India's biggest game-changer

India, Nov. 23 -- Those were the days when Virender Sehwag was cutting his teeth in junior level cricket - the moment he'd walk into bat in a domestic match, we'd throw the ball to the medium-pacer and ask him to bowl bouncers. Such tasks were never easy for them.

Sehwag used to bat in the lower middle order and bowling effective bouncers with the old ball on parched pitches in Delhi used to be an arduous job. Yet, it made for an ingenious strategy, for it almost always worked. Sehwag's response to such a tactic was always predictable, that is, go after the bowler.

Even though he triumphed on a few occasions, his success rate (or the lack of it) encouraged us to give it a shot 10 out of 10 times.

Had someone then floated the idea of Sehwag playing 100 Test matches, let alone becoming one of the most successful opener of all times, he'd been scoffed at. In fact, for the longest time, Sehwag played as an all-rounder who could hit the long ball and bowl effective off-spinners with a clean action.

I was one of the biggest fans of his bowling, for his body action allowed him to put enough revolutions on the ball without bending the elbow.

Game-changer

But that was about two decades ago, when we played against each other often in inter-school and inter-club tournaments. A lot has changed since then for a player who was an antithesis of how a Test opener should bat- it's marvelous for him to be playing his 100th Test on Friday. Not only has Sehwag succeeded at the highest level but has also redefined the art of opening in Test cricket.

He's probably the biggest game-changer India has produced, for he not only scores big but also at a clip that gives optimum time to the bowlers to take twenty wickets. It wasn't the work of a magic wand that a batsman who was a walking wicket against pacers has now become a seamers' nightmare.

Handling pacers

Very early in his international career, he'd realised the importance of getting used to high speeds. While he had the astonishing ability to hit spinners into the stands without even coming out of the crease, he needed to work hard on handling the fast bowlers adequately.

In one fog-affected Duleep game he got over 150 runs on a seaming Mohali pitch against the likes of Zaheer and Iqbal Siddiqui, but to improve further he spent hours batting against the bowling machine whenever play was suspended. He would rev the machine up close to 90 miles an hour and practice not just getting used to the pace but also hitting the ball.

Perfect balance

Since moving the feet wasn't his forte, he mastered the cut shot. He also worked a lot on getting the balance right, for that's the foundation of his batting. Even while working on becoming a better player against fast bowlers, he was acutely aware of what he couldn't do and stayed away from it.

He made peace with the fact that while he could score at a strike-rate of 100, he couldn't play the hook or a pull shot.

Once he accepted his limitations, he never tried to push the envelope further by learning more shots. He knew that bowlers can't bowl bouncers all the time and all day long. He backed himself to hit the balls that weren't heading towards his head or the ribcage for boundaries.

Shrewd game sense, immense belief in his abilities and acceptance of his shortcomings have made Sehwag what he is today - one of the best Test opening batsmen ever.

The writer is a former India opener

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Punjab pull off another big chase

Punjab pull off another big chase

GAME 7, SHARJAH—Maxwell, Miller, Pujara chase down Rajasthan's 192. More »

Royal test for Kings

Royal test for Kings

Preview — Clash of philosophies between Australia-centric teams More »

Have nothing to prove to anybody — Sehwag

Have nothing to prove to anybody — Sehwag

The Nawab of Najafgarh says a good run in IPL could help his chances of a comeback on India's tour to England in June. More »

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Some members stressed on the need for proposing names with an "impeccable record and clean image". More »

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Furious fifties by Duminy and Dinesh Karthik end a long losing streak for the Daredevils. More »

Five things England must do to bounce back

Five things England must do to bounce back

England have appointed a new head coach in Peter Moores. More »

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

Royal Challengers overcame a stutter to cruise to the small target they were set by Mumbai Indians. More »

‘Felt like helpless minority’

‘Felt like helpless minority’

Former BCCI treasurer Ajay Shirke says emotions got the better of Srinivasan and he tried to oversimplify things by calling Meiyappan an “enthusiast.” More »

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

His status as president of TNCA makes him eligible to attend the Working Committee meeting on Sunday. More »

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

Kevin Pietersen's hopes of reviving his international career appeared to end Saturday when ECB managing director Paul Downton said there was 'no way back'… More »

The world record that nearly wasn't

The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it. More »

Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell seems to project an icy disdain when at the crease. Match situations rarely faze him and the bubble in which he plays excludes everyone … More »

Moores gets second stint as coach

Moores gets second stint as coach

In a two-year spell from 2007 to 2009, the 51-year-old Moores led England in seven Test series. More »

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh's senior players will have three sessions with a psychological skill development coach later this month More »

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

Dalmiya feels that Srinivasan’s ‘power hungry’ attitude isn’t helping matters. More »

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

The 36-year-old believes the T20 format and rule changes in 50-over matches have made a real difference. More »

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

The bowlers restricted Hyderabad to 133 for 6 before Rahane and Binny took Rajasthan over the line. More »

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

The Kings XI batsman blasted a 43-ball 95 to help his team pull off a massive chase against Chennai Super Kings. More »

BCCI members want independent probe

BCCI members want independent probe

The board members are realising after the Supreme Court's observations that something has to be done — IS Bindra More »

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

Two former BCCI presidents, Shashank Manohar and Jagmohan Dalmiya, have reacted strongly to the news of the BCCI calling an emergent meeting on Sunday… More »

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Preview — The threat of Sunil Narine looms large again. More »

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Preview — Given the firepower in both line-ups, Dubai crowd may see another high-scorer More »

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »