Virender Sehwag celebrates his century on the opening day of the first cricket test match against England at Motera in Ahmedabad. PTI Photo/Shirish Shete
Virender Sehwag can be moody at times, when he appears completely disinterested in the proceedings, like it happened during the World T20. In Sri Lanka, he seemed to be affected first by a hand injury and then the insecurity that seeps in when you are not sure of your place in the playing eleven. As a result, he hardly took any meaningful part in the team's activities.
May be it is just the value of Test cricket, the thought of revenge against England or the inspiration of getting closer to his 100th Test, Sehwag had looked a different player in the build-up to the first Test.
While there were occasions when he didn't even touch his bat in Colombo during practice, his net sessions for this series have been intense. Usually, if he is not doing anything, he loves banter. This time, even that was missing.
On the eve of this match, he was in a monk-like trance in the nets. After finishing his regular hit against bowlers, he was locked in a one-on-one session with Sachin Tendulkar, who was handling the bowling machine. The main thrust of the drill was getting to know where his off-stump was, and which delivery to leave and which to play. And what stood out was his focus.
The same intensity was to the fore when he walked out to open with Gautam Gambhir on Thursday. A typically docile Indian wicket was a recipe for disaster for the opposition bowlers. And that is exactly what happened to Jimmy Anderson and Co. Once Sehwag saw off the threat of the new ball and settled down, the famous swashbuckling batting style was back as the visitors' hopes of seizing the early initiative was repelled by the Delhi dynamite with a stroke-filled hundred after skipper MS Dhoni opted to bat.
Riding on his run-a-ball 117 and Cheteshwar Pujara's unbeaten 98, India took the honours on the opening day of the series, which they ended at 323/4. Off-spinner Graeme Swann's four-wicket haul was the other highlight of the day's play, but the spotlight remained trained on Sehwag.
Though he didn't admit it, Sehwag would have felt pressure coming into the game as he hadn't scored a Test hundred for two years. Their corner
On Thursday, he admitted he went into the game with a stronger intent. It was a batting strategy that he had worked out in a late evening session with the team's computer analyst CKM Dhananjai. “Dhananjai came up to me last night with the recordings of my earlier centuries and pointed out that most of the time when I got a big hundred, I had bided my time in the first 10 overs. I sat down watching the recordings till 10-11 pm and tried to play accordingly today, and it worked," Sehwag said.
Defying cricketing logic, England preferred to stick to a three-pacer, one spinner attack. There was no swing or bounce for the pacers on the bone-dry pitch. And with Sehwag prepared to take his time initially, the England bowlers had little hope of removing him early.
He opened up with three fours off Anderson in the seventh over, all three through the offside. Thereafter, runs came in a flurry off the Najafgarh Nawab's blade with his 50 coming off only 45 balls. By lunch, he had raced to 79 from 66 with 12 fours and a six. He drove Swann through the covers for four to move into 90 and the 100 was reached with a four to long-on, in just 90 balls (15 x 4, 1 x6).