly, the era of Sehwag is one in which the cricketing public, corporate sponsors and the game's administrators have lined up decisively behind limited-overs cricket, first in its 50-over form and then in its parodic version, the Twenty20 format. And since Sehwag first appears so neatly at the end of the 20th century, it allows middle-aged doomsayers to see the first decade of the new millennium as Test cricket's terminal twilight.

But this is a celebration of Sehwag as a Test batsman, not a dirge for Test cricket, so it's important to say here that by a wonderful irony Sehwag used the gifts that should have made him an ODI natural to become instead the greatest opening batsman in the history of post-helmet Test cricket.

Up to a point, Sehwag's career as a Test batsman can be explained in terms of cricket's evolving history. The protective gear that came into the game in the late seventies, making the batsman well-nigh invulnerable; the better bats; the habit of scoring quickly, inculcated by the limited-overs game; the restrictions upon bouncers, all helped to create more attacking batsmen, and by the nineties the tempo of Test batsmanship had been decisively sped up.

The great Australian teams of the nineties came close to making the Test match draw extinct by routinely scoring at nearly four runs an over. Tendulkar responded to the challenge of this hectic decade by joining the solidity of Sunil Gavaskar to the intent of Viv Richards and thus creating a monster technique that was to eventually inspire our provincial hero in Najafgarh.

But this is as far as historical context takes us. Sehwag, like all truly great players, has to be set in the evolving context of the game to be understood, but more than the others, more certainly than Tendulkar, whose talent is essentially rational, his success resists history's incremental explanations.

Take for example the glib suggestion offered above, that Sehwag successfully transplanted the lessons of one-day cricket into the longer game. The first roadblock this thesis runs into is that Sehwag is a great Test batsman but no more than a decent ODI player. In his own practice, then, his methods work better in the long form of the game than in the format that allegedly shaped them.

The inadequacy of this explanation becomes more apparent when you try to compare him with another child of limited-overs cricket, Yuvraj Singh. Here's a player who, after years of striving to find a place in the middle order of India's Test line-up, has been discarded by the selectors. Superficially Sehwag and Yuvraj have one-day traits in common: a suspected weakness against the short ball, a lack of footwork, a tendency to stand and deliver. These traits produce the kind of Test match performances you would expect in Yuvraj's case: the odd century on flat tracks but failure more often than not. With Sehwag, though, these departures from batting orthodoxy have delivered a Test match average nudging 54, at the absurd, unprecedented strike-rate of 82. The only other contemporary batsman with an average and strike rate who comes close is Adam Gilchrist, and he batted at No. 7, at the tail-end of a frightening batting line-up, not first up against the new ball.

The genius of Sehwag lies in his near-yogic ability to live in the moment, to separate one ball from the other, to purge his mind at the moment of impact of useless meta-information like his innings score or the match score or the state of his average, or his place in the history of cricket

So why doesn't Sehwag fail more often? Every bowling attack in cricket declares that it has "plans" for Sehwag, and more often than not these plans consist of bouncing balls into his ribs to tuck him up. In the recent two-match "series" against Australia, his alleged vulnerability against the short ball was exploited by journeymen quicks with some success. Why hasn't this been done more frequently by the better, faster bowling sides he has faced throughout his career?

I don't know, but that doesn't stop me from guessing. Sehwag doesn't generally pull or hook the ball. His technique with the short ball consists either of evasion or, more riskily, the upper-cut over slip or gully when he's feeling adventurous. More often than not he lets the ball go: he might look awkward while doing so, but he's unlikely to be forced into the desperate cross-bat shot a la Yuvraj. If there were several fast bowlers like Glenn McGrath, bowlers who could make the ball rear from just short of a good length into Sehwag's ribs, over after over, I can see him being worn down and hustled out, but there aren't and consequently he isn't.

Secondly, Sehwag's choice of shots is, within the new definitions of the contemporary game, orthodox. He's a predominantly off-side player whose favourite shots are the cut and, more frequently, the drive. The lofted flayed cut, given the carry of modern bats, is a safe shot and apart from the nudge over slips (which is, in fact, a shot more likely to be played by Tendulkar than Sehwag), you would be hard put to think of low-percentage shots in Sehwag's repertoire. His favourite on-side shot is the bread-and-butter flick through midwicket or square leg. Otherwise his wagon- heels tell the story of a man relentlessly carving up the off side and the straight field with magical hands and a genius for hitting balls angled in to him, inside-out through cover or mid-off. The point here is that, given Sehwag's natural gifts, the repertoire of shots he brings into play is low-risk, even though his strokeplay looks spectacular and gasp-inducing.

But the real reason Sehwag is as good as he is has to do with that old chestnut, temperament. In the course of India's first innings in the Ahmedabad Test, it became apparent that he was playing the ball while Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman were playing their careers. So he scored at a run a ball, while the others, for long sessions in the match, scored a run every six balls. This is sometimes construed as Sehwag being carefree but this is a misreading. I think Sehwag needs and wants success as much as any other player; remember, this is a man who knows what the penalties of failure are. After his first ODI in 1999, he was forgotten for a year, and then again in 2007 he was dropped from the Test team after a poor series against South Africa.

No, the genius of Sehwag lies in his near-yogic ability to live in the moment, to separate one ball from the other, to purge his mind at the moment of impact, of useless meta-information like his innings score or the match score or the state of his average, or his place in the history of cricket. Bowled on 173 in Ahmedabad, he grinned at his runner, Gautam Gambhir, instead of cursing the missed double-century, and walked cheerfully off the field. He didn't know he was within a stroke of a world record when he shared in a 400-run partnership some years ago, because he isn't interested in cricket's historical baggage. The game he's playing is everything and within that game, the ball he's about to face. Our carefree buccaneer, if only we had the eyes to see, is modern cricket's Zen Master.

