An hour into Kings XI Punjab’s practice session, grey clouds cast a screen over the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, cutting off the bright sunshine. From the dimness emerged a man dressed in whites. The rest of the team wore grey, but this was a man who has rarely worried about being in synch with the rest of the world — Virender Sehwag.
The other players were engaged in the rigorous practice session. Sehwag sat on the roller and watched his colleagues toil. While most cricketers believe in the dictum ‘practice makes perfect’, the dashing opener has clearly believed in minimal practice.
With most batsmen done, an empty net stared at Sehwag. The pacers at the net invited him and the attacking batsman finally obliged. A confident back-foot punch off a shortish delivery and he was off, or so it seemed. He mistimed the next few deliveries. He moved on to face the spinners and struggled to connect.
Poor rhythm in the nets affects batsmen, but that has hardly been the case with Sehwag down the years. It took him a while, but he capped his session with clean straight lofts. He was not the Sehwag of old, but still possessed the ability to put opponents off their stride and thrill the crowd.
And bigger the stage, greater his motivation to revive memories of his glory days. He provided a glimpse of that at a packed Wankhede on Sunday.
Those who watched Sehwag compile the 19-ball 36 against Mumbai wondered whether the glory days ever left him. That was until the ageing batsman, his timing and movement having slightly gone down, mistimed Harbhajan to long-on, bringing the 30,000-odd fans back to reality.
“Viru is Viru. He may not be the Viru of ten years ago but he is good enough to dispatch anything that is in his slot,” Punjab bowling coach, Joe Dawes, said.On Wednesday, he squares up against his former franchise, Delhi Daredevils. Another big turnout is expected. It’s an enticing stage for Sehwag to assert his prowess, tell the world he can still destroy attacks purely on his sublime hand-eye coordination.
Sehwag took high catches too, after everyone was done. He was at his unflustered best. He joked with teammates, spoke to the Delhi players and even missed a catch in the process. The ball didn’t miss his head by much, but Sehwag, like always, laughed off the close shave.
It was the Sehwag that has tormented opponents with his calmness under pressure. It was the man Punjab will hope to see for the rest of the tournament.