Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Never Never Land of Virender Pan

Excerpt from Rohit Mahajan's article on Virender Sehwag (courtesy cricinfo's Surfer) which attempts to dissect 'Sehwagism' in the aftermath of Viru's match-turning opening salvo in the 4th innings of the Chennai Test last week:

There are tales, and then there are tales, one more incredible than the other, about Virender Sehwag.Shane Warne narrates a delectable one in his recent book. Playing for Leicestershire against Middlesex, Sehwag found Abdul Razzaq reverse-swinging the ball alarmingly.

He called his batting partner Jeremy Snape over and said he had a plan. "We must lose this ball," Sehwag said matter-of-factly. Next over, Viru smashed the ball clean out of the ground. The ball was lost. The replacement ball would, obviously, not reverse right away. "We're all right for one hour," he told the non-striker, who told Warne. Mission accomplished.

For the rest of this discussion we assume this incident to be true. And for the discussion we also freeze the video of this incident at the point he has stepped out of the crease (we assume he did that - for poetry's sake) to meet the ball for the last time. What happened thereafter is besides the point.

When he actually set out for that launching shot he gave us a chance to call it 'audacity'. You can also call it 'backing one's ability' as it actually came off. But more amazing is the realisation that he tried to think of a way to actually solve a problem like stopping a bowler from swinging a ball.

Even the perfect skipper in Ian Chappell's book will have seen a bowler swing a ball and said 'Right mate, we have to play through this phase with common sense and try to ensure we lose as few wickets as possible.' Even that other-worldly super-brain from Chappeli's book would have seen this problem as an unsolvable one. Where then does this shot and its reason place Sehwag?

Mahajan says Sehwag has ' a razor sharp mind'. I am willing to go one step further and point out that it is a mind whose thoughts we mortals - complicated ones - will perhaps fail to comprehend on most occasions. Especially if it results in more misses than hits. We will say 'there is little percentage in it' and refuse to acknoweldge that this freak actually saw this problem as a solvable one, and that he tried to do something about it so as to turn the tables in his favour rather than wait for fate to take its course.

Let us see it from another angle. Let's say Virender Sehwag had the limited batting ability of his dependable percentage playing Delhi teammate Aakash Chopra. Had he then thought of this plan to stop the ball from swinging, the idea would still be just as invaluable for the reasons cited above. But then this plan would never have seen the light of the day as
a) Aakash Chopra, with his ability, has no realistic percentage of pulling this off and
b) it is not one of those things that you dare ask your partners do even if they are more talented!

That act of actually attempting a hit to make the ball disappear (that the ball did disappear, I again emphasize, is irrelevant here) therefore shows a culmination of the following traits in Virender Sehwag:
1) an urge to break new path the desperation of which is rare even in the greatest of cricket minds,
2) an instinctive knowledge of the percentage of success he may have on his various shots, and
3) a remorseless readyness to cop the flak upon failing on a low percentage choice made knowing fully well that the plan will have no takers without the backing of success.

Some things never change. It is a joy the world of Sehwag features amongst those.

As Sambit Bal states in his review of the Chennai Test:

Sehwag is a man of incredible batting skills but his mind is pure genius: doubt is not allowed to hover nearby, let alone enter.

1 comment:

Ritesh. P said...

He’s an absolute maverick with the bat isn’t he? I wonder how the bowlers garner courage to bowl at him yet again, only to see the ball disappear to the ropes or into the crowd.