Sri Lanka v India, 1st Test, Galle, 4th day

When defensive is offensive

Virender Sehwag has eliminated many weaknesses from his batting. But the most innocuous of weaknesses, getting out to defensive fields, stays

Sidharth Monga in Galle

July 21, 2010

Comments: 28 | Text size: A | A

Virender Sehwag tries to carve it over the off side, Sri Lanka v India, 1st Test, Galle, 4th day, July 21, 2010
Most of the bowlers in the world say you cannot wait for Sehwag to make mistakes, for by the time he does make a mistake it is often too long © Associated Press

Virender Sehwag doesn't like negative bowling. He gets irritated, he loses patience. The thing is, opposition captains know it, which is why it ceases to be negative bowling. Third man and sweeper-cover become catching positions, wide deliveries outside off are wicket-taking ones. And when he gets out that way, it is forgotten how well he played until then.

It happened in Nagpur before Dale Steyn demolished India. A similar collapse followed here in Galle. Of course it doesn't absolve others of their share of blame, but Sehwag would be the one kicking himself the most. Then again, knowing Sehwag, whose biggest strength is to stop thinking of a bad shot or a good ball as soon as it has happened, maybe not.

Nagpur isn't the only example, but the similarities are palpable. His scores in the respective matches, just to drive home the point, were identical - 109. Then he had played a beautifully lone hand, 109 out of the 192 that came while he was at the crease. That century, despite his strike-rate of 78.41, was a watchful innings.

In his first over of a new spell, Wayne Parnell bowled full and wide outside off, with three men on the off-side boundary. Sehwag hit through those three men for two fours, one was a wide that went for four. Still he couldn't hold himself, chasing a delivery that was too wide of him, and sliced it to sweeper-cover.

In Galle, Sehwag was again the lone hand, batting watchfully but still quick, scoring 109 out of 169. During the course of his innings, a healthy part of which was played in the dying hours of the third day, his back trouble threatened to reappear, Lasith Malinga aimed for his toes and ribs, and Muttiah Muralitharan bowled menacing offbreaks and doosras.

Yorkers he kept out, bouncers he kept down, doosras he read well, any slight error from either of the bowlers he smacked for fours. He also resisted his own theory that when the teams are trying to attack in the final few minutes of the day, it is the best time to get 30 quick runs.

On the fourth morning he started as if he had never stopped. Another left-arm bowler, Chanaka Welegedara, started bowling innocuously wide outside off with three men patrolling the boundary. Sehwag still beat them. He reached his century with hardly any fuss at all. Welegedara changed ends. Third man, deep point and sweeper-cover waited. He bowled a no-ball, then a wide, and was cut along the ground for one.

In the next over, Sehwag played a lovely push-drive through extra cover, off Malinga who attacked much more conventionally. It was the bowler attacking him by not attacking him, though, who was playing on Sehwag's psyche, annoying him, irritating him. Off the second ball of the next over by Welegedara, Kumar Sangakkara joined other captains who have got Sehwag out this way. It was short, it was wide, in fact it would have been called a wide had Sehwag not tried to hit over deep point. The ball tailed away, hit the toe end of the bat and settled at slip. Another collapse followed.

Over the last few years, Sehwag has eliminated many weaknesses from his batting. The short ball into the ribs doesn't bother him now. He is not so loose outside off anymore. This most innocuous of weaknesses, though, stays. In Napier in 2008-09, he fell twice to spinners bowling with defensive fields in their early overs.

Most of the bowlers in the world say you cannot wait for Sehwag to make mistakes, for by the time he does make a mistake it is often too late. But as soon as he starts making a mockery out of the aggressive fields, they fall back, waiting for, well, a mistake. They do so because Sehwag does make those errors when he has all the bowlers at his mercy.

In Mumbai last year against these opponents, even in the first session of India's batting, Murali started off with deep fields. Sehwag went over extra cover, he reverse-swept, he cleared the deep fielders, and he thus gave India enough time to force a win. In Galle, though, with India 351 behind and a day lost to rain, it wasn't as if India could win the match through quick runs.

Still, though Sehwag left the job unfinished, his shot doesn't explain Rahul Dravid's running, Sachin Tendulkar's error of judgement, VVS Laxman's limp hook, or Harbhajan Singh's waft in the last over before lunch. They will all soon get a second chance. And if Sehwag gets off to a start, Sri Lanka will bowl with similar "attacking" fields. It will be interesting to see how Sehwag responds.

This piece was published at the innings break

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by maddy20 on (July 22, 2010, 7:41 GMT)

To all Sri lankan fans. Beware! This match is not yet over! India lead by 48 and the tail enders are playing like tigers. If they can hang till tea then its gonna be a certain draw!

