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Virender joins an elite club

cricket Updated: Apr 05, 2008 12:57 IST
Anand Vasu
Anand Vasu
Hindustan Times
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If you don't believe in fate, then ignore the coincidence that a boy from Najafgarh began his cricketing odyssey at the curiously named Madras Cricket Club in Delhi and culminated in 29,356 of the Chennai faithful watching the most destructive Test innings in recent memory. If you don't believe in the natural goodness of homemade kheer and aloo parathas dripping in butter ignore the fact that a less-than-svelte batsman withstood the elements longer than eight hours, his hands holding up despite repeatedly pounding the ball. Whatever your method, you have to now acknowledge that the madness that is Virender Sehwag has booked himself a spot in the pantheon of the game's greatest, no matter what happens with this match or series from here on.

Just for the record

Let's get it out of the way quickly and feast on Sehwag's day in peace. India reached 468 for 1 in reply to what looked like a healthy 540, and from here on only one team can win. Jaffer made 73, completely unnoticed, and Dravid was considerate enough to end the day on 65, still 15 short of 10,000 Test runs.

Better than the best

When he emerged from his ice bath, Sehwag conceded that innings was better than his 309 in Multan. Those who had watched both innings would readily concede that the purity of his strokeplay, the range of his shots, and the control of run flow on the day were unmatched.

Sehwag played the reverse sweep from point to third-man; the lofted drive over from cover to long-off against fast and spin bowlers; the flick over square-leg for six; the on-drive, the pull, the inside-out punch and several other variants of traditional cricket shots that defy description.

Extra large

Sehwag's last 10 Test hundreds have now been 150 or more. No batsman in the history of the game has done that. No Indian batsman has ever batted like this, though some say Viv Richards butchered bowling just as mercilessly. Doomsday prophets suggest the first two days on a dead pitch hastened Test cricket's demise but Sehwag single-handledly stopped and reversed the trend. Even purists sat up and took notice, and you have to when someone joins the likes of Don Bradman and Brian Lara in scoring two triple hundreds, as Sehwag put in practice most people can only talk about. With clarity of thought and single-mindedness of purpose, he focussed solely on the ball being hurled at him, and responded in the manner his body knows to. He attacked relentlessly, with the freedom you only associate with computer games, where consequences are virtual even if the joy is real. He didn't bury just the tags people have attached to him - no footwork, can't play the short ball aimed at the ribs, gets out repeatedly in the same fashion - he buried South Africa's bowlers. He returned the love fans have for him in the best possible way, giving them joy.

Sweat, maybe tears, almost blood

You have to give it to South Africa for the manner in which their bowlers kept at Sehwag even when he was subjecting them to an assault they never imagined possible. When the South African team returned to the dressing room, Goolam Raja, the manager, told them they had ten minutes to shower, and immediately after they would be headed back to the hotel. "Why're we going so qu ickly, is Viru driving the bus today? He drove pretty much everything all day," Jacques Kallis said.

Micky Arthur, the South African coach, said his bowlers tried everything, bowling round the wickets, over the wickets, attacking the stumps, bowling wide of the crease. What he said, as an aside, soon after the official press conference was done, was even more revealing. "At one point when nothing worked, someone actually suggested picking up a stump and cracking Viru on the head with it and taking the two-match ban that came with it," he joked. "That was pretty much the only thing that would have stopped him."