Mukul Kesavan is a novelist, essayist and historian based in New Delhi. This article was first published in the Kolkata Telegraph

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • gchandra on November 12, 2010, 2:53 GMT

    Agree everything here. One fact overlooked. Out of 82 matches, only 20 matches were played outside Asia, against Australia, South Africa, West Indies and NZ. Here is how the average stack against these team for all Indian players who scored more runs than sehwag against these team outside of Asia. Still good for sehwag to have 40, but you can see that he is not the Zen master in this field. Let us see if he can become one in the future.

    SM Gavaskar 57.78 R Dravid 55.22 M Amarnath 52.21 SR Tendulkar 49.59 VVS Laxman 47.78 V Sehwag 41.21 SC Ganguly 35.21

    http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?class=1;filter=advanced;home_or_away=2;home_or_away=3;host=2;host=3;host=4;host=5;orderby=runs;team=6;template=results;type=batting

  • varunv003 on November 11, 2010, 16:13 GMT

    flat track bully!!!ha ha,then why otherso called better ones are unable to doit???

  • Proteas123 on November 11, 2010, 6:13 GMT

    @ s_harris - Good analysis on the averages. I think where you'll find asian batsman benefiting is by the number of games on the flat tracks which would inflate their overall averages. On Sehwag, what you said is what I was saying, he is very good but has to improve his away record. I rate him up there with Smith as the top openers at the moment. You have to admit that in your analysis Kallis stands up pretty well to Sachin, if you then factor in the wickets he has taken, it is very hard to find an equal for Kallis.

  • Percy_Fender on November 11, 2010, 5:07 GMT

    Virender Sehwag made his debut in Blomfontein, South Africaand scored a century against the likes of Shaun Pollock and Hayward and Macmillan. He also has superb hundreds against Australia at the MCG and Adelaide. At the MCG his 195 came on the first day of the match and he scored his runs till about one hour before stumps. In Adelaide he enabled India to save a game with a relatively dour innings by his standards.He has a hundred at other places in the world too. He is not given only to home dominance. He can play his unique form of the game on any type of wicket and in any country. It is just that one can never be sure when he will get out. The thing that is reassuring is that he would have made a big score or at least a reasonable one.It is just that on a flat track, he becomes a bulldozer as Steyn and his troupe foung out in Chennai.The same as in Multan against Pakistan. He is probably the only batsman in the world who amongst the current playing ones instills fear in bowlers.

  • s_harris on November 10, 2010, 14:01 GMT

    @Wolver: And btw I do agree with your point on Sehwag being a flat track bully. He has performed much better in the subcontinent compared to Aus, Eng, NZ and SA. He has done well in Aus but has a really poor record in Eng, NZ and SA. He really has to make amends to his record in these countries to lay claim to being the Zen Master. He is a great player and I admire him for his ability to out-think the opponents. But I'll reserve my judgement until at least the SA tour...

  • s_harris on November 10, 2010, 13:54 GMT

    @Wolver - Just compared the stats between sachin and kallis. But before I go into it, let me say that I am not making a case for either person.

    in Aus K - 45.75 S - 58.53

    in Bang K - 31.50 S - 136.66

    in Eng K - 29.30 S - 62.00

    in Ind K - 58.46 S - 57.28

    in NZ K - 66.25 S - 49.52

    in Pak K - 83.14 S - 40.25

    in SA K - 56.44 S - 39.76

    in SL K - 35.33 S - 67.94

    in WI K - 55.41 S - 47.69

    in Zim K - 503.00 S - 40.00

    Its interesting to note that Kallis averages better in Ind and Pak - the two countries most known for flat batting tracks. In the seaming countries (SA, Eng, Aust and NZ), they are 2-2. But overall in these 4 countries, Kallis avg is 49.44 while Sachin avg is 52.45. I am ignoring Bang and Zim since stats typically get skewed with these countries which leaves the turners in SL and slow pitches of WI. Sachin has a much higher avg in SL than Kallis does in WI. You decide for yourself who has benefitted more from the flat batting tracks...

  • Proteas123 on November 10, 2010, 7:32 GMT

    @ mrgupta - I was not talking about Tendulkar but you bring it up and make an excellent point. Sachin has failings like the rest of the greats and is hence not the greatest but certainly one of them. The flat track point is very valid, Sachin often gets the chance to play on pathetic flat tracks like the last test and that is why his average will be better than the others and SA batsman generally have lower averages. Sanga and Sehwag have very average records outside of sub-continent. check your facts. Kallis is the greatest of the current era, as he stands up with all the great batsman and is the greatest all-rounder, who can only be challenged by Sobbers.

  • on November 10, 2010, 1:12 GMT

    The article looked awesome to me until I reached line "n the Ahmedabad Test, it became apparent that he was playing the ball while Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman were playing their careers"!!! really?You need not underestimate the efforts of other players to emphasize Sehwag's importance. If you think you have written very excellent article, then you are absolutely wrongg and it implies that you think all the viewers around the world are absolutely fool. Don't try to become writter version of 'Manjerekar' just for the sake of it.