Posted by jack_d on (July 22, 2010, 4:41 GMT)

@Bang_la : cricket ranking are not derived based on the performance from 1932... its based on RECENT performance of a team..... and i dont know about you but in a common man's world, 1932 is not recent times. by your logic, no team would be no 1 EVER as no team has stayed on top for EVER..... AUS replaced WI, stayed on top for long but eventually got replaced by IND... and true may be IND will be replaced by SA or even AUS again in the future (not by SL for sure.... SL haven't won a single test in IND, AUS and SA, let alone the series.... mate, no 1 or a word "GREAT" is too far for you guys...) and for SL, you dont even need to bo back as far as 1932... they were considered minows untill certain Sanath Jaysuriya declared himself at world stage in 96... does that mean we dont consider SL is a good team now???.... no we don't.... but may be since your logic is so twisted, you should consider SL still minows...after all they were minows few years ago...not as far as 1932

Posted by   on (July 22, 2010, 4:08 GMT)

Sehwag is an excellent batsman and the article did not say otherwise, people should take the time to understand what's been said before the make stupid comments. The indian batting line up is amazing but sadly I agree with one previous comment...just on paper. So many batman are out of form and not in any danger of getting dropped.."Dravid, Laxman, Yuvraj". Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Dinesh Karthik and Suresh Raina should be in the team, they may not be the most defensive players but they are the future of Indian Cricket and they need to learn to adapt to Test conditions. What's going on with the bowling..Mithun is good find but Sharma shouldn't be in a Test side...what happened to Zaheer, RP Singh?? and the countless other bowlers?? So much talent in the country but poor selections from the Board.

Posted by soorajiyer on (July 22, 2010, 3:13 GMT)

Oh god! I am tired of these reactive opinions. Guys, if #1 has to continue winning, then it would windies of 76 who would still be winning. Cricket is a game and things got to change, otherwise it ceases to be a game. Listen problem of India is not batting, but in bowling (atleast as of now)!

Posted by   on (July 22, 2010, 2:08 GMT)

it must be remembered that it is this approach that has helped him to 13 scores of 150 plus, six of them above 200, four of them above 250, and two above 300. there is no point in playing 150 deliveries for a mere fifty runs. to ask sehwag to not go after the bowling is to ask him not to score runs.every team needs a player like him with that x factor that can take the game away from the opposition. sehwag not only scores 54 runs per dismissal and does it quickly: he also makes the job easier for the middle order. does that probably explain why our middle order is a spoilt lot?

Posted by TheDoctor394 on (July 22, 2010, 0:29 GMT)

I'm a bit bemused by some of these comments. Unless I'm missing something, the author of this article wasn't saying Sehwag should change the way he plays, he wasn't condemning him for his style. He was simply pointing out the batsman's weakness. All players have some, and the focus was on Sehwag's.

Posted by Bang_La on (July 21, 2010, 23:33 GMT)

@Crikgeek, should we go and check stats of GREAT Indian cricket team for just last few years or we are permitted to check stats since 1932 (do you know India actually started playing around then as a team? no? oh well.........)?

Posted by Bang_La on (July 21, 2010, 23:27 GMT)

@Mayan Priyadarshana, oh you haven't seen THE joke yet! If Sri Lankan pacers start attacking @90 mph at the neck of the world's FAMOUS cricketers, the fun will start. You are also invited, I am waiting :)

Posted by   on (July 21, 2010, 19:54 GMT)

sehwag's answer -

Posted by Crikgeek on (July 21, 2010, 19:11 GMT)

To all Sri Lankan fans who think that India's #1 spot is the biggest joke, please go & check the stats. India has performed consistently over the past few years that has fetched them the spot. This match is an aberration as they r missing key bowlers & batsmen have not performed well. Look at the mighty Aussies they have been floored by Paki bowlers. Such things happen in Cricket & that doesn't take away the status they have achieved due to their toils over the years. It is a well known fact that Sri Lanka r tigers of their own backyard. How many times have they won a Test match in India over the past decade. The answer is none. Whereas India has won several matches in Sri Lanka.

Posted by LivingDead on (July 21, 2010, 18:12 GMT)

May be you should have written the whole article about middle order's collapse rather than confining it into the last para. Or may be you wanted a piece of Sehwag to sell your article? With Laxman there and Yuvraj and Dhoni still to come, how can Sehwag be blamed for the collapse? Also, when you say he improved against short ball - that was his technique. Commenting on his technique is fine, but he shouldn't be asked to change his temeprament.

Posted by postsituationist on (July 21, 2010, 17:52 GMT)

Sidharth: This reply from Sehwag (from another Cricinfo piece today) should suffice: "That's my scoring shot. If you look at the 7000 runs that I have scored, more than 3000 runs have come through the cut shot. In coming matches too, I will play the same shot. Sometimes you get out, sometimes you score runs. Almost every time, I score runs with the cut shot."

