From the time umpire started a Test with the word ‘Play’, if Sehwag was facing the bowler, the ball would start flying all over the field from the word go.
‘If the ball is there to be hit, I will hit it at any stage of the game’ was his motto.
Normally in Test matches, opening batsmen are expected to stay long enough to get the shine off the ball and make it easy for the later batmen to play their strokes. Sehwag would start as if his intent was to remove the cover off the new ball with some ferocious hitting never seen at the start of a Test match.
In fact, nobody had seen such an audacious start ever on a cricket field.
He was so confident about his abilities. He would invariably go for a sixer as he neared a landmark - be it as big as a century, double century or even a triple century – no matter who bowled. He would lift the bowler for a six to any part of the ground and greet the new landmark. The time when he was out going for a six at 195 (Melbourne), he didn’t regret it much. There will be a next time was his attitude.
That’s the way he played his cricket all through his career. There would be no regrets.
It was not uncommon to see India reaching scores like 350 or 400 at the end of a day during Sehwag’s reign at the wicket.
Sehwag was one of the key players because of whom India became the No. 1 Test team in ICC World rankings. Sourav Ganguly and later Mahendra Singh Dhoni were lucky to have an opener who dictated the course of a match from the first ball and turned the tide for his team. It is no wonder one of world’s fastest bowler Dale Steyn felt what he did before the start of the current Freedom Series. Though the current Indian batting was good, Sehwag was a nightmare for South African bowlers, Steyn admitted.
Only other batsman who could change the course of a match with sheer counter-attack was Australian wicket-keeper batsman Adam Gilchrist.
Sehwag scored 8586 runs in 104 Tests in 180 innings at an average of 50, accompanied by an unbelievable strike rate of 82.23 which is seldom achieved in Test cricket. His strike rate is the fastest in Test history and was mainly responsible for India racing to huge first innings scores, leaving enough time for their bowlers to win matches.
He is the only Indian to score a triple century in Tests, that too twice, joining Bradman and Lara in this rare league of their own.
The batsman admired and adored all over the world for his fearless batting retired without a trace. Having served the country for over a decade, he felt he deserved a better treatment from the cricket board. That he wasn’t given a farewell match in Delhi will rankle him for long and he made no bones about it by saying it in the open.
Likewise, the legendary Rahul Dravid, retired without a farewell match. So did Laxman known for his historic fightbacks in many a match, especially in Australia and at home in Kolkata.
Rightly, Sehwag asks:” Should not a player, who has played for 12 to 13 years for his country, deserve a farewell match?"
It is true BCCI takes care of its players with handsome contracts and good pension schemes at the end of their career. There are no two opinions that BCCI is the best-run sports body, especially the way they take care of the future of players. Gone are the days of benefit matches wherein a player had to do a lot of running around to arrange a match, the proceeds of which were given to him. BCCI deserves to be congratulated for putting an end to such humiliating practice.
However, farewell matches are dear to every player as it is the last time they will put on pads or bowl for the team. Most would love to retire on their home ground where they started a career which grew to over a decade or more.
Farewell match is a player’s way of saying goodbye to his fans, his team-mates and to the game itself. It is a finale of a having achieved a lifelong dream. To deprive a player of such a priceless emotional moment is somehow not right.
It is the swansong of their career. I am sure BCCI would evolve a policy without favour or discrimination for the senior cricketers for a final appearance knowing it will be their last hurrah.
They deserve this. And the countless number of fans, who are the backbone of cricket, will love it.
First Published: November 6, 2015, 3:10 PM IST