  • mrgupta on November 9, 2010, 21:05 GMT

    @Wolver : People from Aus, Eng or SA love to call Asian batsmen "Flat track" bully even though guys like Sachin, Sehwag and Sanga have great oversea records. Sachin's record in Aus is close to what Ponting has and better than Lara, Viv Richards and Kallis. In Eng Sachin's batting avg is far superior than either of Lara, Kallis, Viv Richards or Ponting. Similarly on the Flat Tracks in India Records for Lara or Ponting are nothing more than ordinary. The only place where Sachin needs to improve his record is in SA where he avg touch under 40 though he has scored 3 100s there. Then So does Kallis needs to improve in Eng (avg 29.3), Ponting in Eng and India (avg 41.79 and 26.48 respectively), Lara cannot improve now but shud have done better in Aus and Eng (41.97 & 48.76 respectively). If you want you can check using statsguru that in the Matches won playing away (Excluding BD and Zim) Sachin's record is hugely superior to Either of Ponting, Lara, Viv Richards and Kallis. Need i say more?

  • Podatik on November 9, 2010, 17:34 GMT

    @ Rumy1: I agree with all of your observations save 1. Kaif, like Yuvraj, has been given several opportunities in tests, but his technique is more suspect than even Yuvraj. I would much prefer Badrinath who seems to possess better technique and temperament than either. Gambhir may be going through a rough patch, but he has the right temperament and his technique is generally good (barring a few bad habits that seem to have crept in). I'm sure that this can be worked out by a good batting coach and application on Gambhir's part. At the risk of inviting anger from all corners, I'd probably like to see the following top-order line-up in SA: Gambhir/Vijay, Sehwag, Laxman, Tendulkar, Pujara, Badrinath, Dhoni.

  • gchandra on November 12, 2010, 2:53 GMT

    Agree everything here. One fact overlooked. Out of 82 matches, only 20 matches were played outside Asia, against Australia, South Africa, West Indies and NZ. Here is how the average stack against these team for all Indian players who scored more runs than sehwag against these team outside of Asia. Still good for sehwag to have 40, but you can see that he is not the Zen master in this field. Let us see if he can become one in the future.

    SM Gavaskar 57.78 R Dravid 55.22 M Amarnath 52.21 SR Tendulkar 49.59 VVS Laxman 47.78 V Sehwag 41.21 SC Ganguly 35.21

    http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?class=1;filter=advanced;home_or_away=2;home_or_away=3;host=2;host=3;host=4;host=5;orderby=runs;team=6;template=results;type=batting

  • varunv003 on November 11, 2010, 16:13 GMT

    flat track bully!!!ha ha,then why otherso called better ones are unable to doit???

  • Proteas123 on November 11, 2010, 6:13 GMT

    @ s_harris - Good analysis on the averages. I think where you'll find asian batsman benefiting is by the number of games on the flat tracks which would inflate their overall averages. On Sehwag, what you said is what I was saying, he is very good but has to improve his away record. I rate him up there with Smith as the top openers at the moment. You have to admit that in your analysis Kallis stands up pretty well to Sachin, if you then factor in the wickets he has taken, it is very hard to find an equal for Kallis.

  • Percy_Fender on November 11, 2010, 5:07 GMT

    Virender Sehwag made his debut in Blomfontein, South Africaand scored a century against the likes of Shaun Pollock and Hayward and Macmillan. He also has superb hundreds against Australia at the MCG and Adelaide. At the MCG his 195 came on the first day of the match and he scored his runs till about one hour before stumps. In Adelaide he enabled India to save a game with a relatively dour innings by his standards.He has a hundred at other places in the world too. He is not given only to home dominance. He can play his unique form of the game on any type of wicket and in any country. It is just that one can never be sure when he will get out. The thing that is reassuring is that he would have made a big score or at least a reasonable one.It is just that on a flat track, he becomes a bulldozer as Steyn and his troupe foung out in Chennai.The same as in Multan against Pakistan. He is probably the only batsman in the world who amongst the current playing ones instills fear in bowlers.

  • s_harris on November 10, 2010, 14:01 GMT

    @Wolver: And btw I do agree with your point on Sehwag being a flat track bully. He has performed much better in the subcontinent compared to Aus, Eng, NZ and SA. He has done well in Aus but has a really poor record in Eng, NZ and SA. He really has to make amends to his record in these countries to lay claim to being the Zen Master. He is a great player and I admire him for his ability to out-think the opponents. But I'll reserve my judgement until at least the SA tour...

  • s_harris on November 10, 2010, 13:54 GMT

    @Wolver - Just compared the stats between sachin and kallis. But before I go into it, let me say that I am not making a case for either person.

    in Aus K - 45.75 S - 58.53

    in Bang K - 31.50 S - 136.66

    in Eng K - 29.30 S - 62.00

    in Ind K - 58.46 S - 57.28

    in NZ K - 66.25 S - 49.52

    in Pak K - 83.14 S - 40.25

    in SA K - 56.44 S - 39.76

    in SL K - 35.33 S - 67.94

    in WI K - 55.41 S - 47.69

    in Zim K - 503.00 S - 40.00

    Its interesting to note that Kallis averages better in Ind and Pak - the two countries most known for flat batting tracks. In the seaming countries (SA, Eng, Aust and NZ), they are 2-2. But overall in these 4 countries, Kallis avg is 49.44 while Sachin avg is 52.45. I am ignoring Bang and Zim since stats typically get skewed with these countries which leaves the turners in SL and slow pitches of WI. Sachin has a much higher avg in SL than Kallis does in WI. You decide for yourself who has benefitted more from the flat batting tracks...

