Ed Smith
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Former England, Kent and Middlesex batsman; writer for the New Statesman

The pragmatic art of Virender Sehwag

He has reached an understanding with his own flaws, refused to compromise his strengths, and stayed true to himself

Ed Smith

November 21, 2012

Comments: 84 | Text size: A | A

Virender Sehwag hits out during his 38 off 33, India v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Bangalore, 4th day, September 3, 2012
Sehwag: attack calls for technique too © Associated Press

The conventional definition of mental strength is much too narrow. Mental strength is not only about guts and determination, sacrifice and suffering. It is also about holding your nerve, about protecting your self-belief under criticism. It is about saying: "I know what works for me. Sometimes my style of play will look terrible. But over time, I will deliver. And I won't become like everyone else just to avoid criticism." That takes real guts, too. In fact, the justified refusal to compromise your strengths is the ultimate form of mental strength.

By that measure, Virender Sehwag has exceptional mental strength. As he approaches his 100th Test match, we will hear a lot about Sehwag's remarkable hand-eye coordination, his natural ball-striking, his gift of timing and power. But those strengths needed to be nurtured, to be protected from the many voices that demanded that Sehwag curb his natural instincts and play a different way. Sehwag mastered one of the hardest tricks in sport: he reached an accommodation with his own flaws. He recognised that he could not iron out his weaknesses without losing his voice. In simple terms, he stayed true to himself. The whole game is much richer because he did just that.

I first watched Sehwag when Kent played India in 2002. Even then, there was a lot of talk about what he couldn't do - that he couldn't resist going for his shots, that he got out too easily, that he didn't adapt. I noticed something different. It wasn't the way he hit the bad balls for four. It was the way he dispatched the good ones. The bowlers ran up and bowled on a length; Sehwag then drove those length balls for four, all along the ground, with very little apparent risk. Not many players can do that. It was a pattern that would be repeated for 100 Tests.

If Sehwag's mental resilience is underestimated, so is his technique - at least certain strands of his technique. What struck me that day in 2002 was the purity of his bat swing, how squarely the bat face met the ball on impact. And how often he middled the ball.

Isn't that, surely, a central component of a "good technique"? Yes, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar developed more sophisticated techniques that could adapt to difficult pitches. And adaptability, of course, is the ultimate gauge of the ideal all-round technique. But in terms of a technique that makes the best possible contact with a ball flying in a straight line at 85mph, I do not think I've seen a better one than Sehwag's. God-given talent alone - a good eye and fast hands - will not allow you to hit that many balls for four.

Cricket has long misunderstood technique. For too long, the word has been wrongly linked to obduracy and self-denial. Technique is simply a set of skills that allows you to respond to the challenges of your sport. It is as much about attacking options as watertight defence. It is Lionel Messi's exceptional technique, his control of the ball, that allows him to play with such flair for Barcelona. It is Roger Federer's basic technique that allows him to play such a dazzling array of shots from any part of the tennis court.

So it is with Sehwag. It is his technical mastery of attacking shots that puts extraordinary pressure on the bowler. I remember hearing from Stuart Clark when Australia were about to play the Rest of the World XI in 2005. "Just had a bowlers' meeting," Clark explained, "the area of the pitch we're supposed to land it on against Sehwag is about two millimetres by two millimetres!" A fraction full: expect to be driven for four. A fraction short: expect to be punched off the back foot for four.

Sehwag takes boundary hitting very seriously. It is a skill borne of deep attention to detail: you don't become so good at something without loving it. Many great batsmen sit in the dressing room talking about how the players in the middle are missing out on singles. Sehwag, apparently, pipes up when someone misses an attacking opportunity. "He missed a four!" he will say regretfully.

In terms of a technique that makes the best possible contact with a ball flying in a straight line at 85mph, I do not think I've seen a better one than Sehwag's. God-given talent alone will not allow you to hit that many balls for four

He also knows which bowlers to target. Aakash Chopra recalls how ruthlessly Sehwag seized on the most vulnerable bowler. He knew exactly which bowlers he could destroy. That takes intelligence as well as self-awareness. And it is a huge benefit to the team. A batsman who can "knock out" one of the opposition's bowlers changes the whole balance of the match. If one bowler effectively cannot bowl when Sehwag is at the wicket, then the others tire much more quickly.

Like all great players, Sehwag developed a game that suited him. Dravid once told me that Brian Lara and Tendulkar were so talented that they could regularly score Test hundreds in three or four hours. But Dravid felt he had to be prepared to bat for more like five or six hours for his hundreds. Quite simply, in order to score as heavily as Lara and Tendulkar, Dravid thought he had to bat for more balls. Every batsman has to face up to a version of that calculation: what is my natural tempo, what is the appropriate amount of risk for my game?

But there are two sides to that equation. First, there is time. Secondly, there is run rate. Dravid calculated that he possessed the defensive technique and psychological skills to spend more time in the middle than most great players. So he would compromise on run rate and extend his occupation of the crease.

Sehwag asked the same question but reached the opposite conclusion. Instead of facing more balls, how about scoring more runs off the balls that he did face? Sehwag's judgement of his own game, just like Dravid's, has been fully vindicated by his record. Here is the crucial point. Sehwag's approach is not "reckless" or "naïve". It is deeply pragmatic.

Steve Waugh said that Sehwag is the ultimate "KISS" player: Keep It Simple, Stupid. But that is easier said than done. After a series of nicks to the slips, it would have been tempting for Sehwag completely to remodel his technique. But he had the courage to stick to his method and the conviction that when he got back on a pitch that suited him, he would make it pay. After a sparkling hundred in his 99th Test, Sehwag now reaches another century. He is looking to be proved right yet again.

