India has produced great batsmen from the era of the great CK Nayudu and Vijay Merchant but there was something that had eluded Indian batsmen before the advent of Virender Sehwag on the nation’s cricketing horizon.
For many cricket fanatics, there was an important feat which no Indian batsman, including the giants like Gundappa Viswanath, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar, could achieve -- hitting a triple century. We produced batsmen who were swashbuckling hitters and those who were steady accumulators but all of them failed to amass individual big scores. In over seven decades, no Indian cricketer had achieved this milestone.
Almost all the cricketing nations had at least one batsman who had scored a triple century. But, even double centuries were not so easy to come for Indian batsmen, except, the legendary Sunil Gavaskar, who had four double tons to his credit. His highest score was 236.
As schoolkids, when we talked about batting records, we wondered why Indian batsmen could never achieve this feat. Whenever newspapers or magazines published names of cricketers with highest individual innings, there used to be no Indian name in that list, and that made us sad.
Call it kiddish enthusiasm, but we felt that we needed someone to score a triple century for India. This is the passion for the sport. Cricket, especially, is a game where fans keep a record of each and every small aspect of bowling, batting, fielding et al. And scoring a triple century was a test our batsmen had failed.
After all, the triple century was the ultimate test of the art of batsmanship. One needs to have a hunger for runs, the stamina and the perseverance, apart from aggression, to bat for long hours to reach a massive score in a single innings. While contemporary cricketers were easily getting past the 275-280 run mark, our Test cricketers found it a tough ask. Even our arch-rivals Pakistan had Hanif Mohammad scoring 337 many decades ago.
The triple-ton drought finally ended in 2004, 72 years after India had begun playing Test cricket. Virender Sehwag got us our first triple ton -- a fairytale-like innings of 309 against Pakistan in Multan.
Finally, we had a triple centurion. Now there was no major record our cricket stars hadn’t achieved. Sehwag went on to hit another triple century, 319 against South Africa -— equalling the great Don Bradman, who also had two triple tons to his credit. The magnitude of Sehwag’s achievement is heightened by the quality of this exclusive club’s membership -- West Indies legend Brian Lara and his swashbuckling compatriot Chris Gayle are the only other players to have scored two triple tons.
In the third Test against Sri Lanka in 2009, he was close to his third triple century, but got out at 293. Had he scored seven more runs, it would have been his third triple ton. The innings was similar to Don Bradman’s 299 against South Africa at Adelaide in 1932, when the Aussie all-time great’s partner Hugh Thurlow was run out when attempting the 300th run.
Sehwag and Bradman as the only two batsmen with three triple tons. Imagine that.
Since then, no other Indian has hit a triple century. Apart from the bragging rights that come with the feat, Sehwag’s batting itself has given us enormous joy. Particularly the effortless ease with which he scored runs in both forms of the game. He amassed more than 8,000 runs in both Tests and ODIs apart from 23 centuries in Tests and 15 in ODIs. His triple centuries are, of course, part of Indian cricket folklore.