  • Proteas123 on November 10, 2010, 7:32 GMT

    @ mrgupta - I was not talking about Tendulkar but you bring it up and make an excellent point. Sachin has failings like the rest of the greats and is hence not the greatest but certainly one of them. The flat track point is very valid, Sachin often gets the chance to play on pathetic flat tracks like the last test and that is why his average will be better than the others and SA batsman generally have lower averages. Sanga and Sehwag have very average records outside of sub-continent. check your facts. Kallis is the greatest of the current era, as he stands up with all the great batsman and is the greatest all-rounder, who can only be challenged by Sobbers.

  • on November 10, 2010, 1:12 GMT

    The article looked awesome to me until I reached line "n the Ahmedabad Test, it became apparent that he was playing the ball while Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman were playing their careers"!!! really?You need not underestimate the efforts of other players to emphasize Sehwag's importance. If you think you have written very excellent article, then you are absolutely wrongg and it implies that you think all the viewers around the world are absolutely fool. Don't try to become writter version of 'Manjerekar' just for the sake of it.

  • mrgupta on November 9, 2010, 21:05 GMT

    @Wolver : People from Aus, Eng or SA love to call Asian batsmen "Flat track" bully even though guys like Sachin, Sehwag and Sanga have great oversea records. Sachin's record in Aus is close to what Ponting has and better than Lara, Viv Richards and Kallis. In Eng Sachin's batting avg is far superior than either of Lara, Kallis, Viv Richards or Ponting. Similarly on the Flat Tracks in India Records for Lara or Ponting are nothing more than ordinary. The only place where Sachin needs to improve his record is in SA where he avg touch under 40 though he has scored 3 100s there. Then So does Kallis needs to improve in Eng (avg 29.3), Ponting in Eng and India (avg 41.79 and 26.48 respectively), Lara cannot improve now but shud have done better in Aus and Eng (41.97 & 48.76 respectively). If you want you can check using statsguru that in the Matches won playing away (Excluding BD and Zim) Sachin's record is hugely superior to Either of Ponting, Lara, Viv Richards and Kallis. Need i say more?

  • Podatik on November 9, 2010, 17:34 GMT

    @ Rumy1: I agree with all of your observations save 1. Kaif, like Yuvraj, has been given several opportunities in tests, but his technique is more suspect than even Yuvraj. I would much prefer Badrinath who seems to possess better technique and temperament than either. Gambhir may be going through a rough patch, but he has the right temperament and his technique is generally good (barring a few bad habits that seem to have crept in). I'm sure that this can be worked out by a good batting coach and application on Gambhir's part. At the risk of inviting anger from all corners, I'd probably like to see the following top-order line-up in SA: Gambhir/Vijay, Sehwag, Laxman, Tendulkar, Pujara, Badrinath, Dhoni.

  • silent_observer on November 9, 2010, 15:49 GMT

    LOL @ Rumy1. You made me to register and post today, which I have resisted, after reading your post. Jaffer and Kaif back in the team? LOL. I agree with you on Gambhir and Raina though.

  • AsherCA on November 9, 2010, 13:52 GMT

    Sehwag's batting style reminds me of the story of Arjun & the parrot's eye, an extract from the Mahabharata that we were taught as kids. The idea behind that story was - keep your eyes & mind focussed on what you need to do - it gives you the best chance of success. Sehwag keeps his eyes & mind focussed on the cricket ball bowled by the bowler in a test match, even the distraction of a run-rate & powerplay are missing. He is therefore able to batter bowlers. Easy to say bowlers can consistently pitch short at him & hustle him. However, given the terror he strikes with awesome shots in the bowlers' hearts, how many of them would be able to focus on putting the ball in the right place for Sehwag (slightly different from the right place for others) consistently ?

  • Venkat_Super_11 on November 9, 2010, 10:36 GMT

    Nobody could have described Sehwag's potential and knack better. Very good article.

  • Rumy1 on November 9, 2010, 8:53 GMT

    Laxman is perhaps the best batsman in world right now. Gambhir must make way for Jaffer. It's time to get the country's best bat who is not in the team back into the team. Technically and temperamentally Jaffer is the most well equipped for No.2 position and is a much better option than Vijay in Tests. Dravid must retire now. He clearly is struggling these days. Time for him to bid adieu. Pujara must be brought back in. Raina must go. He is good for ODIs and T20s but doesn't have the technique or temperament for Tests. No, Yuvraj shouldn't replace Raina. Yuvraj has got enough Test chances and is good for ODIs & T20s like Raina. Rohit like Yuvraj doesn't merit a Test place either. Kaif deserves a Test chance provided Dhoni agrees. Kaif as a wounded tiger will grab the opportunity with both hands and could be a threat for MSD as a potential future Test captain. Else Badrinath merits a Test cap. Ishant needs to be brought back in the Test XI. He is a special talent. Ojha must be persisted

  • Vivek.Bhandari on November 9, 2010, 8:46 GMT

    one thing that you may all have missed is that in the 2nd para, "A year and a half later, a century against the Sri Lankans and a couple of undefeated fifties against South Africa got him a place in the Bloemfontein Test"... I want to point out that Sehwag did make a century in Sri Lanka but not against them. It was against New Zealand in 68 balls, if I remember correctly...

  • Proteas123 on November 9, 2010, 8:16 GMT

    A very dangerous batsman, but at this stage still ultimately a flat track bully. @ Tram - You have it spot on, players should play for the team and not stats, 99 is as good as 100 (Unless team losses by 1 run obviously), Sehwag is great at this, much like Rhodes was and unlike Sachin and Dravid. I do however agree with the others that a team needs a balance of attacking players and accumulaters.