Former England, Kent and Middlesex batsman Ed Smith's new book, Luck - What It Means and Why It Matters, is out now. His Twitter feed is here

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Posted by prashant1 on (November 23, 2012, 3:46 GMT)

Truly excellent article.

Posted by itsthewayuplay on (November 22, 2012, 18:32 GMT)

@ harshthakor Sehwag cannot be compared to Sir Viv in any way. Sir Viv was a leader of men and earned respect of his teammates and opponents, he played on truly green top, chose not to wear a helmet and kept himself in good shape. Sehwag is over-rated, a product of the media and flat wickets and too much ghee

Posted by AmarAjs on (November 22, 2012, 18:26 GMT)

"In Chennai against Australia in 2004, I think, he scored 150 odd in the first innings against among Magrath, Gillespie and Warne. India needed about 210 to win the game with one day and a session. Sehwag had hit 4 fours and India had reached around 20 for no loss when the rains came and the match was washed off." till today i feel for that match india lost series 2-1, if that match would have played with 10 wicket in hand and 210 to make in 90 overs, we could have draw the series and trophy would would be with India

Posted by vishnuas on (November 22, 2012, 17:15 GMT)

if we try to think without much complications, on any day, on any surface, the opposition will be happy to play a side without sehwag. i.e., a player making an impact even before the start of a match. this has been the case for last 10 years. and, on the contrary, sehwag on anyday is eager to take on any opposition, anywhere. and for me that is greatness and that is why some players stand out.

Posted by ajaym55 on (November 22, 2012, 16:33 GMT)

Brilliant article! How do you save a Cricinfo article? I would like to refresh my memory few years from now when Sehwag retires about the impact he had for Team India.

Posted by Arrow011 on (November 22, 2012, 13:36 GMT)

I would always rate Sehwag way above Viv richards is because Viv was in world No. 1 team, other teams were like minnows when WI ruled, other bowlers were less capable to take wickets, Viv destroyed them but India always had a poor bowling attack, Viru would only practice with these low quality bowlers in nets but still dominated many attacks worldwide. Viru also has better strike rate than Viv, Gilly, Jayasuriya in tests but also averages 51 which is more than all above. Sehwag is the only match winner in Indian team, others are good triers but not like Sehwag.

Posted by moBlue on (November 22, 2012, 13:23 GMT)

the following are facts which do not support the "flat track bully" assertion... sehwag scored a century in his very first test inning [on test debut] in SA at blomfontein on a fast track with IND reeling at 68 for 4 when he walked in! sehwag mauled ENG at lords in his first test inning as opener (he made 84). he scored 195 before tea at the MCG against oz. he averages 47 in oz with 2 tons (!!!) and has a ton each in ENG, SA and WI... now let us compare this with ponting's record in the subcontinent where ponting has scored 1 ton in IND and 1 ton in SL out of a total of 23 tests against IND, SL and PAK. why is ponting such a great player and sehwag a "flat track bully"?!? at least, sehwag has more tons (6) and a better average outside the subcontinent than ponting does (2) outside his subcontinent! ...and sehwag is way more entertaining than ponting, sachin, kallis or lara!!! ...and he averages over 50 in test cricket!!! ...and he has out IND on the winning path many times in tests!!!

Posted by   on (November 22, 2012, 11:42 GMT)

In order to correctly assess his quality - Statsguru of Cricinfo should get the amount of runs scored by all the so called greats of all non-subcontinental teams in sub-continent pitches and compare with that of Shewag. I am sure that Shewag will be on the top of the table and will be thumping winner. In cricket the skills are not measured only of capacity to play swinging ball but also turning/spinning deliveries and also in slow tracks.

Posted by MaruthuDelft on (November 22, 2012, 11:39 GMT)

People expected Sehwag to do well in the last SA tour; failed. Englad tour; failed. Australian tour; failed. He is still playing because it is India. Therefore you can't say he held onto 'it' while others couldn't. An Australian wouldn't have got a chance to be in the team to prove he would do what he always did. Sehwag scored some runs in Eng, Aus and SA when he was not noticed. When the bowlers targeted him he was nothing. And a player who doesn't pull and hook sufficiently doesn't deserve praising articles like this. I am afraid Tendulkar too falls into that category.

Posted by DaisonGarvasis on (November 22, 2012, 11:32 GMT)

When I dont wanna move from the TV when Sehwag is batting and when I take a toilet break when Sehwag gets out - I know many others are the same - it just tells me, right technique or wrong technique when he gets going he gets the going.

Posted by Percy_Fender on (November 22, 2012, 10:51 GMT)

This is in response to Craig Chan. In his first test, he and Sachin scored centuries on a green top in Bloemfontein against Pollock, Hayward,Kallis, Klusner and Ntini. India scored just 300 odd despite the two 100s. Sehwag came in when India was 60 for 4 or so. In Multan he scored 300 odd against Shoaib Akhtar and co at their peak. In Chennai he scored 300 plus against Steyn and co at their sizzling best and in Melbourne he scored 195 in 233 balls on afirst day wicket. After he got out just before close of play, India collapsed and lost the game. In Chennai against Australia in 2004, I think, he scored 150 odd in the first innings against among Magrath, Gillespie and Warne. India needed about 200 to win the game with one day and a session. Sehwag had hit 4 fours and India had reached around 20 for no loss when the rains came and the match was washed off. He has been the most fearless batsman the world has seen. Much like Mushtaq Ali was in the 40s

Posted by   on (November 22, 2012, 9:03 GMT)

No one can question Sewag's brilliance. Test cricket became more popular in India after Sewag's arrival, a great entertainer! He has been undobtedly successfull in entertaining cricket fans all over world. yes, there were occassions where Sewag was in the threat of throwing out of team due to his frequent careless dismissals. But he sticked on to his mind, continued playing his natural game, awsome mental strength, we could observe lively, even after playing 200 test matchces and 460 ODI, Tendulkar still struggling to cope up with pressure... hats off to this guy... he has proved through his carreer that one has to stick on to what our mind says and be confident then our life will be successful... The pressure that he creates on the opposition bowlers will last till the end of the match whatver may be his runs on the scoreboard, 10, 20, 25 or 30.. doesn;t matters. thats why he is been considerd as a TRUE FEARLESS MATCH WINNER! All the best on his 100th test match. We love you Viru!

