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Veeru goes where no Indian has gone before

Three hundred. It had never been done. Not by an Indian. Many had tried and never got to the mark, writes Kadambari Murali.

india Updated: Apr 03, 2004 00:31 IST

Three hundred. It had never been done. Not by an Indian. There were many who had tried and never got to the mark. Vinoo Mankad, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, they had all tried but failed to cross that final hurdle.

VVS Laxman got close but even his elegant genius and superhuman effort in Kolkata did not see him break that barrier. Many said it was a mental thing.

Still others wondered whether it would ever happen. But on Monday in this sleepy, dusty, historic town, a young man, all of 25 years age but already an icon in his own right, found the mental courage and physical stamina to make that leap.

Laxman was there, cheering wildly from the balcony, when he crossed 281. And Tendulkar was there, by his side, seconds after he sent the ball over the mid-wicket fence to go to 301.

Logically, Virender Sehwag was not the first person you'd think would cross the 300-barrier. With his bang, bang style of play, he is undoubtedly cricket's equivalent of the sprinter. And 300 is undoubtedly a marathon run, one that even India's best runners found daunting.

He has an unorthodox batting style that the classicists would probably dub heretical. He doesn't give a damn about the bowling and shows it. He puckers his brow, bites his lower lip, fiddles with the handle of his bat, and always wears a disinterested look on his face. Even when he's murdering the bowlers.

And then of course, there's always the knowledge that this man is that one thing no ordinary team would want -- a reluctant opener. But this Indian batting line-up -- with Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly (or Yuvraj) and Laxman in the middle -- makes for no ordinary team and Sehwag is by no means an ordinary man.

Sehwag bats by his own rules, sets his own standards. He refuses to stick to conventional norms of what is right for a situation. He says he feels no pressure. He plays fast and furious. By all reports, he is very fit and has tremendous physical endurance. And he apparently makes no differentiation between batting on 1 or batting on a 111.

So then again, by his own peculiar logic, why would 300 have been any different -- especially if he got within striking distance? And at 228, it was obviously on his mind when he began on Monday morning.

Sehwag says he's normally never under pressure, so maybe he has never been in the past. But then, he's never done a 300 either.

Asked on Sunday evening if he was nervous in the nineties, Sehwag replied in typically pithy fashion: "No. If I was, I would have got out." But it was a different Sehwag one got to see on this day of records for Indian cricket.

So, perhaps he was edgy on Monday. He seemed shaky in the beginning against a fiery Shoaib Akhtar, the ball repeatedly swishing past the bat. At times, he looked irritated with himself for failing to blast a loose delivery to the fence. He kept looking at the heavens and touching his lower back, as if checking that all was well.

That he survived to cross Laxman's 281 and then 300, was more because of Pakistan's shakiness on the field (he was twice dropped today, in the same over that he got to 281). In fact, he got to 282 with a cut past point

to the boundary off Shabbir, in between the two chances. One that Taufeeq Umar at slip should have held onto and the other, a more difficult one that brushed Moin Khan's outstretched fingers. Both went to the fence.

His strike rate, going at almost a run a ball till the last half an hour on Sunday, dipped to the mid-seventies (slow by Sehwag's express standards) till he brought it back to an acceptable 80-plus before he departed for an outstanding 309.

But get there he did. And with the type of whack that characterises his usual game. That six off Saqlain could have been brought about by anything -- frustration at hanging around in the 290s for a while, impatience rearing its head again -- perhaps he was simply tired. More than joy, relief was writ large on his face as he took off his helmet. It was done. At two minutes to 1pm, local time, another barrier had been broken. And Indian cricketing history rewritten for all time.

First Published: Mar 30, 2004 01:27 IST