The Human Hurricane

Date: December 14, 2011 / Posted by control

Sachin Tendulkar may be short but he casts a disproportionately long shadow. With the exception of Brian Lara, and at times Ricky Ponting, nobody has really threatened to challenge his long-standing prowess. Rahul Dravid and Jacques Kallis have accumulated mountains of runs yet have never captured the public imagination like the Little Maestro from Mumbai.

Yet, for all his greatness, Tendulkar does not hold the highest score by an Indian batsman in either Test or one-day cricket. That honour belongs to Virender Sehwag, the audacious Delhi-born opener.

Amazingly, in fact, Sehwag holds the honour of having achieved the three highest scores for his country in the Test arena – 319 v South Africa, 309 v Pakistan and 293 v Sri Lanka. His next highest score – 254 v Pakistan – is the sixth highest for India. Four of the top six scores for his country – that is one incredible achievement. His two Test triple centuries rank him alongside Lara, Don Bradman and Chris Gayle in an exclusive club of four that jointly hold the record.

Along the way Sehwag has reinvented the role of opener. Australia’s broad-shouldered behemoth Matthew Hayden was a formidable force at the top of the order as he plundered attacks around the globe. Yet despite the foreboding presence he carried to the crease his strike rate was 60, a mark that far exceeds most modern-day openers but one that looks somewhat inconsequential when compared to Sehwag’s. His is a mind numbing 82, a career strike rate that has not been achieved by the likes of Ponting and Lara in the one-day arena, where for good measure, Sehwag boasts a strike rate of 104.

It is safe to say that in some ways Sehwag is a misunderstood cricketer. It his whirlwind batting that threatens to melt down scoreboards that is seen as his trademark, yet defensively he is as technically sound as many of his more sedate and watchful fellow openers.

You cannot compile four 250-plus scores in Test cricket without an extremely effective and sound defensive technique. Whilst Sehwag’s rapid-fire run rate captures the headlines he has also been able to keep out the best pace bowlers of his generation to build a Test average of 52 through 92 outings.

With Tendulkar, Dravid and V V S Laxman all set to depart the Test scene in the near future Sehwag will assume the mantle as the team’s number one batsman. Having recently turned 33 he still has a few years left him.

The worry, given that he is an “eye” player, is when he does fade it may come quickly. But for now, as evidenced by his one-day international world-record of 219 last week against West Indies, the sun is still a fair way from setting. When it finally does he will have securely installed himself in the pantheon of great opening batsmen.

Sehwag is a delight to watch and his battles with the likes of Australian young gun James Pattinson will be absorbing over the next two months. In his two previous Test tours of Australia Sehwag has averaged 59 with a highest score of 195. Indian fans will be hoping the trend continues as he and his countryman target their country’s first series win on Australian soil.