New World Cricket Watch columnist Rohan Sharma looks beyond the figures and examines exactly how Virender Sehwag has galvanized the Indian Test team.
When one considers the heights the Indian cricket team has attained over the last few years, it is almost easy to forget just how crucial a cog Virender Sehwag has been to this rise in fortune. What sets Sehwag apart from other batsman of the modern time is his ability to score runs consistently at such a high rate, as it pushes the opposition so overwhelmingly onto the back foot that it allows for the rest of the batting order to play with consummate ease, placing the impetus of a match heavily in India’s favour. It is not coincidental that India’s rise in Test cricket can be gauged on the back of his tremendous consistency and performance in the first innings which can re-vitalize a team’s energy levels and put them in a positive frame of thought, essential items required for success on the cricket field.
Examining his performance in tests on his return from being dropped in early 2007 for lack of form, he has averaged a phenomenal 61.64, with 10 centuries in just 30 matches. His conversion rate has not been seen since Ricky Ponting began to descend from his heady heights during his glorious batting run of 2003-2007. He is quite possibly the most dangerous batsman in the game, and that certainly says something when you happen to rub shoulders with a batting hallmark in Sachin Tendulkar. While Sachin has stolen the limelight of late with a tremendous run of form, Sehwag has been just as deserving of plaudits and adulation.
But what is it about Sehwag that makes him such a force in this form of the game? Without a doubt his natural hand-eye coordination has bolstered his ability to impart continued pressure on the opposition. Coupling that with his knack of scoring big runs on such a consistent basis in all parts of the world, he has become a force both revered and reviled. His penchant for boundary hitting is astonishing when you consider that he has amassed a thousand boundaries in both ODIs and Tests, an amazing achievement without doubt.
His ability to dissect a cricket field with such precision and efficacy has left many a cricket captain and their field in utter bewilderment and under intense pressure accordingly. With this tremendous consistency comes his ability to find the gaps and boundaries at a strike rate touching the 90s. This provides a double whammy of an effect in which runs are gushing through and the batsman are allowed to play themselves in and become acquainted with the conditions. Giving the rest of the batting order a chance to settle and begin exercising their respective plans.
If one is to characterise Virender Sehwag it would be for his ability to combine the orthodox with the unorthodox in such a symbiotic fusion of power, be it through his cuts, flicks or drives off the front and back foot. These strokes leave one in awe as they are unfurled guns-a-blazing and with such panache. Sehwag’s gift of being able to adjust at the last moment to accompanying cut, seam or swing is almost unnatural at times through the ease in which he executes his shots.
If Sehwag is to continue in this fashion over the next few years, there is no doubt that he will be recognized amongst the greatest Test openers of all time, not only for his sheer numbers, but how his approach galvanized a position which taken from a purist sense was one born of doggedness and patience, a school the likes of Sir Geoffrey Boycott and Sunil Gavaskar would have been proud pupils. His consistency and ability to score big hundreds has set a new benchmark for all aspiring Test nations who wish to see continued success in the quickening pace of the Test match form.
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