Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A day out with a dazzler, and the season of batting gifts

Just finished watching an episode of a new cricket show where they revisited the watershed innings of a fringe player from the outskirts of Delhi named Virender Sehwag. He chose this particular tri-series match against New Zealand in Sri Lanka 2001 to announce his arrival. The Sachin-less Indian skipper Sourav came out to chase the Kiwis’ respectable 260+ with this new all-rounder (haunting term that) in tow who till then had just this one ODI fifty and a batting average of 15 to show for his prowess.
Watching a replay is that much more fun when your favourite players are known to have done well in it. It is a dream come true for you as their success now has the inevitability of a Marvan Atapattu run-out. Sehwag rattled off a 68-ball hundred (as far as I recall) and left the irksome show host gasping for a ‘break’, 82% of Viru's runs coming in boundaries.
When viewed in retrospect an aspect of the match that grabs your attention is the number of boundaries he peppered the on-side fence with. The New Zealanders erred on the leg-stump of this unknown Tendulkar-like entity and had already conceded 10 odd fours through lofted flicks and rasping on-drives even before Stephen Fleming could cry ‘Correction’. The first forcing shot on the off-side, a trademark ‘Viru cut’, was so uncharacteristically late in the innings that it brought up his 50, and he was impartial to all hoardings thereon. [By 'late' I only signified its place in the sequence of boundaries.]
This took me back to Newlands 1997 when Azharuddin, coming in at 58/5 to accompany skipper Sachin in response to South Africa’s 500 plus and playing himself in to a sedate 27 at lunch 3rd day, came out like a man asked to personify Fury by Nelson Mandela over their post-lunch handshake and carted the best fast bowling attack of the time for 12 boundaries in no time. The first 2 mind-blowers were towards his favoured on side fence, followed quite uniquely by a sequence of 10 successive off-side scorchers. It remains the most unparalleled hour of Test Match batting retrievable from recent memory.
The Azhar connection of Sehwag’s knock did not end there though. That 2001 innings of Sehwag remains the 2nd fastest one-day ton by an Indian, behind Azharuddin’s 62-ball one-time fastest 100 in ODI’s. The Black Caps were having a day of self-same colour on both these occasions of one-ton destruction.
Passage of a mere four years makes that little beauty of an innings from Sehwag resemble a step-up transformer in the electrifying career chart of "Najafgarh’s own Tendulkar". Wonder what thoughts would take over an unsuspecting cricket-loving mind 30 years hence when some sports channel of the time helps it revisit the New Year test of Sydney, 1992 (and I am not talking about a double centurion or an unimpressive debutante here). Or the year next (now that is a double centurion I’m referring to).
Or for that matter Boxing Day at Melbourne, 1985 (another unimpressive debutante indeed, this time). This is not too bad a time of the year for batting gifts, apparently.

[cross posted at "Different Strokes"]

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