  • justjonty on November 9, 2010, 7:13 GMT

    @ Ahmad Uetian: Mate, your analysis of Sehwag's technique is wrong. If anything, he has got a technique of his own. In his earlier days there was a resemblance to Sachin. He would atleast make an attempt to move towards the ball and get in line. Sehwag (probably post 2007) is his own man. He stands beside the line of the ball and he is always looking to carve the ball through cover and cover point apart from pouncing on the cut. Sachin on the other hand has a classic technique. The kind of technique that I was taught at school. Move in line, still head and foot to the pitch of the ball. Infact, the great thing about Sachin is his ability to change his trigger movement's depending on the bowler and the wicket. On flatter Indian wickets he economizes his movements and his first instinct is to get forward. But on bouncier wickets abroad, he generally shuffles and camps on the back foot. Totally wrong. Sehwag and Sachin hava a similarity on the surface. Their techniques are worlds apart

  • justjonty on November 9, 2010, 7:07 GMT

    I cant believe that some of the comments have actually gone onto thrash this article. This is a perfect analysis of the phenomenon. When Mr. Kesavan says that certain players were playing their career's he doesn't mean that they were playing FOR their careers. It is just that all players carry the baggage of information into every ball that they face. This is the era of information overload. Every player is fed copious quantities of data both about himself and about the opposition. Sehwag's strength lies in his ability to blank everything out. And to this extent Mr. Kesavan's article is pinpoint perfect. And why do all discussions by our "fans" reduce to one player against the other. Everyone in this forum seems to say that Laxman,Dravid and Sachin were as valuable as Sehwag. That is an accepted fact. This article tries to analyze Sehwag as against his peers. This isn't written to run down the other greats. I only wish that readers could bring some perspective to discourse.

  • MaruthuDelft on November 9, 2010, 7:00 GMT

    Wrong timing! Anyone wants to claim Sehwag as a great player now should put it off until Sehwag proves the critics wrong in South Africa. He disappointed in the recently concluded test series against Australia. Although he clearly looks uncomfortable against short pitch bowling I belive he will somehow manage to score a brilliant first innings century against South Africa this time.

  • Christy1268 on November 9, 2010, 5:00 GMT

    Many writers are unhappy with the authoron this article- pl read the last line. This article was printed in the Telegraph and not written for Cricinfo...

  • anoopshameed on November 9, 2010, 4:44 GMT

    @TRAM, see your point mate, but still I stand by my view. The problem with your view is that you expect all matches to be won by 1st innings scores. What are these 6 Sehwags going to do in a 2nd innings chase?-in all probability they are going to be allout within 100. Sehwags can win you a lot of matches but not save you many (not any!- mind you). It's just the way they play-if they play slowly to save a match, we can hardly call them a Sehwag-can we?A successful Test team needs all types of players. Otherwise it's like going with 4 right hand pacers with no spinner or left hand seamer. Also I have no problem with players going for 100 because a 99 is still 1 less than 100 and a match can be won or lost by a single run! So I want all bastmen to try for a 100. Would you accuse a bowler of going for personal glory if he tries to take 5 wickets in a match? These are normal people like us-how many of us are willing to work without pay or reward as long as our company is doing well?

  • Markus971 on November 9, 2010, 4:12 GMT

    Wow you've copped some flack for this article! I Thought it was an O.K opinion piece. Yes he is a 'Master Batsman' -- Over histories Test cricketing eras, Victor Trumper is the One who comes to mind, as His only comparison ... & Vic didn't Win to many matches off his own Bat! I hope V.Sehwag keeps his confidence & his Eye!

  • Longmemory on November 9, 2010, 4:11 GMT

    I think MK's emphasis on protective gear making life easier for batsmen is spot on. Sehwag's brilliant batting (and there is little doubt the man is sheer genius) would not have been possible in the pre-helmet era - unless Viru either mastered the hook or learned how to sway away from the short ball. That's why I've always maintained that cricket statistics ought to indicate (by an * or something) if a batter is from the pre-helmet or the helmet era. Secondly, what is so often forgotten is that Viru entered the team as a middle order bat and hit his debut-century batting at #6. He has accepted the role of opener with little fuss - though even today he is quite frank that his preferred position is in the middle order. The list of India's batters is littered with those who either refused to open in tests after a while (Laxman, Dravid, Vengsarkar) - or agreed to do so and paid a heavy price (Ashok Mankad, Ajay Jadeja) - making Viru's success as an opener all the more remarkable.

  • TRAM on November 9, 2010, 2:22 GMT

    @soorajiyer & mak102480 & Meety & anoopshameed : I completely disagree with your views. If all the 5 or 6 batsmen are agressive like Sehwag, why would that make it risky for the team. Law of probability is half of them would succeed. At least 2 out of 6 Sehwags would succeed and the score would be 500+.

