When Virender Sehwag, who was dropped for the home Test series against Pakistan in November last year, was selected for the Test series in Australia despite not being named in the 24 probables, doubts were raised whether he deserved a place in the side.
The manner in which he responded — by scoring a match-saving unbeaten 151 in the second innings to save the Adelaide Test and now by equalling his own record of 309 as India’s highest scorer in an innings in Chennai on Friday — will silence his critics.
Sehwag, who not only overhauled records on Friday but gave India an outside chance of a victory in the first Test, said that he wanted to prove that he belonged to the team.
“When I was dropped from the Test squad I was hurt because I have a good record in Test cricket. So I was looking to prove to myself that I am a good Test player and deserve a place in the team,” Sehwag told a media conference. “Being dropped hurt, but it was also good for me because I was able to motivate myself and concentrate better.”
What did he feel after becoming only the third player after Sir Don Bradman and Brian Lara to score two Test triple centuries?
“I don’t have words to express,” he said. “I don’t think I showed so much patience and concentration in Pakistan (where he scored his first triple ton). I wanted to prove to myself that I belong here and there is no better way than playing a big knock and scoring a triple century.”
Sehwag rated this knock, which has seen him garner 198 runs so far through boundaries, as his “best”.
“I will say this is my best Test innings because I made 300 and scored at more than a run a ball,” he said. “I think this is better than Multan because I was scoring faster. In Multan the wicket was better than this and the conditions were not hot and humid.”
It was such a great knock that he did not offer a single chance to any of the bowlers. There was no mistimed stroke in his innings and he was hardly beaten ever since he stepped out to bat on Thursday evening after being in the field for 680 minutes.
“I think that’s the best Test match innings I’ve ever seen,” South Africa coach Mickey Arthur said. “The way he played today was absolutely amazing. We tried to attack him, we defended against him, tried to bowl straight lines, wide, over the wicket, round the wicket, did everything possible. And he countered us.”
Arthur conceded that Sehwag’s knock has changed the complexion of the game.
“I think we said last night that we wanted to keep the run rate down and get wickets. When Viru is batting he scores so quickly and in unconventional areas,” Arthur said. “The moment you changed the fielder he reverse swept, hit over square leg. Fantastic innings, obviously put India in a very good position.”
With Sehwag unbeaten on 309 and India in no hurry to declare, Brian Lara’s elusive record of 400 runs in an innings must be weighing on his mind when he walks out to bat on Saturday.
However, Sehwag denied that he will play for the record.
“I was not thinking about Lara’s record at all. Anil Kumble told me that my job is to stay till the end,” he said. “Even tomorrow, I won’t be thinking about Lara’s record. I will just look to bat for one session and I think if I bat till lunch I will come close to Lara’s record.”
Arthur, on the other hand, said that Sehwag thinking about 400 could play into South Africa’s hands.
“I think it’s just up to us to try and stop the scoring,” he said. “As I’ve said numerous times, Sehwag’s going to start thinking about 400 and that could play into our hands. I do think the second new ball tomorrow is going to be quite crucial. I think if we can use it well for the first 15 overs, hopefully we can nip a couple out, change the tempo.”