How Virender Sehwag redefined an opening batsman's approach in Test cricket

Viru's nonchalant style of play is what most bowlers feared

Test matches are boring as the game goes on for hours and hours without any action. True in most cases but not if Virender Sehwag is on the crease. The man from Najafgarh had only one approach to the game, see the ball and smash it. As Viru turns 38 today, we recall what it was to watch the Sultan of Multan smash bowlers all round the park.

An opening batsman tries to see-off the first hour of a Test as it is crucial to negate the swing and play with a straight bat. A slight lapse in concentration or a faulty shot can lead to the fall of your wicket. These are things that a conventional batsman usually thinks when he is walking out to the middle. Sehwag, on the other hand, thinks about it as an opportunity with all the fielders close in, to score freely and quickly.

In his 104 Test appearances, Sehwag scored 8586 runs at an average of 49.34 with a strike-rate of 82.23. Imagine, a strike-rate of 80+ in Tests is something that people fail to achieve even in ODIs. Along with 32 fifties and 23 centuries, he holds the record of being the highest scorer for India. With his 319 against South Africa (Chennai, 2008), 309 against Pakistan (Multan, 2004) and 293 against Sri Lanka (Mumbai, 2009), Viru has the first, second and third highest score by an Indian batsman in Tests.

Sehwag is one of the four cricketers in the world to have scored two double centuries. Don Bradman, Chris Gayle and Brian Lara, are the other three. He could have easily become the first cricketer to achieve the unique feat of scoring three triple centuries had he not lofted the ball when he was playing at 293 against Sri Lanka. But that’s Sehwag for you. His mantra is simple, ‘It’s my way or the highway.’

Taking singles and rotating the strike is something that he valued the least. What came with ease was to strike, smash and disappear the ball in so many ways that he could. Most of the bowlers have gone on to say that the only batsman they feared or didn’t want to bowl at was Virender Sehwag. An obvious reason to their fear was that not only he scored runs freely and picked up boundaries at will but also smashed their confidence.

If the bowlers thought that he would mellow down when he is approaching a landmark and show them respect… think twice. Sehwag loved taking challenges and throughout his career, reaching a landmark had to be in style. People had nervous nineties but for  Sehwag, it hardly mattered. Sehwag, a handy all-rounder, took 40 wickets in his Test career and is the only cricketer to have scored two double centuries and picked up a five-wicket haul. He took his career best 5/104 against Australia (Delhi, 2008).

WATCH: Sehwag’s five-wicket haul against Australia

(Video Courtesy: Vardhan)