Virender Sehwag’s direct methods can leave bowlers reeling but off the pitch his witty answers to even inane questions have made him a darling of the media for over a decade now.
But on Tuesday, at a promotional event, the India opener left journalists gasping with his sharp responses. Some of his replies were typically light-hearted and drew laughter, but others left the scribes running for cover. The assault, a day after scoring a battling century against UP despite a finger injury to convince selectors that he was fit, left one wondering whether it was the pressure, or the relief of having regained form, or plain irritation at the questions that made him explode off the pitch?
Over the last fortnight, his every move has been dissected, his form criticised. But after staying aloof during practice sessions and remaining in a corner of the Delhi's dressing room, he finally managed a laugh and shared a joke with Virat Kohli after his ton in Ghaziabad on Monday.
Some of his answers betrayed relief, others annoyance, on Tuesday. With his ring finger bandaged, he answered the first question, on the 319 against South Africa in 2008. "It was important because I was making a comeback. I wanted to give a message to everyone that Virender Sehwag isn't finished yet."
But that seemed to have touched a raw nerve, having pretty much silenced the doubters again with his classy Ranji hundred. “I am happy to score the century. Whether I am back in form or not, is not for me to decide but I thought I played well enough. As for the condition of my finger, it is getting better.”
Everyone desperately tried to get into his mind, but hit a brick wall.
There was a question on his frame of mind when he faces the first ball --- an odd one considering he has stuck to his game over the past decade. An annoyed Sehwag asked whether the journalist followed cricket. “Yes,” was the answer. Sehwag bristled, “Then why are you asking? It means you are not watching cricket.”
Towards the end, he did admit he wasn't happy with some of the questions. “(I am answering like this) because you are asking such questions.” He dismissed talk of revenge against England. “The badla (revenge) is for you (media), to improve your shows. Our aim is to play well and win the series. We'll go out and play good cricket and win. That's important.”
He added: “England are a good side, but so are we. I think it will be a tough series.” There have been reports that Sehwag would prefer to bat down the order for India. He clarified, “I batted lower down in the Ranji game because the doctor failed to give the local anesthesia in time. It's up to the team to decide where I'll bat.”