Sehwag knocks-out Australia on Boxing Day
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Sehwag knocks-out Australia on Boxing Day

Sehwag savaged depleted Aussie bowling attack to propel the tourists to an imposing 329/4 at stumps.

india Updated: Dec 27, 2003 01:23 IST

Among the many adjectives used for Virender Sehwag, the words thoughtful and resolute were missing so far. He has been praised for his audacious stroke-play and castigated for disregarding the team's interests and getting out to atrocious strokes. Sehwag could not have chosen a bigger occasion or a larger stage to change that perception.

His resounding knock of 195 at the MCG on a breezy yet sunny Friday could have put India in a commanding position had most of the other frontline batsmen made contributions of some substance to the team's total.

The opening day's score of 329 for four may look very healthy but India in all probability lost a glorious opportunity to take complete control of the match on Day One itself. Just one look at the scoreboard will give you the reason.

India's first wicket fell at 141 and the second at 278. Sachin Tendulkar has perhaps never come out to bat outside India with the score nearing 300, with the bowlers already demoralised and almost forced into submission. And probably, Tendulkar has never suffered such a soft dismissal, that too, on the first ball he has faced.

You could say he was unlucky that his glide down the leg side ended in the wicket-keeper's hands but from a larger perspective of the team's interest, it was a shocking blow.

More so when the stage appeared set for the maestro to showcase his genius, erase all the misconceptions about his loss of form and the talk about his being nervous and tense for the first time in his career. Sport can be cruel and it makes no special concessions for even a Sachin Tendulkar.

The sudden and unexpected loss of Tendulkar was like an unannounced calamity as just before him Rahul Dravid had got out to an uncharacteristic lazy shot. And, immediately after he left, Sehwag followed him to the pavilion. But the last part of the day's play has by no means taken the game away from India.

They are still sitting pretty but it came as a disappointment because the first part of the day showed India in a new brave light with Aakash Chopra and Sehwag displaying the kind of courage, mental strength and focus rarely seen in recent years from an Indian opening pair.

Just consider the situation. The MCG wicket was supposed to be quick, almost demonic. Sourav Ganguly had made a bold statement by opting to bat after winning the toss. The pressure must have been tremendous.

The start itself was scary with both the batsmen getting a knock on their helmets from Brett Lee's bouncers. Sehwag was struck on his helmet one more time. One could almost touch the tension, so palpable it was. Sehwag even survived a mix-up and should have been run out.

But don't they say luck favours the brave? Both Chopra and Sehwag on Friday were nothing if not brave. After being hit on the helmet, Sehwag, instead of getting shaken, pursued a couple so vigorously off the next Lee ball that the fans nodded their heads in admiration.

Both got behind the line of the ball, never flinched and India had seen off lunch without the fall of a wicket. It was cricket at its outstanding best and the courageous display of Chopra and Sehwag perhaps explains the team's self-belief and the strong resolve to do well.

It is hard to describe Chopra. He is gritty, focussed, knows where his off stump is and does appear to have the patience of a tortoise. The strange part is that after having done all the dirty work he throws away his wicket, as he did on Friday too.

In contrast, Sehwag would like to hit a dozen strokes off a single ball. But on Friday he showed tremendous restraint in the first part of his knock. It was not the Sehwag of Adelaide or of Brisbane. His motto was: defend, defend and defend.

But unlike Chopra, once the hard work was done, he simply opened out to play some of the most inventive shots one can hope to see on a cricket field. There were series of shots that flowed from his blade -- from the cuts to awe-inspiring drives. And the only fault you could find with him was the manner of his dismissal.

Instead of the six he was aiming at on that Simon Katich full toss, the ball ended up in mid-wicket's hands.

But for a man who is often accused of throwing away his wicket, a score of 195, even if it falls short of a double hundred by five runs, should silence his critics, at least for now.

He is a free spirit, not moulded in plastic, and gives full expression to what he thinks he can do best. Celebrate as long as it lasts.


First Published: Dec 26, 2003 05:33 IST