'If I hadn't met Rudi on this tour, I was struggling. We spent around three hours and I've never spoken to anyone so deeply,' said Sehwag of Webster's effect on his game in West Indies
Rudi Webster, the Grenada-based psychologist, is currently with the Indian
team for a short stint and is eager to carry on the interaction that began
on India's tour of West Indies earlier this year.
"This is my first visit to India," Webster told Cricinfo after the team's
practice session at Jaipur in the Rajasthan Cricket Academy, "and I'm
enjoying it thoroughly. I enjoyed working with a few players when they
were in West Indies and can hopefully get some more time here."
One of the players who Webster closely interacted with during the West
Indies tour was Virender Sehwag, who'd been going through a lean phase at
the time. In his 19 innings before he met Webster, he'd crossed fifty just
three times and his lack of fitness was a serious concern. It's fair to
say that the three-hour session transformed Sehwag during the tour and he
himself admitted, to Cricinfo Magazine at the end of the series:
"If I hadn't met Rudi on this tour, I was struggling. We spent around
three hours and I've never spoken to anyone so deeply."
It was surprising that Sehwag, who'd turned down an offer to interact with
Australian psychologist Sandy Gordon, felt so strongly about the meeting.
"There's a lot of difference between Sandy and Rudi," he stated
matter-of-factly. "Rudi played county cricket for many years and worked
with great players. He knows more than Sandy about the game and players.
He knows about the way sportsmen think. He'd worked with great players
like [Brian] Lara, [Viv] Richards, great footballers, golf players . and it helped me a
The results were there for all to see. Post Webster, Sehwag spanked 95 in
the final one-dayer
at Trinidad, a game when none of his team-mates
crossed 30; thundered 180 on the opening day
of the second Test at St
Lucia (reaching 99 in the opening morning and admitting he'd "not hit the
ball more cleanly than in that session"); chipped in with vital wickets in
the Tests, playing the role of a genuine fifth bowler
; startled a few with his
emphasis on fitness; and, most significantly, appeared to settle into a
mantle of leadership.
So what had prompted the change? "I needed to remind myself of some little
habits," Sehwag continued, "my thinking before a game, my mindset before
the bowler bowls. There are certain things I used to visualise when the
bowler was at the start of his mark, when he was running in, when he was
about to deliver the ball. All your routines should be in place, for a
particular bowler, for a particular team, for a particular series.
"Rudi was just chatting to me and I began recalling several things - 'I
remember doing this in Pakistan', 'I did the same thing in Australia'. I
understood that I need to do these things for a longer time, need to do it
continuously. He was telling me things I had done in the past, and I'd
forgotten that. He told me how important it was to remember these things,
said it would help if I wrote it down on a paper and read it over and over
It helped that Webster had been following Sehwag's career closely. "I've
been watching him play over the years," he beamed, "and have been terribly
impressed with his ability to hit the ball. Not many players have that
ability. Viv Richards, who probably had a few more shots, comes the
closest. All great players have very simple methods and I was very
impressed while watching Veeru."
Webster admitted that Sehwag had opened out to him. "My track record
probably helped me to establish a rapport with him," he revealed, "and
once he found that I was speaking his language, there was a belief that he
found. Once you establish a trust, and he believes in your credentials you
will find you'll share a very good relationship with him. He discussed things
that he would probably not discuss with others.
"Usually when people go into a little slump, a simple technique they use
goes through the window," he continued. "All sorts of negative things go
through their minds. They doubt themselves because of pressures from media
and fans. Their thinking becomes negative. They forget some basic routines
that brought them success."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo