How does one best remember Virender Sehwag? Very simply, as one of the biggest match winners Indian cricket has ever seen. A man with a very simple philosophy, he was the best thing to happen to Indian cricket between 2000-2010. Be it in Australia versus Australia or against England in England, Sehwag would just do what he knew best - hit the ball as hard as possible and score at a pace unfathomable a few years before in Test cricket. He did revolutionise the art of Test match batsmanship and in that sense is a phenomenon that will hardly ever be replicated in any part of the world.
What was the Sehwag school of batting all about? Here’s what he had to say to me during one of the many interviews I did with him. To set the context first: it was on the eve of the 2010 South African tour of India and I caught up with Viru in Nagpur ahead of the first Test. Dale Steyn was at his best and I asked him how he planned to encounter the 150k scorchers that Steyn would hurl at him. Sehwag, unflustered, said, “Aap ho ya Dale Steyn. Bowler ka kaam hai ball dalna, mera kaam hain marna. Woh dalega mein marunga.”
Uncomplicated and simple. Mesmeric and not brash. With Sehwag you would inevitably believe what he said for you knew he meant every word that he had uttered. And he followed it up with action- two hundreds in the two Tests of the series in Nagpur and Kolkata, Sehwag had clearly construed a new batting manual and in doing so helped India win many important Test matches. Be it the 2008 Chennai Test match against England where India chased down 387 or the 2002 Headingley Test against England or the 2008 Perth Test against Australia, Sehwag’s contribution always helped set up major Indian Test victories. A master of hand eye coordination, Sehwag at the top of the order meant the opposition was forever under pressure. He could win cricket matches singlehandedly and may be that’s why we tended to expect the world from him every time he went out to bat. And in Test cricket, he more often than not fulfilled expectations.
As one who has always backed Virender Sehwag and has been an admirer of his exceptional shot making ability, his retirement leaves a void. Yes we were all aware that the end was near but to see it finally come leaves a kind of emptiness. However, that’s very unlike Sehwag. That’s not how he thinks. Or ever thought. May be he would say, “aap sare kuch bahut complicate karte ho. Mera time aa gaya and I am lucky for what I have done.” A true champion, he has given us sheer joy. The joy of watching a champion in action. The joy of winning Test matches overseas. The joy of not fearing even the fiercest fast bowlers in the world. There will never be another Sehwag. To repeat the cliché, class is indeed permanent.