LONG LIVE THE KING, THE KING IS DEAD

 

When IVA Richards, more familiarly known as King Viv- the King of Entertainment in a world not dominated by Michael Jackson- retired from all forms of cricket (only two back then), an entire generation plunged into collective mourning. Cricket was never going to be the same again. That’s what they said back then. He even had a 189 in ODI cricket- unheard of in that era- to prove that there was a generous dollop of talent and arrogance behind that swagger and gum-chewing face. 

But if a certain Sachin Tendulkar could succeed Don Bradman as the most prolific cricket on planet Earth, why couldn’t anybody take over Sir Viv’s mantle? Surely, there had to be someone, somewhere, priming himself up for a crack at immortality. 

And then, in 2001, Virender Sehwag happened. He kept happening, time and again, for the next 10 years- in a manner remnant of Richards, with a lazy swagger remnant of Inzamam Ul Haq. The best thing to happen at the top of the Indian batting order- Sehwag caressed and timed his way into the hearts of millions with shots that defied convention and a frightful elegance that defied the sheer brutality of his ways.

What truly beffudled the world was the fact that Sehwag, a run-scorer in Tests at 82 runs per 100 balls, struggled in a form of cricket that suited his belligerent spot-and-sock madness. ODI cricket was not his cup of tea- he made that clear everytime he spoke- with simple schoolboy reasoning that mocked the complexities of the batting craft: ‘The field is always in, in Tests. Easy to clear field. In ODIs, fielders prowl the boundary also.’ 

It made sense, sure, but surely a man of his capabilities had to put to rest rumours that he got bored after playing out the first 8 overs in ODIs, and therefore, embraced impatience as a virtue once the field was spread out. Surely, he had to come good one day- after all, after literally changing the face of Indian Test Cricket forever. Opening the batting was never to be the same again, for most teams, after Hayden was done with his career and Sehwag marched onto heights that must have made his technique-doubters struggle with their own consciences. Test Cricket, it seemed, was a cup of tea after all. 

Two triple centuries over a span of 6 slaughter-heavy years, and a 293 for good measure- the day he scored 284 in one single day at CCI, Mumbai- propelled Sehwag into a league that none except a certain Brian Charles Lara had occupied prior to him. Heavy, aggressive, hungry- yet beautiful, fluid and elegant- pure impact players that appeared once in 20 years. Both of them looked woefully inadequate when they hit their bad patches, usually lasting a good year or so, but made batting look ridiculously simple and natural once they cracked the code again. Terms like ‘The form books’ and ‘purple patches’ never really applied to this tiny league of extraordinary gentlemen. Therefore, it was only appropriate that once Lara retired in 2006, did Sehwag truly hit the bigtime- with a couple of Test innings that blew the mind of every single ex-cricketer and purist that had ever watched the game. 

Why, he even made divine creatures like Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting look pretty ordinary on his own day- which normally consisted of a few hundred runs ATLEAST- over 3 sessions of test cricket. 

It was only a matter of time before Viru shattered a long-standing individual batting record- and everytime he crossed 150 in a Test match, Lara’s 400 was in grave danger. But, always, Tests remained his Kingdom- as it should be, for cricketers at the highest level. 

When Sachin Tendulkar scored 200 against South Africa in a single ODI innings at Gwalior in February 2010, the record was expected to stand for a while- and if it didn’t, one expected an AB De Villiers, or a Shane Watson to shatter the record on their good days. Watson came close, and most Indians were eternally thankful to Bangladesh that there was only around 240 to chase that day- because the 185 he scored seemed to have knocked the sails out of many keen statistically-inclined viewers. 

When Sehwag made his intention of batting through a 50-over innings quite clear during the World Cup, the 175 against Bangladesh may have sent the fear of God down a few opposition bowlers spines. Thankfully, for them, he didn’t stick to his word for too long, and blew hot and cold after that innings- for the rest of the year.

Till today.

Madhya Pradesh, once again, was the venue. Most die-hard Sachin fans must have still been googling the word ‘Indore’ when Sehwag crossed 150- and by the time the search results showed up, it was all over.

Not bad for a ‘small ground’ in a ‘small town’ hosting only its third ODI International match, you’d think. 

Virender Sehwag, known to many as the smiling marauder- after blowing hot and cold in ODI cricket for over a decade- has stamped his legacy all over the limited overs format with a single innings. To put things into perspective:

-Sehwag’s previous highest score as captain was 44 against Sri Lanka. Now it is 219. 

-Before this innings, Sehwag averaged around 31 in ODIs this year, and even crossed his Test aggregate of 7970, to cross 8000 runs in ODIs during this breathtaking display of absolute mayhem.

-Sehwag’s scores in this series read 20, 26 and 0 before this game. He had repeatedly stressed that he, as captain, needed to take responsibility and fire atleast once. Well, no surprises then. 

-He now holds the Indian record of the highest score in ODIs and Tests- 219 and 319. (His highest score in T20s is 119) 219 is also, incidentally, the world record- breaking the previous 200* by SRT last year.

-Sehwag has scored his two highest scores in ODIs this year- 175 and 219. 175 was also the last time he crossed 100 in International cricket.

-At one point, West Indies were 201-9, and a wicket more meant that the entire team would fall for a score less than 219- Sehwag’s individual score.

-With this innings, he is now the fastest double-centurion in ODI Cricket (140 balls). The slowest (and only other) is Sachin Tendulkar (147 balls). 

-Sehwag scored 100 runs in fours alone. He scored 42 runs in sixes- making him the second highest scorer in boundaries behind Shane Watson (150) in a single innings. 

-Sehwag was 173 when he was dropped (an absolute sitter) by opposition captain Darren Sammy. 

So there it is, then. We have another batting record broken- and its another Indian doing so. What makes it sweeter is the fact that Sehwag broke Sachin’s record, and now holds records that were always rightfully fated to be his. 

What’s remarkable is that until Sehwag retires from test cricket or repeatedly gets bored after crossing 290, 400 isn’t much of a record. He can do it again, and again…and again…

India have sealed the series 3-1, with one match to go. Rahul Sharma made his long-awaited debut, taking 3 impressive wickets. Raina returned to form, as did Gambhir. But all that is forgotten, rightly so, in favour of a once-in-a-decade innings from a man that has changed the face of the specialist art of ‘opening batting’ for generations to come. 

The only other man capable of such gargantum records in modern cricket, sadly, isn’t playing for his country. But Chris Gayle, nevertheless, tweets:

"Well I did watch some of that innings by Viru… Brilliant striking!! Congrats on your 219… That’s child abuse! [As] The Mask would say, Smoking!"

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2 Comments

  1. monal

    December 9, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    this is the best spine tingling goose bumping piece on cricket i ever read

    • monal

      December 9, 2011 at 3:48 pm

      like the one on Dravid which gave me a warm,fuzzy feeling
      we want more. on gayle, watson, tendulkar….atleast Shane Warne?

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