Posted by since7 on (July 21, 2010, 17:20 GMT)

Frankly,siddharth I am puzzled..You must be well aware of the 300 he got against south africa in chennai.And it would be worth remembering the shot he played when he was on 193 against ntini.It was the ugliest swipe i have ever seen from a top order batsman the ball flying past the square leg fence.How would you describe it?..I still get amazed and feeel special when i see the audacity in those shots but I guess with equal measure we must learn to accept him..I wont blame sehwag for this

Posted by natmastak_so-called on (July 21, 2010, 17:14 GMT)

@ manasvi lingam: alwy good to read ur comments.may be u were the first one (at least in comments) to predict IND defeat when everyone was sure of a draw.(i still hope,IND can pull out a miracle)

Posted by   on (July 21, 2010, 16:44 GMT)

I felt disappointed with the shots he got out in both the innings but He is Sehwag and we have to live with it.Enigma is the word for him.

Posted by nataraajds on (July 21, 2010, 16:21 GMT)

when chasing such a big total, indians should have put their heads down and batted. specially senior players like Dravid ,Tandulkar and Laxman should have batted more responsibly in the first innings. now it's all over -well done murali

Posted by   on (July 21, 2010, 16:18 GMT)

only rain can save india now....batting line up is good on paper..only in

Posted by HundredPercentBarcelonista on (July 21, 2010, 15:42 GMT)

Oh get over it. He would probably not get these hundreds if he played the way you want him to just because his teammates can't pull their weight. Good thing he doesn't care about such reactive opinions.

Posted by   on (July 21, 2010, 15:29 GMT)

well everyone does to speake he is atacking batsman what ever the situation is he will go after the bowling no mator who is bowling at him.he is good batsman although im a srilaken suporter i like watching shewag batting. so shewag's role is to get them to good start not bat through for two days. he does this almost 7 out of ten times. if indians got a worlds best middle order like they say so they should bat after shewag's you can't blame one man for me he done his job . it's theire world class middle order that you have to blame.

Posted by MadeInIndia on (July 21, 2010, 15:27 GMT)

Virender SEHWAG is a GENIUS. Period.

Posted by m.a.khokhar on (July 21, 2010, 15:24 GMT)

he s the broyher of Afridi.. but a bit wiser then Afridi..

Posted by   on (July 21, 2010, 15:12 GMT)

One of the most entertaining batsmen to watch either in any format of the game (these days I can't enjoy since I'm a Sri Lankan). The only thing terrible about him is his footwork.

Posted by   on (July 21, 2010, 15:10 GMT)

World Best Batting line Up, 276 & 181/5, i think its a big victory for poor indian fans... Go and pray. they are about to knocked out from NO 1 spot. (biggest joke in cricket)

Posted by sankar800 on (July 21, 2010, 15:09 GMT)

You are absolutely right! Spot on! I wish Viru read this and never repeat this kind of weakness.....

Posted by pradeepbharadwaj on (July 21, 2010, 15:04 GMT)

it is really ridiculous that people with absolutely no qualifications (cricketing or otherwise) have the audacity to comment on sehwag's batting!!sehwag is the greatest there ever was for the sheer fear that he instills in the hearts of the bowlers.those who dare to write even one negative line on sehwag should be severely punished.leave the master alone.he knows best

Posted by MSDonLSD on (July 21, 2010, 13:57 GMT)

manasvi_lingam: If Sehwag actually did what you just explained, it would mean he is a calculative person! However, we all know what makes Sehwag the most demoralizing batsmen in world cricket today. It is his uncluttered mind along with his ability and talent as well but importantly his mind is free of clutter. Asking Sehwag to be calculative or even watchfull for that matter is like asking a deaf person to listen! Sehwag is only a part of the team and any team must be grateful to have such character in their ranks. So lets not point the finger at Sehwag. He did his part in this test. The other team members blew it.

Posted by   on (July 21, 2010, 13:06 GMT)

No offence, but this is so stupid I am baffled! You are complaining about the guy who hit a 100??? Sehwag said it perfectly, if he hits a 4, its all praise, if he gets out, he's an idiot. If he defends, people will complain "Why are you letting bowlers get on top of you". Typical pakistan/indian stupidity, just looking at hindsight to complain.

Posted by manasvi_lingam on (July 21, 2010, 12:03 GMT)

We have seen how Sehwag responded. He began with his characteristic aggression and panache and fell in a nearly identical manner. The ball was wide and short (though not as horrible as the first dismissal) and he chased it again with no footwork. Jayawardene took a comfortable catch. This is not a hard thing to overcome. What Sehwag needs to realise is that to have a S.R of 100, one just needs a four and 2 singles off every over. The remaining 3 balls can well be left alone. And given hi talent, he can convert 1 ball into a boundary. Thus, he should opt to play more watchfully. Most of the times it's not the bowlers that get him out, it's himself.

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