Three hundred. It had never been done. Not by an Indian. There were many who had tried and never got to the mark. Many said it was a mental thing. Still others wondered whether it would ever happen. But on Monday in this sleepy, dusty, historic town, a young man, 25 but already an icon in his own right, found the mental courage and physical stamina to make that leap.
Logically, Virender Sehwag was not the first person you'd think wo cross the 300-barrier. With his bang, bang style of play, he is undoubtedly cricket's equivalent of the sprinter. And 300 is undoubtedly a marathon run, one that even India's best runners found daunting. He has an unorthodox batting style that the classicists would probably dub heretical. He doesn't give a damn about the bowling and shows it. He puckers his brow: bites his lower lip, fiddles with the handle of his bat.
And always wears a disinterested look on his face. Even when he's murdering the bowlers… Sehwag bats by his own rules, sets his own standards. He refuses to stick to conventional norms of what is right for a situation. He says he feels no pressure. He plays fast and furious.
By all reports, he is very fit and has tremendous physical endurance. And he apparently makes no differentiation between batting on 1 or batting on a 111. So then again, by his own peculiar logic, why would 300 have been any different -- especially if he got within striking distance? And at 228, it was obviously on his mind when he began on Monday morning.
Sehwag says he's normally never under pressure, so maybe he has never been in the past. But then, he's never done a 300 either. Asked if he was nervous in the nineties, Sehwag replied: "No. If I was, I would have got out." But it was a different Sehwag one got to see on this day of records for Indian cricket.
So, perhaps he was edgy on Monday. He seemed shaky in the beginning against a fiery Shoaib Akhtar, the ball repeatedly swishing past the bat. At times, he looked irritated with himself. He kept looking at the heavens and touching his lower back, as if checking that all was well. That he survived to cross Laxman's 281 and then 300, was more because of Pakistan's shakiness on the field (he was twice dropped in the same over that he got to 281). In fact, he got to 282 with a cut past point to the boundary off Shabbir: in between the two chances.
His strike rate, going at almost a run a ball till the last half an hour on Sunday, dipped to the mid-seventies (slow by Sehwag's express standards) till he brought it back to an acceptable 80-plus before he departed for an outstanding 309.
But get there he did. And with the type of whack that characterises his usual game. That six off Saqlain could have been brought about by anything —frustration at hanging around in the 290s for a while, impatience rearing its head again — perhaps he was simply tired. More than joy, relief was writ large on his face as he took off his helmet. It was done. At two minutes to 1pm local time, another barrier had been broken. And Indian cricketing history rewritten for all time.