    I hate players playing for 50s 100s and 200s. You guys are completely brainwashed by the Gavaskars/media. A score 100 is superior to 99 by only 1 run for god's sake. Because of the stupid media's appreciation for the 'land-marks' many selfish players have born. Stop this nonsense. Play to win the match. Not for anything else

  • on November 9, 2010, 0:27 GMT

    Why would you compare Sehwag with Gilchrist? Sehwag is a good player alright but Gilchrist wasn't bad either. The latter is the greatest wicket-keeping batsman ever!! Peace :)

  • kirket_lover on November 8, 2010, 19:06 GMT

    @ analyseabhishek -- You have nailed in a few short sentences what the author failed to come up with in such a long article. Before I had my first chance to watch Sehwag in action (The double hundred against Pak in Bangalore in 2005 -- by then he had already made several big scores), I used to think that he was like Afridi or K Srikanth (restlessly go after every ball). But I was pleasantly surprised to see his 'cool' approach. In my view, Sehwag's success comes from his KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) philosophy. I even have a theory that Sehwag's phenomenal success is one of the main reasons why SRT became less of an attacking batsman over the last 5-6 years (injuries, and the lust for records being the other reasons) - maybe SRT figured out that one Sehwag is more than enough in any Test Eleven!

  • Rahulbose on November 8, 2010, 18:36 GMT

    Strange article on Sehwag. To me the reason for his high average is simple, he is the right handed Lara. Only Lara and Sehwag have shown ability to consistently play attacking cricket using orthodox shots for long periods in tests. Consequently they were able to score some real huge individual scores.

    Add to that the fact that he gets to 20-30 odd in double quick time. Usually within the first 5 overs. And the 50+ average starts to sound reasonable.

  • waspsting on November 8, 2010, 16:29 GMT

    have to agree that this article isn't the best written. It says what everyones says and knows about Sehwag - and does so long-windedly. The jibe at the other Indian batsman really wasn't necessary (or true, for that matter) as well

  • Alexk400 on November 8, 2010, 16:18 GMT

    I want sehwag to mature. Because it is not easy to get 290s when u get older and older. When you are there , you make sure you get every ounce of it. Bravado only work for some time. It is all style nothing more. I want to see a sehwag who grinds in second inning and soak up all pressure.

    Curbing his natural attacking play by curbing some strokes if bowler is too good. For example hilfenhaus mastered tennis ball bounce , he should have ducked all his short ball.He did n't , he poked at it two minds or slashed at it. Cat may have 9 lives but you have to think of team needs some time.

    Sehwag time to mature and score serene 502 in a test innings.

  • akasavani on November 8, 2010, 15:15 GMT

    This article is an example of a number of words coming together to mean nothing. This article added nothing to my perspective and opened no new windows to how I perceive Sehwag or modern batting in general.

  • pom_basher on November 8, 2010, 15:01 GMT

    Were you forced to write this article? Even Dravid played his ODIs before his test debut, so does it make him "another child of limited-overs cricket" as well? it was a totally rubbish article... not worth many comments.

  • nish075 on November 8, 2010, 13:11 GMT

    Why in the world would anyone waste time dishing out this tripe? Over-analyzing every single thing just to say in the end that Sehwag is a very simple man in that he doesn't take time to worry about little things. If Sehwag ever saw such an article describing him, god knows what he would say!

  • Cool_Jeeves on November 8, 2010, 12:48 GMT

    Another example of lazy writing by Mr.Kesavan. Always reaching conclusions on the basis of gut feel / intuition and generally in the habit of underestimating his readers' intelligence.

  • Rohit-Gore on November 8, 2010, 11:41 GMT

    Mukul,

    Mate, why are you being so overtly pedantic when the man you are talking about embodies 'no clutter'? I have liked your articles over the years, but this one is an exception. I hope it is the only one. You can be much more original than this and you need not regurgitate what has been said countless number of times, especially in the commentary box by the likes of Ian Chappell and Sunil Gavaskar.

  • number-09 on November 8, 2010, 11:39 GMT

    This article is devoid of poetry.

  • anoopshameed on November 8, 2010, 10:52 GMT

    Sehwag is a good test batsman-personally I don't think he is a Great! It is not the 'flat pitch bully' thing-he has done well away too. Rather it is the 1st innings-2nd innings thing. His average is about 70 in 1st team innings with 21 centuries. But it is just about 30 in 2nd innings with a single ton though the strike rate is almost the same. Also I beleive what Sehwag is today, has a lot to do with the batsmen who come after him-it's their presence that allows him to play the way he does. For example just take West Indies. Even though Sehwag and Chris Gayle are two different personalities they do have a similar approach in batting-but one is called careless and irresponsible and the other Great! I don't think any team will be successful playing 6 Sehwags-infact more than one would be a huge risk!

  • Percy_Fender on November 8, 2010, 10:47 GMT

    Mukul Kesavan's attempt to describe the genius of Virender Sehwag as having been the result of his baptism at the international level earlier in the ODIs is far from convincing. It was just happenstance that he made a mark as a batsman in the Bangalore ODI against Australia in 2001 when his core competence at that stage was really his off spin bowling.That he batted superbly went to show that he had in him undisputed batting skills.He is a great Test batsman because he is very courageous and possibly light hearted.His percieved weakness againt the short ball is not because he is scared. It is because his stance is probably too wide for him to get into position to hook freely.Another big reason for his Test match success is his insatiable appetite for big scores.These innings linger in one's memory.Apart from that his breath-taking scoring rate is too daunting for the bowlers.Sehwags happen once in a lifetime.Let us just savour the batting of this genius without any rationalisation.

  • Meety on November 8, 2010, 10:41 GMT

    @soorajiyer - exactly right. I said on an article about Kirsten, I see Sehwag having a few problems a few years from now, I don't think Father Time will be kind to him as he relys alot on hand/eye coordination, & I think that he will be troubled when the safety cushion of Dravid/SRT/VVS retire, unless the new breed are of similar capabilities to the aging masters. Could be wrong - maybe he has the talent to reign in his instinct & grind out more methodical tons (don't think so)!