Posted by harshthakor on (November 22, 2012, 6:38 GMT)

In terms of pure domination of bowling Sehwag ranks in the Viv Richard's class.No Indian batsman has ever been as destructive as Sehwag who in full flow resembled a bomber destroying an airbase.Sehwag has a penchant for mammoth scores more than any Indian batsmen ever,similar to Brian Lara.Arguably,Sehwag is the best match-winning Indian batsman of all with natural talent in the Lara class.His devastating batting in the 1st 10 overs is with Adam Gilchrist the closest to Viv Richards.His innings at Multan v Pakistan in 2004 is one of the best innings ever and arguably with Don Bradman's 334 and Wally Hammond's 336 the best 300+ effort ever.His 83 at Calcutta in 2008-09 on bad wicket in a run chase was a classic.Sehwag's square driving has an element of genius unparalleled.

Sadly,temperament let done this star ,who was arguably the closest to Viv Richards in the modern day.

Posted by satchander on (November 22, 2012, 4:25 GMT)

Past is past. I agree his past record in Aus, SA, NZ record is good but lets stop living in the past always. He was terrible last year in Eng (the 2 matches he played) and ofcourse in Aus where again he failed miserably. He might have scored heavily in 2003-04 in Aus but bowlers clearly had worked him out this time in 2011-2012. As of last couple of yeard he is good for flat sub-continental tracks only. We clearly need someone else for playing abroad. Otherwise we will definitely see a score of 20/1 all the time with Pujara walking out to bat. I still get joy watching him when he scores a hundred but get more frustrated when that sort of joy happens only once in say 20-30 innings !!!!

Posted by joseyesu on (November 22, 2012, 3:52 GMT)

Only few have the gift to change the game. Jayasuriya, Gilchrist, Lara, Gayle, Warner (already 120+ against SA), Sehwag, Yuvraj, Pieterson and Murali, Warne

Posted by USIndianFan on (November 22, 2012, 3:02 GMT)

Among openers, probably in the top 10-20 of all time. From India, definitely in the top 5.

Posted by Nampally on (November 22, 2012, 1:51 GMT)

As long as Sehwag is at the crease he is the Governor General of the crease. There is no other batsman in the world who dominates the bowlers so completely. To watch a long innings from Sehwag is real thrill of life, especually for an Indian fan. His dominance on the Asian wickets has been total. On the overseas pitches he had difficulty in getting his rythm mainly because of irregular ball bounce. If Sehwag had modified his technique on such pitches with discipline & little more patience till he is set, he would have been just as successful. His failures abroad have many fans calling him "reckless".But Sehwag believes in providing entertainment to the thousands of Fans. He always believes that his willow should dominate the leather. That is the only approach he knows & will be lost if he mocifies it. The Indian selectors have accepted that fact & let him play his own way. So Sehwag will go down as the greatest entertaining batsmen ever produced, irrespective of the Format or Venue!

Posted by Alexk400 on (November 22, 2012, 1:31 GMT)

I know sehwag is not Flat track bully. The issue with sehwag is many highs and many lows. It is just that lows happened in overseas. Sehwag can play any surface. The guy see the 90mph ball like big globe can defend in swinging condition. Issue is does he aware that his slashing do not work in swinging condition? Someone needs to make his brain understand. He needs some caution until he gets to 50. That said sehwag play super when he is happy. When he is not happy and act like crab , he messes up. So for me dhoni job is other than doing his captaincy and he must make sehwag happy. He is his truimph card. Unhappy sehwag is no good for anyone. He is best batsman ever if he put his brain for team's cause.

Posted by Leonb on (November 22, 2012, 1:16 GMT)

@Shehan_W I think you will find that there were plenty of attacking cricketers before Jayasuriya! Jessop and Trumper to name 2 from 100 years ago! Trumper - 104 before lunch on day 1 in 1902; Jessop 104 in 75 minutes also 1902; Then I guess there is Bradman - 300 in a day, Doug Walters scored a centry in a session a few times in the 70's ... I dont think Jayasuriya pioneered it.

Posted by caught_knott_bowled_old on (November 22, 2012, 1:06 GMT)

@Al_Bundy1 .. call him what you will, but Viru is brilliant. Even if, as you say, he's a "flat-track bully" his performances have been better than anyone else and more importantly, his impact has been greater on the opposition. He has knocked the wind out of the opposition bowlers and completely demoralized them. And truth be told, he's also made India's #3 and 4 batsmen look ordinary when the labour around at a SR of 45.00 A Strike Rate of nearly 100 in 100 Test matches AND an average of 50 - Unparalleled!! No wonder Ian Chappell, whose opinion I respect, picked Viru in his All-ime World XI.

Posted by   on (November 22, 2012, 1:02 GMT)

Sehwag's is a great player when conditions are favorable. His capitalizes big time and nothing wrong with it. Not so when the conditions are tough. In Sehwag's case, he has very few outstanding performances in all conditions. Secondly, most of his big scores are on tracks where others have scored heavily as well and total match scores have been huge. Just look at the aggregate match scores and what percentage of total runs has Sehwag scores for a match. Sehwag has rarely shown the ability to bat on tricky pitches where others have struggled. Show me examples of such innings and I will say he is a great player. In away matches Sehwag averages 46, 27, 20 and 25 against Austalia, England, New Zealand, South Africa. Not great by any means!

