Author : Sougat Chakravartty
As he embarks on the pathway to his final redemption, beleaguered former Indian opener Virender Sehwag‘s first objective is to return to match fitness and form in the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy, where his side Delhi lost against India Blue in the opening game, though he scored a quickfire 59 off 38 deliveries.
Of late, the runs have dried up from the blade of the man who redefined the art of aggressive batting and made India a force to reckon with, both abroad and at home.
Without anything resembling textbook cricket, Sehwag pioneered the art of the unorthodox but effective batting, and teammate MS Dhoni eventually took on that mantle.
The late Bob Woolmer once called the Najafgarh native a sophisticated slogger, and he has been proved true many times. Sehwag doesn’t just slog, he decimates the bowler’s mental make-up with his fearless, almost rustic approach.
When on song, he is unstoppable, but while struggling, he is easy fodder for the bowlers.
Here is a list of five of his fastest half centuries in Twenty20 cricket:
5. 50 in 24 balls (71 from 41 balls – 7 fours, 4 sixes; Delhi v/s Chennai, Chepauk Stadium, 2 May 2008)
In just 12 overs, the Delhi skipper changed the course of the game with a belligerent century stand with long-time opening partner Gautam Gambhir as his side knocked the Chennai Super Kings off their lofty perch with a clinical performance.
Sehwag teed off in grand style, slashing SA’s Makhaya Ntini for six off the fourth ball of the chase, and followed it up with two more huge hits off Manpreet Gony. Such was the brutality he unleashed that skipper Dhoni was bereft of ideas in trying to contain the murderous rampage.
Largely favouring the off-side, the right-hander butchered T20 WC hero Joginder Sharma for 19 runs in an over and dished out similar treatment to other bowlers, reaching his half-century off just 24 balls. He fell with Delhi close to the target, finishing with 71 runs as Chennai eventually lost by eight wickets.
4. 50 in 23 balls (51* from 26 balls – 2 fours, 5 sixes; Delhi v/s Punjab, Ferozeshah Kotla, 17 May 2008)
This was heartbreak for the Nawab of Najafgarh – his blazing innings could not overcome the old firm of Duckworth and Lewis; Preity Zinta’s Kings XI ran out winners in a rain-curtailed game thanks to the two statisticians’ accepted method of deciding such games.
After a light drizzle delayed the start, Sehwag kept the elements at bay as he and Gambhir got their side off to a rocket-like start, with the latter providing the early momentum through a flurry of shots on either side of the wicket.
Then the Indian opener took over in his own way – he wielded the bat like a submachine gun, subjecting the wayward VRV Singh to utter humiliation; two powerful sixes lit up the stands, followed by a delicate steer to the third-man fence. Piyush Chawla and Ramesh Powar were also tonked for sixes, but then came the first rain interruption with the batsman on 47 from just 19 deliveries.
The enforced break slowed him down, and an excellent final over from James Hopes saw the marauder gain only four runs in seven balls, completing his fifty in 23 deliveries. Punjab, however, emerged victors with Jayawardene and Pomersbach playing sensible knocks to take them to the revised target.
3. 50 in 22 balls (74 from 38 balls – 10 fours, 3 sixes; Delhi v/s Chennai, Feroze Shah Kotla, 19 March 2010)
This game would be remembered for Matthew Hayden’s use of the much-anticipated Mongoose bat and his subsequent heroics, but the initial fireworks came off the Delhi opener’s blade.
Having relinquished captaincy duties, Sehwag played with gay abandon, right from the word go. He proceeded to play his full repertoire of Twenty20 shots- flicks, square-cuts, and powerful hits down the ground.
The highlight of his innings was an exquisite stroke off Muralitharan; he took the ball from in front of the stumps and guided it to the left of short third-man. He reached his half-century in just 22 deliveries, and by the end of Murali’s over, he had made 61 from 28.
Hayden and his Mongoose had the last laugh, though, with Chennai winning by five wickets.
2. 50 in 21 balls (75 from 34 balls – 8 fours, 5 sixes; Delhi v/s Rajasthan, SP Stadium, 15 March 2010)
Abhishek Jhunjhunwala’s quickfire half century propelled the Rajasthan Royals to a somewhat respectable total, but when Sehwag is in a punishing mood, all targets are made to look minuscule by comparison.
He cavalierly swung Dimitri Mascarenhas for boundaries over square leg and mid on, struck the wayward Shaun Tait fiercely through point, and pummeled Munaf Patel’s medium-pacers without a care in the world.
The dashing batsman used his trademark upper-cut to reach his half-century in just 21 balls, and swung Amit Uniyal for a massive six down the ground before falling to Munaf for a savage 75. Delhi rounded off the win through Dinesh Karthik and Mithun Manhas, triumphing by six wickets.
1. 50 in 20 balls (73 from 38 balls – 12 fours, 1 six; Delhi v/s Rajasthan, SMS Stadium, 1 May 2012)
This season, in all fairness, belonged to the Daredevils as they coasted to their fourth straight win at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium, crushing the home team by six wickets.
Batting in his own unfettered manner, Sehwag cut the Rajasthan bowling into countless pieces with the precision of a surgeon and the hands of a butcher. Of the first six deliveries he faced, five were dispatched to the ropes without so much as the blink of an eye.
In no time, the master slaughterer raced away to his half-century, executing a ramp shot over third-man to reach the mark, and thus becoming the first cricketer to score five consecutive Twenty20 half centuries. His hitting prowess was such that it left Kevin Pietersen, Delhi’s most consistent player at No. 3 in the 2012 season, in the shade during his final innings for the franchise that year.
As for the Daredevils, they came up trumps in order to virtually seal a place in the playoffs.