The story of an Indian innings can be divided into two parts these days. One, when Virender Sehwag is at the crease and two, after he is out.
The two halves have different scripts. Once Sehwag gets out, the ball seems to become mischievous instead of obedient, the pitch starts looking tougher for batting and the bowlers appear more probing than they were when the opener was hitting them all over the park.
In different degrees, the ongoing series has witnessed this during all three first innings of India, with things becoming distinctly quieter after the dismissal of Sehwag. Not that his fall has led to a collapse, but it has invariably given New Zealand hope.
While Sehwag's presence in the middle simplifies scoring into a monotonous torrent of runs, his absence makes one realise what exactly the team is missing. Not only the run rate dips, rejuvenated bowlers rediscover the purpose of their job, fielders return from the deep, the number of close-in catchers increases and finding gaps suddenly becomes difficult.
"He's a fantastic player because of the nature of his game," New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori said before the start of the third Test.
"He takes on teams and puts a lot of pressure on the captain to find ways to stop him. He's a real challenge for us, how to deal with players like Sehwag, (Tillakaratne) Dilshan and (Chris) Gayle because they are a real nightmare with how much pressure they put on you."
Sehwag doesn't seem to bother about them, but he has the numbers that will make most cricketers proud. Two triples in a tally of 22 centuries, average of 54.56, 7476 runs with a strike rate of 82.01 - Sehwag has few peers, even predecessors, in international cricket. The impact he leaves on a match makes him bigger than those numbers.
The man to have shared nine century-plus opening partnerships with Sehwag acknowledged it.
“He is an impact player, who attacks the opposition and sets up the game for us. Before the opposition realises what is happening, we have 50 on the board,” said Gautam Gambhir on Sunday.
Sehwag has scored one hundred in this series, while he could easily have made three had he been more cautious. He doesn’t mind it. The team doesn’t either, for the last of his brisk efforts has put India in a good position in the final Test.