Posted by Simoc on (November 22, 2012, 0:40 GMT)

Sehwag intimidates bowlers which is half the battle won. Under pressure to put the ball in the right spot, they're more likely to stuff up. Always entertaining.

Posted by cricspecial on (November 21, 2012, 22:48 GMT)

being a batsman and playing 100 test for cricket mad country like india itself speaks greatness of the man,, he will be among the most daring players to have played this game (taking risk to hit six after reaching 90+), all the best wishes to veeru bhai ,hope he stays fit and continue for another 5 years or so as this show must go on........

Posted by Mitcher on (November 21, 2012, 22:09 GMT)

If we're talking about a complete arrogance that prevents a man from making any changes that would fix a woeful record on challenging pitches, then I agree wholeheartedly, Sehwag has stayed true to himself. Is this too anti-Indian to be posted?...

Posted by huffpost on (November 21, 2012, 20:53 GMT)

His technique and confidence apart, sehwag very rarely lets the pressure of the match situation get to him...he bats the same way whether its the final of a world cup or the first game against a minnow like BD....hope that he entertains all of us for a few more years....Overall .. a truly fitting article...the author truly hit the nail on the head..

Posted by Jaffa79 on (November 21, 2012, 20:48 GMT)

How old is Sehwag? Great bat but he looks and moves like a 60 year old. That boy is going to be a unit when he gives up playing.

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 20:27 GMT)

The batsman with an uncluttered mindset- whether it be batting in 90's... chasing 300+ in 50 overs.. batting first on a bouncy track.. it's all the same for him.. He doesnt know what is nervousness... His talent is natural and his mindset too.. that's his strength...

Posted by Jose on (November 21, 2012, 20:25 GMT)

This is the best insightful article I read about Viru, since rest of the commentators either bash him for his flops with his (mis) adventurous strokes and praises fully for his run-a-ball centuries.

Every great (or even an average) cricketer possess a set of skills and flaws, however the success depends on how one can understand, conceal and attenuate his flaws and dominate opponents with his skills. As Ed mentioned, Sehwag has great mental strength to deal with his own flaws, and thats what is making him successful. Perhaps, only issue that is playing on his mind is his bitter relation with his Captain.

Posted by Sateesh on (November 21, 2012, 18:34 GMT)

Veeru.. Down to earth..Plain thinking.. No second thoughts..Confident, immense mental strngth.. a prefect team man.. He scored all those records while facing fresh New ball srtike bowlers.. No opener in the history has this avergae, this srikerrate and records.. its possible only by a Maverick named Veeru from Najafgarh ..There are some players who are technically sound and want the ball to loose its shine before they come in to score runs.. Need to be brave enough to score hundreds with the technique he has as an opener..

Posted by Ganesh1015 on (November 21, 2012, 18:17 GMT)

Sehwag's oversea's record is not that bad...he averages 44.73 in 51 away matches with SR of over 85, 10 centuries and 12 fifties .... 195 at MCG, 106 in England, 105 in SA, 201 in SL, 180 in WI, 151 at Adelaide, 309 in Pak, 2 amazing hundreds in NZ when other batsmen struggled to reach even 50…..I guess I covered all the major test playing nations….this probably proves he is not a flat track bully ….. I am not praising him because he scored a century I was the one who felt he should be dropped if he fails again bcos I felt he lost the Aura and felt bowlers stopped fearing Sehwag …glad he proved me wrong....but if he gets dropped would I wake up at 02:30am to watch Ind play NZ in NZ or would I stay awake until 03:00am if v r playing against Windies in WI, may be not….. he just brings sheer joy and happiness with his batting and yes if Sangakarra, Mahela, Ponting are cnsidered greats Sehwag atleast deserves better rating than them

Posted by McGorium on (November 21, 2012, 18:09 GMT)

@Al_Bundy1: You would be right, except for a minor detail of an average in Aus of nearly 47, big hundreds (195 in Melbourne, 151 in Adelaide) and over 1000 runs in 11 matches. Yes, aussie pitches these days aren't green-tops, but even Adelaide, the slowest of them all, is quicker than the quickest subcontinental wicket. He fails often -- in statistical terms, his returns have high standard deviation -- but who cares? Consider the alternate scenario in the past wherein India were touring Aus with Sanjay Bangar/M. Vijay/Aakash Chopra/Gambhir, and Dravid walks in after 10 overs, with the score at 20/1. As opposed to 50/1. Remember too, that he's not an opening batsman and has always coveted the #4 slot. For someone who's never opened at domestic level, he's been top notch. He doesn't have to be greater than Tendulkar or Dravid to be called great. (BTW, both SRT and RD have poor records in SAF.)

Posted by voice_of_reason on (November 21, 2012, 18:05 GMT)

Ask cricket fans around the world who they would leave the bar to watch and there's not many at the moment. I'm not thinking of your T20 bullies either. I mean those who can cut it in all forms of the game. Sehwag is definitely one, along with Gayle and KP. Then I'm struggling to think of any more. I suppose it's beguiling to watch the skill of Ajmal but he's not the entertainer that Warne was in his pomp. I used to love watching Warne, even though it usually spelled doom for England. Gilchrist and Brett Lee were two more that were a thrill a minute. Flintoff and Lara played in teams that lost more than they won but always gave their supporters hope and were great to watch. They all had/have a certain something about them that others lack, even though they are either more successful or technically superior.

Posted by Sateesh on (November 21, 2012, 18:00 GMT)

To score 300 + scores and score 100's on NZ green tops and score 200 runs out of 300 in SL test on Spin pitch and score 196 on green MCG Boxing day test, Highscore IN ODIs and especially with the technique he has .. is Unbelivable and need a lot of courage , confidence. Every commnetator says they would pay to watch Sehwag anytime.

