Written by Harsha Bhogle
I think I am missing Virender Sehwag. To be fair, this is a wonderful bunch of young players and they are carrying the baton delivered to them by an extraordinary group. I find Ajinkya Rahane most pleasing to the eye, Rohit Sharma’s 264 was an audacious innings that stretched our imagination, the fielding is better than it has been and there are fast bowlers out there who don’t aspire to be medium-pacers. And I will tell people when I am old that I saw Virat Kohli bat. Cricket is still great fun but I am missing Sehwag.
Sehwag had me sitting on the edge of my seat. Always. It was like watching a thriller except that when you watched it the next time, you still didn’t know what was coming next. He was jaw-dropping, he was hair-wrenching. You rolled your eyes and you threw your head back. You looked at the scoreboard and it always showed you a different number. He could be exhilarating, he could be frustrating. He took you on a joyride and he laughed while you held on to your seat in fright.
I always thought Sehwag played cricket the way it was originally meant to be played. The numbers happened. 8586 runs in Test cricket @ 49.34 with 23 centuries. Those were brilliant numbers but we don’t need them to explain Sehwag. Or to fight his case in an argument. In cricket’s most native form, the bowler bowls to get a batsman out and the batsman plays to hit the ball. You got the feeling Sehwag didn’t worry beyond that. Only if he couldn’t hit the ball, he blocked it. You hardly ever analysed Sehwag’s innings, you just enjoyed them.
But he wasn’t a blind basher. Talking to him about cricket, and sadly those moments were too rare, you always came away thinking you had spoken to someone with an uncluttered, confident mind. “The batsman is always scared,” he once said, “but the bowler must be too. He must also think, if I bowl a bad ball where will Sehwag hit me!” The thinking behind that is clear and it has the simplicity that is disarming. If the bowler knows the batsman isn’t going to hit him, he isn’t afraid of bowling a bad ball. But he is most likely to bowl a bad ball when he is afraid of the consequences of bowling one.
We often talk, in sport, of playing to the fear in the enemy camp. Often we never get that far because of the fear in our own mind. A tense cricket match is as much about managing skill as it is about managing fear. There is scarcely a calm mind on a big day. Maybe that continued.