October 21, 2015 10:45:07 am
Virender Sehwag was never young – he just had more hair and was a little smaller.
But then, he wasn’t old either.
He was just Virender Sehwag. And they don’t make any more like him.
He used to hit the ball ruthlessly for as far back as I can recall, right from age-group cricket. Nothing changed as he grew in years. He didn’t simmer down, nor did he become circumspect.
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He never looked at the scoreboard then, he didn’t till he retired.
He used to hum as a youngster, he hummed as a superstar.
Viru always had the same language, the same accent and the same cynical humour. He never tried to become someone he wasn’t. He never thought that he had to be up on his English or his phonetics or his poise.
That was an attribute garnered from another character trait – he just does not bother. He doesn’t give a damn about appearances, so he does it his way, as he said in retirement announcement.
Viru looks and largely is very laid back and relaxed, but underneath all that, he is also absolutely set in his convictions.
If he decided he wanted to hit it out of the park to reach 100 from 94, he’d do it. If he thought the ball was hittable he’d hit it. It didn’t matter whether he was on 99, 199, or 299.
Or on zero, for that matter.
I was fortunate to witness the 319 Viru scored against South Africa at Chennai. After the visitors had put up 540 in the first innings, there were butterflies in the Indian camp. Facing a fiery Dale Steyn and Makhaya Ntini, even on the flat track, was quite a job.
But no one told Sehwag. He had scored a half-century in the roughly two hours that India played and had put up a decent partnership with Wasim Jaffer.
The next day saw Viru go ballistic while Rahul Dravid was his usual fluent self. Sehwag added over 200 with Jaffer, then another 200-plus with Dravid before he reached the triple.
A landmark he has crossed twice while batsmen rated so much higher have failed.
While Sehwag would delight, he could also frustrate. There is no doubt that the slugger would have scored way more than just the little over 8500 Test runs he scored eventually.
While he could score a 100 by lunch, he could also depart before you had finished your breakfast.
The cracking pull and square-cut that got him so many runs were also the ones that found the fielders many a time since he just went in there and swung his bat at everything, his feet rooted firmly to a sport a foot outside the crease.
Those shots destroyed the field, decimated bowlers and dented boundary boards. But they also devastated his myriad fans when he played one more causally, straight to a predictably placed fielder.
Oh he could indeed frustrate spectators, captains, teammates and coaches alike. But then, as he claimed in his retirement message, he decided to do things his own way a long time ago. And he stuck to that till his last international exchange.
He was drama. The action, tragedy and even comedy at times.
Viru was always chilled out and stayed away from dodgy situations with the authorities for most of his career, barring his efforts over the years in an effort to leave Delhi and go and play for neighbouring Haryana.
The first instance was in 2009 and six years later, it happened.
Sehwag’s departure didn’t go down well in the Delhi & Districts Cricket Association (DDCA) as the working Committee meeting threatened to snowball into something ugly.
After 20 years, Viru was handed an NOC and a lukewarm send-off, something that brought howls of protests from some within the association.
Ironically, it was Viru’s reported tiff with skipper Gautam Gambhir that pushed him out of Delhi to Haryana.
Ironic, since in the past, Viru had stood shoulder to shoulder with Gambhir on issues they took up with the DDCA.
But then, times change.
There is also a little conjecture about why he quit now, and the IPL too. He has also indicated he would be participating in a 20 league where the only requisite is that the player should have retired from all international cricket.
This league may well create chaos in the near future, but this piece is about Sehwag.
There won’t be another Virender Sehwag, I state at the risk of repeating myself. He signed in with a century on Test debut, hammered two triple-centuries, a double-century in ODIs to garner over 8000 runs there too.
Viru also contributed with 40 Test and 96 ODI wickets, a contribution that cannot be dismissed.
Sadly for us, Viru’s mind never wavered, though his body began to fail. He had to deal with an ear infection that affected his balance, while his failing eyesight didn’t help either.
So soon, Sehwag’s surreal bat and strike rate were overtaken by the physical realities of playing so much cricket.
But we are lucky. We saw him play, we were in awe. He entertained when on song, he hummed even when he wasn’t.
There will always be only one Virender Sehwag.
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