You have to blame it on being out early on a cold, foggy winter’s day. Or on Monday morning blues. How else can one not recognise a man who has been responsible for a million magical cricketing moments (or graced countless billboards), even if his world has been turned upside down for the moment?
But that’s exactly what happened around 8:30 this morning. Virender Sehwag walked past and despite the few present at that time waiting for a glimpse of the man, he walked by without being noticed. For a very short minute.
But that gait was unmistakable, as was the insouciance with which he greeted the groundsman and a fellow Delhi player, but what was quite interesting was the girth (or the lack of it). And the fact that under normal circumstances, you don’t expect a star India player to saunter into a ground well before schedule, well before anyone else, without an entourage in tow.
But then, these are not normal times for the leaner, fitter Virender Sehwag, who has just discovered the law of gravity: That what goes up, must come down. And sometimes, must be brought down. Sehwag seemed resigned to his fate (whatever that might be), as perhaps realising that he was being scrutinised, he moved away into the security of the dressing room.
An hour later, when the dense cover of fog disappeared, he reappeared and was soon leading his team onto the ground.
It is not easy being one of the chosen in the land where cricket is a religion. But Sehwag’s philosophy of the moment seems to be to “embrace whatever games fate has in store” with equanimity.
Yet, that stoic demeanour cannot be an easy one to hold for a man who has been at the centre of a storm and has had countless needless things said about him — that he is unfit and lazy, he has an attitude problem etc.
Still, on Monday, his every move watched, Sehwag managed the act with grace. The sheer absence of fuss or visible tension as he went about his work were strikingly apparent.
And the delicacy of his footwork as he opened his account with a sublime clip off his pads for a couple when he came into bat — after snaring two victims while bowling — showed his concentration even in what was essentially, a formal nets session.
But soon after, that familiar marauder returned, as he welcomed Kuldeep Rawat to the crease with a disdainful flick over mid-wicket. Three balls later, Rawat induced a false stroke from Sehwag — he closed the face of his blade too early and the ball fell just short of mid-off.
It was a momentary lapse of reason and Rawat saw the next whizzing past him beautifully, a drive that nearly created a hole in the sightscreen.
With his appetite now whetted, that fabled punch off the back-foot was unleashed, this time off left-arm seamer Pradeep Sangwan. Now surely, one imagined, he would smile, something he had avoided from morning. He didn’t. Right through his knock, he stayed impassive, far quieter than he normally is while mixing with his statemates.
After 45 minutes, he was back in the hut, snared by leg-spinner Abhishek Sharma while going for an expansive drive that was smartly gobbled by Rawat at covers. The 49 in this practice match might not mean much to him (or anyone else).
But those who watched him in the field today might just have seen a different Sehwag, one who was more graceful, more humble perhaps. It was an experience.