Obituary: Virender Sehwag’s International Career (1999-2013) passed away peacefully in its sleep, aged 14, after a year long battle with form, fitness and fading eyesight . Will forever be remembered by all those who had the privilege of knowing it.
Farewell then, and thanks for coming by. You were indeed one of a kind, the sort who defied any sort of categorisation or pigeon-holing. In 14 years, you won 104 Test caps, scored over 8500 runs at an average of a tick under 50, but it is with an axe in hand that you will most fondly be remembered by fans, regularly shredding the confidence of opposition bowlers at an average of 82.2 units per second.
Cricket will now go back to mundane stuff like bowlers bowling to their fields, working at plans, opening batters attempting to take the shine off the ball and occupying the crease. No longer will chants of “What do we want? A deep cover and a deep point. When do we want it? In the very first over” by opposition bowlers raise much tack from their captains.
Sehwag has become the last of the legendary old guard to succumb to the inescapable tentacles of time. Of them, he has probably been the easiest to dismiss, but also the most difficult to contain. However, if each of them were to stand in his bathroom in the morning, and ask, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the most irreplaceable of us all?”, the mirror will, without a second’s hesitation reply: “Sehwag. Don’t get me wrong, you’re all legends, and I know these things don’t lend themselves to easy quantification, but it’s Sehwag all the way. By the way, you’ve got a wrinkle on your forehead.”
Adjectives appended to him – butcher, demolisher, maverick – fail to capture the very essence of Sehwag. It was his ability to strike fear in the hearts of bowlers that set him apart from the rest. At his pomp, he made bowlers wish they had been born in Antarctica, as a woman, to parents who were dismissive of sport as a flippant pursuit, sometime in the 14th century.
For all his impressive numbers, it’s the strike-rate column that showed his true worth to the team. He has ruined many a series in just one session, and the psychological scars inflicted in that session ran deeper than several days of batting from his peers.
Because of his methods, there will always be a reluctance to place him in the pantheon of greats. But if factors such as quality of opposition, the ability to score in foreign conditions, being able to turn up when it mattered and sheer impact on the game were to be used as barometers to measure greatness, Sehwag is one to whom the term “great” should be applied without any reservations.
He paid little heed to the batting manual, preferring instead, to live by (and die by) the rules of his own religious text book. Some of the scriptures are as below:
1) Thou shalt not shoulder arms to a ball. It is a waste of your time, spectators’ time, spectators’ money and your exceptional hand eye coordination.
2) Thou shalt not murder – exceptions made for opening bowlers, first change bowlers, spinners and all other bowlers.
3) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house; thy neighbour’s wife, his ox, or his donkey; but if he gives you width outside off stump, hit it like he stole your wife, your donkey and your ox.
Will there ever be another like him? They are already starting to call Shikhar Dhawan the new Virender Sehwag. Remember that they once called Irfan Pathan the new Kapil Dev, Dimitar Berbatov the new Eric Cantona, and me the new Jaideep Chakrabarty. (Okay, nobody ever said that last one; allow an old man his comforting delusions)
Few players depart the international stage quite as gloriously as their careers deserve and he probably deserved a more fitting exit than this. His peers have been more fortunate in this regard. But with an average of only 28 in the last three years, it was not unreasonable to assume that the writing was on the wall, and contained the words “You are over the hill” in especially bawdy colours.
The final dagger in his career’s heart came from an unbelievably poor domestic season in which he struggled to score just one solitary fifty, and even which, by his own standards was scored off a Misbahesque, Boycottian, Shastricious, Chanderpaulish 72 balls. Father Time can indeed be a cantankerous old ba****d whenever he wants to be one.
No doubt, India will miss Sehwag like a Ferrari would miss its engine, like a race horse would miss its jockey or like Digvijay Singh would miss Rahul Gandhi but his legacy of reducing batting to its most elemental, will forever remain.
Even now, if The NASA plans to build a giant bat for deflecting asteroids that are on collision course with Earth, they would probably ask for Sehwag to be put into orbit with the mammoth bat, not just to keep the asteroids out, but to smash them far towards a distant nebula where they can do no harm to Earth.
And if he succeeds, like he most often has, he will make life so much easier for us down here.