  • on November 8, 2010, 10:33 GMT

    An effort of writing like this does not deconstruct the violent hierarchies of content medium duality in a classical sense but instead buldozes the content in an effort to realign the medium on top. The resultant is a pathetic cricket article deprived of any poetry, analysis or evidence. It definitely needs no character assasisnation of the likes of Sachin, Dravid or Laxman to credit Sehwag of his natural ability, nor does the writer need to attribute his success to helmet or lack of more bowlers like McGrath. Biography writing is usually a simpler genre than the complicated struggle of the writer here. This is ironical in some sense that this was intended as an ode to the uncomplicated approach to cricket by Sehwag.

  • on November 8, 2010, 10:31 GMT

    The First ODI Century he is talkin about was made against New Zealand in Sri Lanka and those 50's were against Kenya in the Tri-Series in South Africa. He had also made a half century against the Aussies in India in the 5 match ODI series prior to that.

  • trust_27 on November 8, 2010, 10:27 GMT

    Sehwag to me is the only player who never cares about his own achievement otherwise no one will ever thing of reaching milestones by hitting or going for the big hits even when at 195 or 293 when just 7 runs separates you from a record which is not yet achieved by anyone else. If sachin, VVS or Dravid are such a great player then why was the indian test records so dismal before Sehwag was the permanent openers. The number of wining was minimal compared to loss or draws. All of the Three highly rated player play for themselves or records not for the sake of wining for the country and where were these greats when they were asked to represent India in the only commonwealth games where cricket were included. You agree or not these players play for themselves and records behind there names. Check 2003 world cup final check the short in which Sachin got out...any reason for that?

  • on November 8, 2010, 9:44 GMT

    This article is based on 2 fundamentally wrong analogies. 1. If 2 people are unorthodox that by no means imply they are similar 2. Tendulkar's technique is not at all similar to Viv Richards. Sehwag's Technique is similar to that of Tendulkar's, if at all it is similar to anybody. That is why he at first glance appears to be Tendulkar. Sehwag & Tendulkar both have very simple technique which is based on economy of foot movement, good balance, upright posture and presenting full face of blade to ball. That is why these two guys are very consistent and always score runs whereas Yuvraj on the other hand has a relatively complex technique that is why he is a form player like Lara. Besides Sehwag doesn't care about situation of the game and always plays his natural game for ball one unlike Sehwag Yuvi is emotional person. He plays tentatively in beginning of innings and that brings his downfall. Contrary to Yuvi Sehwag is the best player of spin which he proved in SL time & again

  • mak102480 on November 8, 2010, 9:02 GMT

    @ soorajiyer....one of the more sensible comments I have seen on here...u r spot on. Not just in test matches but in ODIs, there are many matches where sehwag just throws his wicket away...but that is how he plays and that free style of play is only possible of the batters to follow him (in both formats)...that's the beauty of his game. we take the bad with the good ONLY 'cos we know there is quality batters to follow. If everybody played like him, then there would be a LOT of batting collapses.

  • sanzo5 on November 8, 2010, 8:53 GMT

    is that a joke???? dravid sachin and lax playing for careers???? in a team of 11 players everyone plays for the team and also for their careeers.... sehwags batting style is in such a way that he can only attack more than defend.... he is not a dravid or sachin or a laxman to play according to the situation and he has been geven the license to do whatever he wants to do by the team management.... each player in the team has a role and they are doing it....

  • analyseabhishek on November 8, 2010, 7:14 GMT

    Sehwag is a phenomenon which will always present a curious case to the enthusiasts. I can think of the following reasons for his success- 1. He self admittedly focuses only on the next ball- not the bowler or conditions. People familiar with the game know how difficult putting this simple sentence to practice is. 2. He manages to prevent the bowlers from bowling well- a fact acknowledged by Ian Chappell a1s well when he compared him to Bradman for this particular trait. 3. Field settings as well as bowling in tests are aggressive- this suits his style of taking an additional amount of risks for his stroke-play Furthermore, as Mukul writes here, his shots are mostly classical and as Boycott has pointed out, his defense is much more compact than, let's say, Yuvraj. All these still cannot fully explain how exactly he bats the way he does- while others of an equally star-studded batting line up struggle to keep pace on the same pitch against the same bowlers!

  • Gulshan_Grover on November 8, 2010, 7:01 GMT

    What a batsman! Unlike others he is not a flat track bully either. Checkout his record in SA and Australia, it is glorious. He has given India so many chances to win so many test matches by demoralizing the opposition on day one. Plus no team sets a cutsie 4rth inning target for India knowing the Sehwag factor. His contribution has been immense.

  • aadi99 on November 8, 2010, 6:41 GMT

    Sehwag bats very simply and yet you have described that in the most complex way possible. Keep it simple, your article gives your writing ability more attention than Sehwag's batting ability. It's really the Harsha Bhogle style of writing, makes no sense to an average reader.

  • on November 8, 2010, 6:32 GMT

    sweet article ........................................... 25 characters? really? why?

  • soorajiyer on November 8, 2010, 6:32 GMT

    Listen there is one thing though.. A team cannot have 5 sehwags as batsmen - Because of the cushion Dravid/Lax and Sachin give him, sehwag can afford to play the way he plays!! I love Sehwag as much as I love the other three I mentioned here, but thats the truth!

  • Alexk400 on November 8, 2010, 6:01 GMT

    Sehwag and zen master is Opposite spectrum. There is vulcano brewing inside on every ball. He just can't control it. He just hides it now more than before. Real Zen master is Dravid. He blanks his mind by saying he is in the crease to not to score runs.

