Beware of Sehwag 2.0

Virender Sehwag celebrates his hundred AFP

To intimidate people, Al Pacino's character in Scarface made them "say hello to my little friend". Somehow six other words from Virender Sehwag, which sound completely non-violent by his standards, are having similar impact in the cricketing world. Cricket's Tony Montana just said, "I want to bat 50 overs." It is a simple thought, something every opening batsman says by rote, but when Sehwag says that it becomes scary. When Sehwag says he wants to bat 50 overs, you shudder when you think what if he actually bats 50 overs?

What if the man - his average innings lasts 32 balls but he has still managed to score more than 7000 runs at a strike-rate over 100 - decides to try and play anything close to 150 deliveries in a match? What if he regularly starts lasting till batting Powerplays? Before today, while batting first, Sehwag had faced 100 balls only on two occasions. What if he starts doing it more often? He has never stayed not out batting first. What if he does that often in completed innings?

Today Sehwag gave a glimpse of the possibilities, and on evidence the bowlers need to be afraid. Very afraid. It was fitting that the new Sehwag came out in the same country where four years ago he was trying to figure out just what his role was as a batsman, when he was a confused man after being dropped from Tests, a format in which he has never merited a drop. That was soon after the World Cup debacle. On that tour he got off to two starts, but threw his wicket away on both occasions. Four years on, now one of the most feared batsmen in Test cricket, Sehwag's intentions of making a larger impact in ODIs too have begun in Bangladesh.

The ease with which Sehwag did it today made it seem like all he had to do was tell himself he needed to bat longer. You could see he was fighting boredom in the middle overs when all that was available was singles. He even went 30 balls without a boundary, considered the oxygen of his batting, but that had little effect on him. You could see from his itching to hit that he still didn't think spinners ought to bowl in international cricket, but he showed restraint when Abdul Razzak came on to bowl in the fifth over. He played out four dots in that over before taking the single. Razzak's time would come later. The first time Sehwag tried to clear the infield today was in the 15th over, a six over cow corner to reach his fifty… off Razzak.

All this after he had got the World Cup off to a smashing start, with a punch through the covers first ball and a drive for four through the same region in the same over. You watched with interest just how he would rein himself in after such a start. How would a batsman who knows no boundaries limit himself? Not that he hasn't done that before. He did so to save the Adelaide Test, but then he had a challenge in front of himself, a larger cause of drawing the Test. He did that during a chase in Dambulla last year, scoring 99 not out when every other batsman failed under the lights, but then the conditions provided that extra challenge.

One-day cricket on flat tracks, like today, doesn't present that kind of multi-faceted challenge. It was the kind of track and bowling where the only man that could have got Sehwag out was Sehwag himself. He wasn't going to do that today, not until he had reached the back-end of the innings. In the middle overs, he fought the boredom with chips over extra cover for twos. He stayed alert to quick singles; on one occasion he ran a bye, and then the overthrow off a ricochet off the stumps when the ball had hardly gone far.

Once he reached that back-end, once he called for the batting Powerplay in the 35th over, every bowler bar Rubel Hossain - who used the bouncer well on a slow pitch - got the clip. Shafiul Islam was swung for six over long-on. Razzak he treated like a club bowler, leaving his crease every ball, and then deciding which boundary to clear. Powerful shots, late-cuts, lofts, all came back.

With the World Cup upon us, so is Sehwag 2.0. If he can continue doing what he did today, more games will be decided by the end of the first innings.