Once again the irrepressible Virender Sehwag has made a valuable contribution to an Indian Test win, this time in a series-tying win over Sri Lanka.
S is for Sehwag and also for scintillating stroke-play, the perfect description of how Sehwag goes about his business. You can add another S — for smart.
The crucial factor in Sehwag being a smart cricketer is the fact that he's always been his own man as a batsman. Many people talk about his lack of footwork and other supposed flaws in technique but Sehwag just shrugs it off.
He can be unequivocal. At a highly entertaining press conference earlier this year, he had bluntly stated, “Bangladesh are an ordinary side. They can't beat India because they can't take 20 wickets.”
Sehwag is a breath of fresh air both on and off the field; he plays with gay abandon and speaks with refreshing honesty.
To bat as fearlessly as Sehwag, you need to have great confidence in your ability and the belief that you're better than any bowler, any attack. His comments were not arrogance, rather an honest reflection of the way he sizes up an attack.
I have played with a like-minded opener, South Australia's Les Favell. He was the most confident, some would say over-confident, player I ever encountered. He once opened in a Sheffield Shield match against Graham McKenzie and missed an attempted cut shot off the first ball of the match. He top-edged the next cut shot to the boundary and was out third ball, caught behind attempting yet another cut. On his return to the dressing room he tossed his bat in disgust and declared, “Jeez I was see'n 'em like footballs”.
Favell never encountered a prolonged slump; to play in that manner you have to believe the next boundary will have you back in prime form. Sehwag's Test career follows a similar pattern. The nearest he's come to a prolonged poor patch was prior to the 2007-08 tour of Australia when he was really struggling, even at the first-class level. Some were ready to write him off. He's satisfactorily answered those critics and since returning to the Indian side he's been by far their best batsman.
Excluding matches against Bangladesh he's scored more runs and centuries than anyone else. His average is better than all except Gautam Gambhir. In run rate, he leaves them all in his slip stream; he's more than two runs an over quicker than all the others.
His run rate allied with his ability to post mammoth scores sets him apart from other openers. Sir Don Bradman is the only other player who has combined those difficult batting tasks, scoring quickly for long periods. But even he didn't do it facing the new ball.
Sehwag has either had the misfortune or luck to play with Tendulkar. It either deprives him of publicity or allows him to float in the background unimpeded. Whatever the answer Sehwag has been the most dangerous batsman for a long time. He's done it by adhering to another S; keeping it simple to be successful.