If you’re smiling as you sit down to watch a game, glance ruefully as the ball whizzes by if you’re a bowler, or just lean on your bat and watch from the best seat in the house if you’re the non-striker, there’s every chance Virender Sehwag’s bat is swinging out in the middle.
Viru makes such a difference to the team in terms of sheer spunk and attitude no matter what the pitch is, no matter what the conditions, no matter who is bowling. As long as he’s there, the runs keep coming at his pace, which is brisk. He also makes things look very easy, so, for a captain, to have Sehwag open the innings is invaluable -— because the opposition’s on the back foot straightaway.
But Sehwag’s a confidence player. As a captain, you need to let him know you’re backing him squarely. You have to tell him, “We want you and need you at the top of the order”.
He’s not the kind of player you can tell, “You’re out of form, so you need to get back to domestic cricket and make runs and come back”. I think that was the mistake made a few years ago, just before I took over the captaincy. From my point of view, I wanted Sehwag when we went to Australia. My reasoning was clear: “There is no one else like Sehwag, so you can’t treat him like anyone else”.
Even till the last minute before the second Test in Sydney, I wanted to play him, but we finally felt it wasn’t fair to give the other guy only one chance before brining Sehwag back. I also knew that in Sehwag’s case, it was only a matter of time before he was back in the XI and sure enough, he was back in the third Test and it was like he was never away.
Sehwag’s strength, as he’s shown yet again in the ongoing series, lies in his aggression and in the unique way his mind works. He really doesn’t think he needs to hang around — survival isn’t on his mind at all. He’s got the eye, picks up the length of the ball very quickly and doesn’t look to change his game. So he can score runs on pitches that do a lot, that swing, seam, deviate off the wicket… it doesn’t matter!
What makes him a more complete player now is that he’s also come to understand that he doesn’t really need to play faster in an ODI than he does in a Test, he can play the same way and still be faster than everyone around. So if you see his recent one-day performances, you’ll find they are more onsistent than in the past.
It also makes him the biggest threat. He’s invariably a marked man — any opposition captain would think, “Get Sehwag and the rest will follow”.
That is also what India’s should worry about, going into the final. Sehwag’s had no real support in this series, scoring nearly 50 per cent of the total runs scored by India — others need to step up. On a similar note, Yuvraj Singh is also a game-changer — he’s shown that in the past. He too will be crucial to India’s success now and in the foreseeable future.
Another plus though, has been the form of the three frontline pacemen. Praveen Kumar, especially, has been very good upfront and picked up key wickets — whenever he hasn’t, India have struggled. In any team discussion, we talk about getting two wickets in the first 10 overs to be on our way. That’s what Praveen and India have to aim for today.
Hawkeye Communications/Chivach Sports