When I met Virender Sehwag while he was recuperating from a shoulder injury, what struck me about him were two personality traits which are not generally compatible with each other.
One was his belief that we’re all children of destiny, that no matter what we do, someone else is controlling our fate and future.
The other was his immense faith in his own ability, certain that once he returned to the cricket field, he would do even better than he had done till then.
The fatalist strain allowed him to be at peace with himself, and he exuded calm that is unusual in a sportsman who has been cut off from his calling due to circumstances beyond his control. Sehwag was then in the middle of leading a rebellion against his local association, and at the same time, he had said that he did not want to be vice captain of the Indian team because a younger player should be groomed for the future.
His actions did not fulfill the projected image of a man who lets instincts take precedence over planning. On the contrary, he seemed to have given a lot of thought to not just how he bats but also what he does and says.
The proof of his thinking mind came in an outstanding interview he gave in that period to Cricinfo, revealing his understanding of both the art of batting and of his own abilities.
The forced exile from cricket had led to boredom but he was using the rest to improve his fitness and not letting frustration creep in.
He was going through a phase that he had no control over, so there was no need to fuss. Speaking out against nepotism in his state association and walking away from India’s vice-captaincy were things he needed to do because he believed they were the right things to do. He did not appear angry, just very involved in the world around him. It was as if he almost felt obliged to speak for his fellow Delhi players, who were suffering in silence and needed a powerful voice to back them.
In India, players don’t usually take on the establishment, but he wasn’t worried about the consequences. Why? Simply because he knew he was is in the Indian team on the strength of his talent. “I am playing for India because I am making runs. The day I fail, I will be dropped. So why worry?”
Even more telling was his next line: “I am capable of facing any challenge.” It implied that he knew he would return to score so many runs that no one would have the courage to mess with his career. Now, Sehwag is back, and he has audaciously taken on the challenge and announced to the world that he is the best.
As he went on swatting, smashing and caressing the ball to the boundary in Mumbai, in an amazing display not just of skill but also stamina and sheer strength, I was reminded of another of his lines.
When asked what gave him the power to score huge runs in a short span of time, Sehwag had paused for a while, smiled, and then said: “I don't know, I guess maybe the quantity of pure milk I used to drink when I was grooming myself to be a cricketer.”