Not long after he made his Test debut against South Africa in November 2001, Virender Sehwag usurped the role that for years had been Sachin Tendulkar’s in India’s One-Day side. He became the brutal, relentless destroyer at the top of the order, savaging not merely bowlers’ rhythms and averages but turning a match on its head within the first 10 overs.
In Visakhapatnam on Saturday, Sehwag must have felt a little odd as he watched — from the non-striker’s end — how Robin Uthappa, India’s new crash-bang-wallop artiste, proceeded to do just that. Uthappa carved four boundaries in the seventh over of the Indian innings; his six over fine leg off Malinga was a disdainful clout; and his 37-ball 52 set up a spectacular run chase — and victory for India.
Sehwag did not do too badly (46 from 44 balls — only his third 20-plus score in his last 13 innings) and if the manner in which he was dismissed was ludicrous, the way in which he cracked the ball square of the wicket inspired confidence.
The shot of the day, though, had to be Yuvraj’s: on his knees, he creamed Dilahara Fernando through cover to reach his 50. Playing with the elegant swagger that he did in 2005-06, Yuvraj unveiled a buffet of strokes in this runmaking feast, as India made an ask of 260 look like a stroll in the park.
At the other end, till the end, was Sourav Ganguly, the celebration of whose comeback is beginning to beg the question about why he had to go away.
Unwell but unbowed, Ganguly got another 50 (his fourth in six games) and deserved no less than the Man of the Series award that he won.
It may be forgotten in the giddy rush of two, back-to-back series victories, but India squandered an early advantage today when they bowled. And their fielding in the death overs was abysmal. Nevertheless, this was a far better warm-up than the one India had had before the last World Cup: they had been slaughtered 5-2 by New Zealand.