Virender Sehwag celebrates scoring a double century and his world record one-day score against West Indies in Indore. AP Photo
The type of batsman who keeps an opposing captain awake at night is one who makes big scores quickly. Among current batsmen, Virender Sehwag is the one most likely to bring on an epidemic of insomnia among captains.
While Sehwag has had more success as a Test batsman than in the shorter forms of the game, it came as no surprise he surpassed Sachin Tendulkar to become the highest scorer in ODIs. Sehwag is like a time bomb ticking in the One-Day International arena; the opposition know he's going to explode at some point but they just hope they're not nearby when it happens. This time the West Indies copped the full brunt of the detonation.
Working the field
One of the reasons why Sehwag has had more success in Tests than ODIs is the field placings. In a Test match, the field is attacking at the start of the innings and consequently there are plenty of gaps. Sehwag doesn't need a second invitation, and in those circumstances he finds the boundary regularly. This generally gets his innings off to a flying start and when the opposition then resort to containment he has them at his mercy. The opposition become reliant on Sehwag gifting them his wicket and his record of big Test scores suggest he's not always magnanimous.
In ODIs, the field is more defensive right from the start of an innings, and sometimes in attempting to establish dominance over the opposition, Sehwag errs. Even when he gets off to a flyer in an ODI, Sehwag often fails to put the nail in the coffin, as he did against the West Indies in Indore, because he tries to maintain an extremely high run rate throughout his innings. In a Test match, he doesn't feel the need to maintain a helter skelter approach throughout his innings and consequently he tends to score quickly in spurts, with the odd lull thrown in so he can "take a breather".
Sehwag's gambling instincts regularly push him to score at breakneck speed in ODIs. If he accepted a similar run rate to what he produces in Test cricket, he'd be a regular match winner in the 50 over game.
Part of Sehwag's charm is his refusal to conform. It was illuminating when Sehwag told dashing David Warner he had the opportunity to be more effective as a Test player than as a T20 batsman because of the field placings in the longer game. This was when the pair were opening for Delhi in the IPL and it is confirmation that while Sehwag may have a lot of natural talent, his batting isn't totally devoid of thought.
Despite his penchant for making huge scores in Test cricket, Sehwag hasn't really threatened the double-century barrier in ODIs until recently. He had a chance in the first match of the World Cup when he slaughtered the Bangladesh attack and had a double century at his mercy. As so often happens with an audacious stroke maker like Sehwag, he squandered a glorious opportunity.
Sehwag has conquered yet another batting peak, and importantly, it's come on the eve of the Australia tour. Sehwag is crucial to India's chances of success in Australia. Michael Clarke leads an inexperienced attack and they could wilt under an onslaught from the Master Blaster, which would make things so much easier for the experienced batsmen who follow.
Sehwag is the batsman who strikes the most fear into opponents. If Clarke is suddenly sleeping fitfully it'll be because the marauding Sehwag is on the prowl again.