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Sehwag sizzler rocks Chennai
by NT Shiv Kumar
Mar 30, 2008
Cricket pundits would say great batting is all about picking length early, staying balanced and playing late. To them, Sehwag is an infidel. Openers are expected to abridge backlift, play with soft hands and minimize risk. Sehwag does just the opposite of the three golden rules. Yet he brews a heady mixture of a quick eye, with supple wrists to match, and a stable base. Thus strokes such as the square carve that purists would find hard to even conjure fitting into batting structure, are to Sehwag bread and butter. He carved them all on either side of the wicket with minimal fuss and his second triple century merely drilled his name harder on the list of Indian cricket’s all time greats.

Not long ago, critics (including yours truly) were carping on his backlift descending from the Everest, his feet nailed in the cross and his bat speed outpaced by innocuous in-sliders from even ordinary bowlers. Sehwag's counter? A match saving 150 plus at Adelaide against the best in business and this monumental 300 plus against the second best. On both occasions, he has been a master manipulator of time; he cleaves a game open and buys up match hours "with the ease of Moses parting the Red Sea" as Ian Chappell, not one for generosity, once said.

Watching his Chennai innings got me to reflect on the words 'genius' and 'great' – which are bandied about a lot and bestowed as if they are mutually inclusive. Sporting geniuses, who go on to become great, almost always wrap a few layers of illusion around their opponents. Sehwag typically prefers another illusion, that of vulnerability. The dangling backlift fooled the bowlers and the slips fielders- the in-sliders were met with a straight drive that had his arms trace a classical arc. If GR Vishvanath's uncorking was an artistic suspension, Sehwag's was no less thrilling, no less magical in execution and no less sweeter on the sound of leather kissing the willow.

There was some sort of poetic justice in having Dravid watch this innings from the best possible spot – there was no bigger advocate of Sehwag's skill and caliber, even at the nadir of his form, than the 'Great Wall' of Indian cricket. As always, the eternal bridesmaid's entry into the 10,000 club was a smaller headline but when the Sehwag euphoria wanes a bit, the Wall would sure, much deservingly, get some fresh paint and good graffiti. For, in the history of Indian Cricket no batsman - not even Tendulkar - has played more defining knocks in scripting overseas wins than Dravid.
 
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