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How to stop Veeru is Pak's biggest worry

Sehwag tamed the pace attack which had been touted as better than even Australia's.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2006 15:47 IST

A day after the rain-ruined opening encounter at Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium ended in a stalemate, the question uppermost in the minds of the home team's think tank will be how to neutralise the Sehwag factor when the second Test unfolds at the Iqbal Stadium here on January 21.

The Indian vice-captain, considered to be Pakistan's biggest worry before the start of the three-Test rubber, proved that their anxiety was not without basis with his scintillating 254 and a near world-record opening wicket stand with captain Rahul Dravid in Lahore.

The Delhi dazzler made mincemeat of the Pakistan attack, touted by their former skipper Imran Khan before the match as better than even Australia's, and it was not only the number of runs scored by Sehwag but also the manner in which he accomplished the feat that should add to the creases on the rivals' foreheads.

Sehwag simply took the bull by its horns and tamed the Pakistan pace attack with the ferocity of a lion pouncing on a bison on a wicket tailor-made for his style of explosive strokeplay.

His fusillades, that sent the fielders diving for cover in murky light, were a fitting riposte to Shahid Afridi's murderous assault on the Indian bowlers on the second day of the match.

The assault on the rival bowlers brought to mind one of cricket's finest batsmen, Australian Stan McCabe's heroics against South Africa in 1936. The Aussie skipper in that series was Victor Richardson, grandfather of current India coach Greg Chappell, who has said he would never try to change the way his "impact player" Sehwag bats.

That innings was also played in poor light and the funny part was that the South African fielders had appealed for bad light fearing that the strokes unleashed by McCabe, architect of one of the best counter-attacking knocks ever during the infamous Bodyline series, would injure them!

Over here, the Pakistani fieldsmen did not appeal for bad light, but there was worry for their well being during Sehwag's blistering knock.

In fact one of his fierce drives struck opener Salman Butt, fielding at silly point, on the knee and ricocheted to the gully region, and the fielder went off the field for some time, such was the power Sehwag packed in his shots.

Sehwag believes that the ball is there to be hit when the opportunity comes and his provocative statement that Pakistan showed their defensive approach to the series by preparing a placid track for the series opener must have raised the hackles of the home team and one can expect a retort from Shoaib Akhtar and company in the second Test.

The best part of this batsman is that he fears no one's reputation. He does not care for landmarks, shown by the way he has reached hundreds or double hundreds in the past with a six.

He was nearly caught trying to reach 200 in Lahore too, but was lucky when Shoaib Malik dived in front to take a slash off Rana Naved-ul-Hasan at deep third man only to grass it.

Against Pakistan, Sehwag averages 112.36 from seven Tests and his run-aggregate of 1,236, which includes four centuries (all of them above 170) and another score of 90, places him only 48 runs short of Dilip Vengsarkar's second-highest Indian tally of 1,284 (in 22 Tests), a truly mind-boggling string of tall scores.

He has already overtaken Mohinder Amarnath's tally of 1,080 runs in 18 Tests and is well-poised to become the second best, behind Sunil Gavaskar's record 2,089 runs in 24 Tests with five centuries before the current series gets to a close.

More than any other Indian batsman, it is the Delhi marauder's early dismissal that would be eagerly awaited by the Pakistan think tank in the rest of the series. They certainly have a major task in hand in trying to stop the Sehwag Juggernaut!

First Published: Jan 18, 2006 15:19 IST