Even the batsman with the best of technique find it difficult to get after the bowlers and dont dare to take a risk. Here comes the batsman who thinks bat is there to hit boundary with a perfect hand-eye co-ordination. More than that its the belief that you hit any ball.

Its very rare that we come across these types of players in lifetime. Indian cricket is changed because of this postive attitude. It will be never be same after Sehwag.. Hatts off Veeru..

Posted by Al_Bundy1 on (November 21, 2012, 17:57 GMT)

People may or may not agree with Sehwag's abilities, but 2 things are certain - he is an entertainer, and whenever he scores a century, India wins. Case in point - recently concluded Ahmedabad test. The opposite is true for 10dulkar. Whenever he scores a century - we lose. That has been 100% true in last 2 years. It's time we got rid of this most over hyped batsman of all time. I want India to win, I don't care if some one scores a century or not.

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 17:41 GMT)

India did well overseas whenever Shewag did well. Look at his stats in SA, Aus, Pakistan, or SL and you will see an Indian win. If Shewag failed India lost mostly. Of late India is doing poorly bcoz Shewag failed. Jayasuriya, Shewag, Watson, Gayle, gilchrist, belong to such a mode ... They attack even in test matches. Some became openers just as a tactical ploy. It worked!

Posted by jango_moh on (November 21, 2012, 17:22 GMT)

I am a big fan of Sehwag, but i dont deny that he fails a lot as well, and he def plays better on flat tracks or SC tracks than on seaming or bouncy pitches... but those saying he's just a "flat track bully" need to look at his record.. go to cricinfo and look at the runs he's scored away, not as a total, but individually, he's scored some match winning runs all around the world, in eng, AUS and NZ... heck, he scored a century on debut in SA(ind were 95/5 or something)... so ppl who want to talk will always talk... but facts are facts!!! and noone can score the runs he scored away from him... and apart from Dravid, Kallis and Sachin, there r very few who have almost similar averages all around the world...

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 17:13 GMT)

Sehwag re-defined test cricket. Playing 100 tests is a true miracle. Ask Azzu bhai..

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 17:01 GMT)

insightful article! The ability to stay true to one's strengths and drown out others definitely takes courage.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (November 21, 2012, 16:48 GMT)

If Sehwag is ONLY a flat track bully, then what about the rest of the batsmen ? Both Indian and Non-Indian, who are made to look like CHICKENS. Sehwag is BETTER than KP, BETTER than Warner etc. and the list goes on. In fact, even those batsmen would tell you their inspiration is VIRU !!! My fav batsman on this planet. There is definitely an air of calmness around him this series. I am sure he will score tons of runs for India in the next 3 test matches as well. Playing in India needs a lot of skills, and Sehwag has plenty. However, I do agree that playing overseas also requires a degree of circumspection. A fine player indeed and one of the BEST openers in cricket.

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 16:33 GMT)

Thanks Ed! It was terrible to read and hear all the criticism about Sehwag. This one definitely makes me feel comfortable.

Posted by enigma77543 on (November 21, 2012, 15:54 GMT)

Very good analysis by Smith! And all those who say Sehwag is "flat-pitched bully", well, why don't other batters, Indian or non-Indian, dominate as much as he does on the same pitches? He's nearing 10,000 Tests runs averaging 50 & most importantly, strike-rate of 80+ That's 5-runs/over in TESTS, why can't other batters dominate so much on these "flat pitches" (so called "flat pitches" where overseas batsmen struggle in half the matches they play!) The only other player who's close to averaging 50 with an 80+ strike-rate is Gilchrist so it must follow that what Sehwag does isn't something anybody can do! And it's not that he can't play on difficult pitches, he has 100s in Aus, Eng & NZ in seaming conditions, especially NZ series where pitches were so seamer-friendly that batters from both sides struggled to put bat on ball & trundlers like Tuffy & Oram looked like bowling-Gods & yet Sehwag scored 2 fast-paced 100s while others from either side struggled to reach 20s & 30s!

Posted by Viru219 on (November 21, 2012, 15:41 GMT)

Wow, this article is a treat to read. Well done, Ed!!

Posted by Al_Bundy1 on (November 21, 2012, 15:39 GMT)

Sehwag always was- and will be - a flat track bully. He will always score in India's flat pitches. When we go to South Africa in 2013, he will be his usual flop show. That's why we need to groom youngsters like Dhawan, Mukund, Rahane, Manish Pandey, etc. Murli Vijay is another flat track bully - there's no point substituting one flat track bully for another. At least Sehwag is more entertaining.

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 15:26 GMT)

Sehwag is one player who has brought Test cricket fans back into stadium. He has made the game more interesting by his entertaining batting. I switch off my TV whenever he gets out or I will never watch any match if he is not playing. We have/had other very good players like Sachin, Dravid, Laxman, Ganguly etc. but Test cricket was almost dead as most of the matches ended up in Draws. Enter Sehwag and the scene changed. Go figure!

Posted by NumberXI on (November 21, 2012, 14:20 GMT)

@NutCutlet - your assessment is unfair to Sehwag, and not because of the averages. Tendulkar, Dravid and Kallis, to name three, are stand out batsmen of this generation, as their home and away averages, both of which are pretty high, show. However, Test cricket is also littered with the likes of Ricky Ponting, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara et al, whose averages are built of huge home advantages. If those batsmen can be accepted as great, there is no reason why Sehwag should not be treated similarly. The true test is any of the batsmen can come up to the level of the first three - I have not checked averages of most others but it might be worth looking.

Posted by maverick_ind on (November 21, 2012, 14:14 GMT)

sehwag!! changed the way the game is played! a true maverick.