    Sehwag problem is that he feel he is in the crease to score on every ball or time is wasted.

    Sehwag does to need solve that Short pitch ball stuff . May be he can learn from VVS laxman

    Key in playing short ball is pivot and rotate hips fast. Buy rotating hips he can avoid or smash the short ball. Sometime people get caught in two minds and get hit in the helmet that is ok.

    Also sehwag has to give up ego.

  • on November 8, 2010, 5:56 GMT

    A year and a half later, a century against the Sri Lankans... - you mean against the Kiwis, don't you?

  • jimbond on November 8, 2010, 5:56 GMT

    Mukul's bioline also says historian- but I wonder whether any academicians worth their salt can make statements like 'he was playing the ball while Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman were playing their careers' My guess is, every player based on his form, style, and the context he is in, plays in a particular way. Sehwag is an exception and needs to be recognized as such. Dravid, Tendulkar, and Laxman have played several valuable innings in the past, when Sehwag (the player who plays by the ball) may have failed. Cricket is a team game, and we require different people to gel together to come up with responsible innings when the others dont do that well. Its journalists like Mukul and Harsha who try to swim with the tide, and take a deifying and myopic view of the game.

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  • jimbond on November 8, 2010, 5:56 GMT

    Mukul's bioline also says historian- but I wonder whether any academicians worth their salt can make statements like 'he was playing the ball while Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman were playing their careers' My guess is, every player based on his form, style, and the context he is in, plays in a particular way. Sehwag is an exception and needs to be recognized as such. Dravid, Tendulkar, and Laxman have played several valuable innings in the past, when Sehwag (the player who plays by the ball) may have failed. Cricket is a team game, and we require different people to gel together to come up with responsible innings when the others dont do that well. Its journalists like Mukul and Harsha who try to swim with the tide, and take a deifying and myopic view of the game.

  • on November 8, 2010, 5:56 GMT

    A year and a half later, a century against the Sri Lankans... - you mean against the Kiwis, don't you?

  • Alexk400 on November 8, 2010, 6:01 GMT

    Sehwag and zen master is Opposite spectrum. There is vulcano brewing inside on every ball. He just can't control it. He just hides it now more than before. Real Zen master is Dravid. He blanks his mind by saying he is in the crease to not to score runs.

    Sehwag problem is that he feel he is in the crease to score on every ball or time is wasted.

    Sehwag does to need solve that Short pitch ball stuff . May be he can learn from VVS laxman

    Key in playing short ball is pivot and rotate hips fast. Buy rotating hips he can avoid or smash the short ball. Sometime people get caught in two minds and get hit in the helmet that is ok.

    Also sehwag has to give up ego.

  • soorajiyer on November 8, 2010, 6:32 GMT

    Listen there is one thing though.. A team cannot have 5 sehwags as batsmen - Because of the cushion Dravid/Lax and Sachin give him, sehwag can afford to play the way he plays!! I love Sehwag as much as I love the other three I mentioned here, but thats the truth!

  • on November 8, 2010, 6:32 GMT

    sweet article ........................................... 25 characters? really? why?

  • aadi99 on November 8, 2010, 6:41 GMT

    Sehwag bats very simply and yet you have described that in the most complex way possible. Keep it simple, your article gives your writing ability more attention than Sehwag's batting ability. It's really the Harsha Bhogle style of writing, makes no sense to an average reader.

  • Gulshan_Grover on November 8, 2010, 7:01 GMT

    What a batsman! Unlike others he is not a flat track bully either. Checkout his record in SA and Australia, it is glorious. He has given India so many chances to win so many test matches by demoralizing the opposition on day one. Plus no team sets a cutsie 4rth inning target for India knowing the Sehwag factor. His contribution has been immense.

  • analyseabhishek on November 8, 2010, 7:14 GMT

    Sehwag is a phenomenon which will always present a curious case to the enthusiasts. I can think of the following reasons for his success- 1. He self admittedly focuses only on the next ball- not the bowler or conditions. People familiar with the game know how difficult putting this simple sentence to practice is. 2. He manages to prevent the bowlers from bowling well- a fact acknowledged by Ian Chappell a1s well when he compared him to Bradman for this particular trait. 3. Field settings as well as bowling in tests are aggressive- this suits his style of taking an additional amount of risks for his stroke-play Furthermore, as Mukul writes here, his shots are mostly classical and as Boycott has pointed out, his defense is much more compact than, let's say, Yuvraj. All these still cannot fully explain how exactly he bats the way he does- while others of an equally star-studded batting line up struggle to keep pace on the same pitch against the same bowlers!

  • sanzo5 on November 8, 2010, 8:53 GMT

    is that a joke???? dravid sachin and lax playing for careers???? in a team of 11 players everyone plays for the team and also for their careeers.... sehwags batting style is in such a way that he can only attack more than defend.... he is not a dravid or sachin or a laxman to play according to the situation and he has been geven the license to do whatever he wants to do by the team management.... each player in the team has a role and they are doing it....

  • mak102480 on November 8, 2010, 9:02 GMT

    @ soorajiyer....one of the more sensible comments I have seen on here...u r spot on. Not just in test matches but in ODIs, there are many matches where sehwag just throws his wicket away...but that is how he plays and that free style of play is only possible of the batters to follow him (in both formats)...that's the beauty of his game. we take the bad with the good ONLY 'cos we know there is quality batters to follow. If everybody played like him, then there would be a LOT of batting collapses.