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Happy Birthday Virender Sehwag: Game-changer, icon and king of twitter

NEW DELHI: Before Virender Sehwag, successful Test openers were typified by technique and tolerance. Sunil Gavaskar, Graham Gooch, Geoffrey Boycott, even Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, all had technical resonance to their individual games, and their basic recipe for success was the age-old formula of having a solid technique. Even as one-day cricket grew in popularity, Test openers refrained from going at the bowling in the first session of a match. There was the odd exception – Michael Slater, Sanath Jayasuriya, Herschelle Gibbs – but overall Test openers refrained from daredevilry until truly set. And very few were able to impose themselves from the start of a Test.

Then along came Sehwag. The one-day basher. His feet don’t move, they said. He was a Tendulkar clone all right, they said, but he would struggle in Tests. But Sehwag proved his critics wrong. He rewrote the rules about technique, and gave a completely different dimension to the opener’s role in Tests. “Virender destroys all strategies. He brings the excitement and drama from the first ball. If Test cricket is still alive, it is because of players like him,” said Matthew Hayden, the opener with which Sehwag has most often been bracketed.

But Sehwag was different. He combined speed and greed so fluently and consistently that it was scary. His ability to dismantle bowling attacks, to demolish the opposition in such a manner that it undermined the bowler’s ability to due his duty against others, was perhaps unparalleled. Sehwag scored big, against the best attacks, regardless of the state of the game. He evoked fear in the other team, and it is no coincidence that he has scored two of the three fastest triple-centuries in Test cricket.

Sehwag backed himself to prove himself while being himself. And he began doing so in England, the country where to survive as an opener you needed to have impeccable footwork, as an opener at Nottingham in 2002. There was no looking back.

How do you judge the impact Sehwag has had? The numbers are remarkable: 104 Test matches, 8586 runs, 23 centuries, 32 half-centuries and a batting average of 49.34. Then there’s the strike-rate: 82.23, which jumps to 83.10 when he opens the batting and makes him the most attacking Test opener in cricket’s history, even with the charitable cut-off of at least 1000 Test runs. As an opener, Sehwag Averages more than Sunil Gavaskar and 75 per cent of his centuries have been in excess of 150. And unlike several Asian ‘giants’ of this era who heap runs at home, Sehwag averages 45.25 outside India as an opener and nine of his 23 centuries have come overseas.

Probed about his reaction to his effect on the game, Sehwag has always maintained that he has never tampered with his natural game. Simple. The ball flies off the middle of his bat to the extra-cover boundary. And it is that natural instinct which has yielded some sensational innings. An audacious 195 on the opening day of the Boxing Day Test in 2003-04, which many critics rate as one of the best innings by an opener in Australia; the first triple-century by an Indian; a supremely-crafted 151 in Adelaide to save a Test; the fastest triple-century in Tests; an unbeaten 201 out of a total of 329 in Galle; an unforgettable cameo to set India on their way to overhauling a target of 387 against England; that 293 against Sri Lanka, a brutal assault that broke several records – the most double-centuries by an Indian, the second-highest number of 250-plus scores, the most runs by an Indian in a day – and gave India the impetus to become the No 1 Test team; a 174-ball 165 against South Africa at Eden Gardens in a match India needed to win to level the series and stay No 1.

Sehwag’s hunger for big scores allied with a one-day run rate makes him the most devastating Test cricketer ever.

Source : timesofindia

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Happy Birthday Virender Sehwag: Game-changer, icon and king of twitter


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