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 14:11 GMT)

@A.Ak true. with dravid at the start and laxman at the end. after sehwag u had rahul dravid (the wall), then sachin tendulkar(the god), saurav ganguly (the prince) and in the end a vvs laxman (very very special). truly one of the best batting line ups.

Posted by aaaa2aa on (November 21, 2012, 14:05 GMT)

this guy has no style or class only successful on sub-cont flat tracks as many other indian batsmen just show em little bit of swing and say good bye have you seen a base ball batter thats how he play's close your eyes and just swing it

Posted by Haleos on (November 21, 2012, 14:05 GMT)

At last a very well written article about Sehwag. Too many people write him off. So called experts played with a strike rate of less than 50 sometimes 40. And we all know how many matches have been drawn due to that approach. @ yoohoo - well said. Also Sehwag avaerage over 51 in tests. Not bad for someone claimed to have limited technique. Combine it with his strike rate and I know who I would choose as first option when comparing him with others. With all due respect to Dravid, if he had scored over 250 MOST of those matched would have been drawn. Sehwag is an impact player.

Posted by Percy_Fender on (November 21, 2012, 13:52 GMT)

The fact that he hails from Najafgarh in Haryana where wrestling is the preferred sport makes Sehwag even more special. When it comes to cricket generally the talk is usually about someone from Bombay or Bridgetown or Kingston. Najafgarh has been brought on the map by this great man. And because of this fact perhaps,he is not given his due. People call him a a flat track bully.Even if one were to accept that he looks a bully,it is not just on flat tracks. Scoring 195 on a first day Melbourne Test in just 233 balls is never easy. He has close to 8500 runs in 99 tests with 23 hundreds.That takes some doing.He averages 50 plus despite his poor run in recent times.That apart he has opened the batting almost all through. Actually he should have been batting at No 4 but for India's legendary pantheon.He is short and not physically intimidating like Viv Richards.Which is why he seems to have been truly ordained to be play cricket.I hope posterity gives him his due as someone really special.

Posted by RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on (November 21, 2012, 13:15 GMT)

sehwag is just an overrated flat track bully

Posted by vik56in on (November 21, 2012, 13:02 GMT)

For all due respect to Ed Smith's analysis of Sehwag,the batsman hasn't become better with age and experience.Rival teams are more than aware of his weaknesses and his is a case of diminishing returns.While on the dead Indian pitches,he is more than a handful ,he finds the going abroad tough abroad . He is 34yrs old and at the fag end of his career.Sehwag started out with blistering hundreds against the best of the world around the world ,but is now reduced to a pauper as again shown by his records abroad in recent years.India's ex coach Ian Chappell had categorized him as a lazy cricketer but blessed with extraordinary talent.

Posted by tntn on (November 21, 2012, 12:51 GMT)

WHats all this to the Indian team? It is an ominous sign for the opposition and a good one for Indian bowlers that Sehwag has started scoring again, that too quickly and the opening stand is yielding more.Meaning: More runs on the board and big innings total to back. There is enough time too to bowl at the opposition. Nice to be in that scenario. Again.

Posted by A.Ak on (November 21, 2012, 12:32 GMT)

Shewag- striking, Dravid and Laxman - stability for their team and slow poison for the opponents, Sachin - Mixed of striking and stability. That balance is what made them one of the successful batting lineup ever. Probably the 'best' in terms of entertainment.

Posted by ooper_cut on (November 21, 2012, 12:02 GMT)

Where all all those who bayed for his blood before the start of this series ? Believe me Gauti will also come good sooner rather than later, he is real class.

Posted by Percy_Fender on (November 21, 2012, 11:48 GMT)

A beautiful tribute from Ed to a great batsman of our times who is due to play his 100th Test match. Despite all that he has achieved almost without being expected to as a batsman, he started as a bowler.Even today when he bowls, he reminds me of the great Erapalli Prasanna in the way he flights the ball and gets the occasional drift.But then if someone scores a 100 on debut in South Africa against the likes of Pollock,Hayward,Ntini and Kallis,all in their prime, quite obviously he has to have been special.Of course he had batted at No 6 on that occasion.His next century came at Trent Bridge where fast bowlers get excited all the time.This time Hoggard, Harmisson and Flintoff were quite formidable.The point is that even if he does not have Dravid's technique in defending the ball he has the kind of fearlessness that allows him to bat as he pleases because he has the bowlers truly intimidated. Not just Stuart Clarke,Magrath could well say the same thing.Congratulations Viru you beauty.

Posted by trueanalyst on (November 21, 2012, 11:32 GMT)

@Nutcutlet,You missed Sehwag's 2 blistering hundreds in the 5 one day match series,the same series in which both the times found difficult to score 200 runs also

Posted by yoohoo on (November 21, 2012, 11:16 GMT)

@Nutcutlet - Ponting has an avg of 26.48 in india, does that make him limited batsman too? Do you have the objectivity to accept that conclusion? The fact is that you don't measure somebody like sehwag with avgs. With the risks he takes it will never be world beating, you measure it with the impact he has on the game. When he fires he takes the game with him, and he does that reasonably consistently.

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 10:45 GMT)

You're certainly right about about the frequent misinterpretation of Sehwag's ability. Just the other day, i know of plenty of fellow Englishmen who were complaining about England's inability to take the 'sloggers' wicket. Sehwag may be unorthodox but he is certainly not a slogger, anybody who has that opinion has a very poor understanding of cricket. A slogger simply would not be able to amass over 8000 test runs. It is undeniable that in recent years his form overseas has been modest but it must not be forgotten that in the first half of his career Sehwag was able to maintain a near similar average both home and away.

