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The Untouchable: Sehwag the destroyer

india Updated: Jan 03, 2010 00:32 IST
Ian Chappell

In a calendar year where there were many fine feats and admirable achievements, Virender Sehwag’s remarkable performance in scoring 284* off 79 overs in a day stands out like a peaceful protest.

The way he mercilessly flayed the Sri Lankan attack at Brabourne stadium is further proof that he’s the greatest destroyer since the U-Boat.

In an era where over rates are slowing perceptibly he’s scoring quicker than ever. At a time when batsmen like Sanath Jayasuriya and Jonathan Trott enact more rituals than a religious cult, Sehwag just faces up, taps his bat a couple of times and proceeds to lash the ball to all parts. Where other batsmen rely on visualising techniques, he prefers the tried and tested method of “see the ball, hit the ball”.

Sehwag has often said he doesn’t think too much when he’s batting. A wise man.

After years of speculation about what, apart from his enormous skill, made Sir Donald Bradman so great, I’ve come to the conclusion that a crucial attribute was his ability to bat with an uncluttered mind.

That’s not all Sehwag has in common with Bradman. They are the only batsmen to surpass 290 three times in Tests. They also comfortably have the best strike rate among the high scorers of their generation. This leads to an interesting thought on batsmanship — should greater consideration be given to stroke production rather than technique in moulding young batsmen?

Despite Sehwag’s carefree approach, it’s amazing how many of his notable achievements surpass those of opening batsmen renowned for their technique.

As an opener, Sehwag has a higher average than Sunil Gavaskar. And seventy five percent of Sehwag’s centuries exceed 150 whilst Sir Leonard Hutton only achieved that landmark around fifty percent of the time. This is even more remarkable when you realise there was a time during John Wright’s term as Indian coach that Sehwag was criticised for throwing his wicket away once he’d got a start.

I asked about the response when the coach eventually felt the need to admonish Sehwag and Wright said, “Viru just shrugged his shoulders as if to say watch my next innings.”

Bradman had the better technique, which speaks volumes for Sehwag standing by that conviction he revealed to Wright in his early days. This is an area where a coach can’t help a young player. When comparing Sehwag to his own generation it’s the strike rate that shows his true worth.

There’s another aspect to Sehwag’s Test success. In T20 cricket there are a number of openers who are within Sehwag’s strike rate. This suggests there are openers who can score quickly for a short period but only one, Sehwag, who can prolong a hectic run rate throughout a long innings.

To those who attribute much of Sehwag’s success to scoring heavily on flat Indian pitches there’s evidence to the contrary. He averages fifty away from India as an opener.

Nevertheless, even the MCG innings of 195 pales into insignificance when compared with the outstanding achievement of 2009, his 293 off a mere 254 balls at Brabourne stadium. May he play more innings like it and hopefully everybody reading this column has a happy year.