Two cheap dismissals in pursuit of sixes have suddenly made some people call Virender Sehwag an irresponsible batsman. From a match-winner whose audacious strikes to even good-length balls were being hailed as strokes of genius, he is now being castigated for being reckless and not playing in the team's interests.
Funny how perceptions change from one extreme to another because of the premium we seem to place on success. We live in times where the success percentage has to be 100 for you to be any good. Had Bradman lived in the India of today, he would've been criticized for failing to maintain an average of 100, and not been celebrated for his astounding skill.
Perhaps it is the fate of men like Sehwag — who live by the sword — that opinion about them continue to vacillate. The day they decimate bowlers with shots not found in the textbook, the world will acknowledge them as a genius. And the day they fail to conjure up strokes in defiance of batting grammar, they are berated and cautioned to play responsibly.
You can make runs the Rahul Dravid way: with sound technique as the cornerstone on which to build a skilful, patient innings.
You can make runs the Sachin Tendulkar way: striking a fine balance between perfect technique and daring.
And you can make runs the Virender Sehwag way: toying with technique to create strokes that put the fear of God in bowlers.
Someone like Tendulkar, who combines the skills of Dravid with the audacity of Sehwag, and also knows which method to use when, falls in the category of immortals. It is pointless discussing him.
But needless to say that in the long run, batsmen like Dravid will score more runs and have a better average than Sehwag, who is a rare breed.
His genius lies in mocking conventional wisdom that technique is central to batting success. His genius also lies in having created a path you admire but always dread to follow. He's created his own grammar, and made capital out of it.
When he hits a six to reach his hundred, we all celebrate it. When he fails to repeat the same feat and gets caught at the boundary line, we are shocked and wonder if the risk was worth taking.
The thin line between success and failure separates genius from mediocrity. In Sehwag's case, that line gets blurred too often. When he wins us matches, we hail him the greatest ever. When he fails, we feel he's made us lose, and react with anger.
Maybe the fault lies with us. We don't respect him for what he is — a path breaker and an entertainer par excellence.