Posted by sensible-indian-fan on (November 21, 2012, 10:43 GMT)

@Nutcutlet - Good points. Now that Sehwag has scored a 100, we will see a lot of Indian fans profusely praising him, all forgetting the fact that he was just a couple of bad performances away from being dropped. Now we will get to see a lot of "hey, this is how Sehwag plays" kind of comments. Tomorrow if Sehwag flops, the SAME fans (atleast most of them) would be lamenting about his attitude and his style of play. Unfortunately this is how we Indian fans operate - We praise, we dump, we praise, we dump and so on.....We all need to understand that there is difference between aggressiveness and stupidity. Actually I am a huge Sehwag fan and I am glad with the way he played in the 1st test (it looked like the old Sehwag) but let's not get too carried away now. There are 3 more tests to be played.

Posted by caught_knott_bowled_old on (November 21, 2012, 10:04 GMT)

Great article. Although this was written to make a point about Sehwag's mental strength and self-belief, its also an opportune time to re-iterate the value of Sehwag to the Indian test side. As goes Sehwag, so goes India! The Stuart Clark example is very telling. I bet most bowlers fear bowling to Sehwag more than any other batsman in the Indian team. Sehwag is the only Indian player for whom I'd pay money and watch a Test match.

Posted by Yarms on (November 21, 2012, 10:03 GMT)

All geniuses are different. ... Sehwag is just following the natural order of life

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 10:00 GMT)

He is sheer entertainment while at the crease and a dangerous chap for the opponent. He may look stupid when he gets out to a wrong shot, but one will have to take that with a biter pill. It all boils down to how often he plays the wrong one - his record in Tests atleast justifies his position in the team, for the sheer fear-factor and entertainent he brings into the team, for, when he gets going, it leaves the opposition berefit of ideas and mentally assaults their confidence... Great player, only ask from him is more consistency...

Posted by pitch_curator on (November 21, 2012, 9:43 GMT)

Entertainer for sure. But off late I get the feeling that he is not trying hard enough especially in away test matches. Last 2-3 years he has been very careless away from home. He needs to challenge himself more and play tighter, which he has done in the past. Hope he is not satisfied with hundreds in sub continent alone.

Posted by Harmony111 on (November 21, 2012, 9:24 GMT)

Sehwag is a player who can give you utmost joy when on song and who can fill you with extreme chagrin when he gets out. Whenever he gets out, whether it is on 5 or 55 or 95 or 195, his dismissal annoys the viewer - at least me. The reason is that either he gets out playing an apparently lose shot or he gets out at a time when it looked he was going to score something awesome. The dilemma is that he scores plenty of runs of those very shots playing which he often gets out. He dies by the sword off which he lives. Perhaps it should be inverted and I should say that Viru thrives off the sword by which he often dies. He has been doing it for 99 tests and 23 hundreds. He must be some warrior then....

Posted by GRVJPR on (November 21, 2012, 8:47 GMT)

@NutCutlet the record you are mentioning away from home for sehwag you'll find that the averages of opposition operners like Graeme Smith in those matches is also very ordinary. So more than sehwag It was more about the pitch that was offered by opposition seeing the weak seam attack of India . Also Rahul Dravid avergaes 25 in South Africa, What about That?? Where the technique has gone then???

Posted by CricketMaan on (November 21, 2012, 8:37 GMT)

Knocks that stands out - 194 vs Aus at MCG, Boxing day test, 200 n.o. vs SL against Mendis magic at Galle, 151 vs Aus at Adelaide to save a Test, 294 vs SL against Murali and co. in just a day play!, 84 vs Eng at Chennai that set tone to chase 350 successfully.

Posted by Dagur on (November 21, 2012, 8:20 GMT)

Excellent analysis. I would only like to add that his body balance as well as the position and stillness of the head while executing a shot is also remarkable. Even when he is not scoring big, he does not seem to be ruffled by any bowler and that is one reason that whenever he gets out, he looks like having thrown away his wicket.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (November 21, 2012, 7:08 GMT)

Yes, Sehwag knows his game; relies on his outrageous gift of his hand-eye co-ordination (he is also superfast when reacting to an edge at slip); and perhaps most crucially of all, looks as if he's never been coached. Feet? who cares? It's where, when & how the bat strikes the ball - and he is indeed a superb entertainer capable of tearing an attack apart in no time, as he's just done to Eng's at Ahmedabad. Panegyric over! Now, the other side: he is not the same destructive bat away from the subcontinent. Only in Australia, where he averages a respectable 40, does his record compare with his feats at or near home.Away from his happy hunting grounds, v SA he averages 25; v England, 28; in NZ only 20. There's enough evidence in these figure to suggest that VS away is an ordinary bat. Conclusion? Given a flat, low track, VS is a clinical assassin; in a more even contest, his gifts do not serve him esp well. Now, does that make him a great? No, he's not Dravid/SRT. His technique is limited.

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 6:58 GMT)

I can stay awake all night and miss a imp meeting in the morning to see Sehwag, scoring a scintillating 200 in test cricket. and he is the only batsman in the world for whom i will do that. Only thing that comes to my mind when i think about Sehwag the batsman is the very famous Latin proverb "Audentes fortuna iuvat - Fortune favors the bold. The same was used in the context of Alexander the gr8 too.

Posted by Alexk400 on (November 21, 2012, 6:58 GMT)

For me sehwag achieved enough , he has to play for team cause. Play for singles and gather runs until he gets to 50...after that he can throw his bat anyway...i would like to see him make 100 every inning playing conservative until he gets to 50. He may fail that probably due to his laziness than anything else. He has great defense , great offense. If he can see the ball that is moving 90mph he can defend better than anyone. Simple. Its his reckless behaviour that got him too much trouble. God gives you insane talent and use it for country and make centuries so team gains by default. Stop being thrill seeker and throwing away wicket first inning or second inning. Think about yourself ..stop thinking what others thinks or your fan thinks..Make century in every inning. If you decide to do you make 50% success rate which is good enough for whole india.

Posted by sensible-indian-fan on (November 21, 2012, 6:28 GMT)

This article has some good points but is heavily flawed. Let me explain. Sehwag is an amazing striker of not just bad balls, but even good balls. But he is also a VERY VERY lazy cricketer who gets bored quickly and gets out. If you look at his scores, you would notice that he used to score EXTREMELY heavily when his strike rate was around 70 (3-4 years back). Now his strike rate is 90 odd (in the last few years) and we all have seen his form in the recent years. No one is asking Sehwag to play like a Dravid, what we want is a little bit sensibility in shot selection. He did that against England and he got the results. When he was playing dangerously in Australia (by driving balls in the air through covers, point, etc), I remember a commentator making a comment "with sehwag, there isn't a big difference between a four and a out". That's crappy batting. The old Sehwag doesn't play that way. The old Sehwag was aggressive but at the same time sensible enough to leave dangerous balls alone.

Posted by moBlue on (November 21, 2012, 6:11 GMT)

the fact that sehwag is "crazy" enough to go for a triple hundred with a six is supremely significant! ...for it betrays the incredibly rare self-confidence of a genius that was at work for the 294 runs which were scored before he got there! combine that with an astute brain that knows how to play a ball to *his* strengths and that knows whom to attack and when, , and a player fully capable of defending against the best when he wants to, and you get a player who averages 50-plus in tests - and one who scored a century on debut on a fast track in SA [with IND reeling at 68 for 4!] as well as 195 before tea at the MCG in melbourne, not to mention two triples including one in PAK! a true trailblazer, indeed!!! i get tired of peeps underestimating his true genius and mental strength and indeed brilliance!

Posted by moBlue on (November 21, 2012, 6:03 GMT)

this article is spot-on in assessing sehwag. sehwag's greatest strength is not his fast hand-eye coordination, nor his unique skill-set, it is his self-confidence and mental strength. you can see readily that he forgets the ball that beats him the instant that he realizes he is still there, and right away, he plots his next plundering move against the same bowler on the very next ball. he is always thinking, planning, ***anticipating***. people who think sehwag is s "see ball, hit ball" player who is simplistic are totally missing the picture. evidence A is a fact that all fast bowlers know not to do against sehwag - bowl a slower one to him... for he will murder it without fail because he is always prepared for it!

it surprises me that bowlers have generally - with the rare exception of the instance when he made 195 before tea in melbourne - *not* been able to dismiss sehwag when he is less than 6 runs short of a hundred, or a double hundred, or a triple hundred!!! :) what a player!

Posted by Vkarthik on (November 21, 2012, 6:00 GMT)

A flawed genius for sure. Flat track or not you can't do what he did for 100 tests. A gift for the game of cricket.

Posted by sk12 on (November 21, 2012, 5:51 GMT)

This man will always have detractors calling him "flat track bully". And he will always respond - "yeah, so what?". he fails a lot, but the times he succeeds he gives so much impetus (and entertainment), its worth all the other failures. Thats pretty much what I expect in a batsman.

Posted by subbuamdavadi on (November 21, 2012, 5:47 GMT)

Spot on assessment. Viewing cricket becomes enjoyable when players such as Sehwag, Gayle, Gibbs flaunt their talents. Technique - go take a jump!

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 5:26 GMT)

One of the best articles I have ever read on cricinfo. It will be interesting to see how Sehwag plays as his eyesight wears down, especially amid talks of need of him to move down the order. But he showed what his hundred can do to a test match in 1st test. I bet Sehwag will finish his career as an opener? What do you guys think?

Posted by Baduruwan on (November 21, 2012, 4:58 GMT)

If there wasn't a Jayasuriya. There would be no Sehwag. Jayasuriya is the pioneer of this attacking approach. He scored test centuries in sessions. After Jayasuriya's success lot of attacking openers, the likes of Sehwag, Gilchrist, Gayle & Macullum appeared to the scene. Until J'suriya there wasn't a notable one.

Posted by Rahul_78 on (November 21, 2012, 4:37 GMT)

Very well written article. Sehwag is a freak. A special talent. We can debate for hours to decode how he does it so consistently at the top level as his test average hovers over 50. But a simple answer would be 'Gods Gift'!

Posted by Mali-T658 on (November 21, 2012, 4:29 GMT)

Nice read. As much as Sehwag takes boundary hitting seriously, I love watching him thwack all those boundaries. Although there's no doubt about his immense talent, it's sad to see some people branding him as 'flat-track-bully', 'can't play the swinging ball' etc. That might be true to some extent, but there are hardly few players who can play the swing ball with balance. Moreover, he somehow makes up for the lack of runs with big tons. Having said that, he seems absolutely reckless in his batting approach at times. I'm aware that Sehwag, himself, knows how to bat more than myself and I'd just like to see him not throwing his wicket away. Not that I'm piggybacking him, I'd say he's the player you take in playing XI irrespective of the form.

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 4:26 GMT)

Like Murali, Sehwag is a freak and an enigma. While everyone scored runs at a strike rate of 40, he scores at 100 as in Ahmedabad test and everyone agrees he played a bit cautious. His dismissals and I care not attitude is often baffling. Just an incredible batsman as much as he is an enigma.

Posted by   on (November 21, 2012, 4:19 GMT)

Very Nice Article! A Myth that Sehwag has no Proper "Technique" has been Thrashed by the Writer. Good Job Done!

Posted by joseyesu on (November 21, 2012, 4:07 GMT)

Sehwag, the attacker i admire after Gilchrist. He plays the same in test/ODI/T20.

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