Posts Tagged ‘Virender Sehwag’


Bini Sathyan

Warner bats very much in the mould of a Sehwag. Image: sportinglife.com

David Warner is only five Tests old. In this short span, he has hit a century and another. The second one against India at WACA is the fastest ever to be hit by an opener. And it was completed in a session at the WACA. To hit a century in a session is no mean feat. Something that the greats dream of. The stuff that legends are made of. And it is a rare feat. Warner has announced his arrival in Tests and his stature is growing.

Till a few months ago, he was a Twenty20 hitter, an entertainer who was nowhere in the Test scene. He went around the world playing in T20 leauges entertaining the crowd. The selectors did not have him in the scheme of things. Neither did he have Test cricket in mind. In his own words, he never believed that he could play Test cricket.

All that changed when he was contracted to play in the IPL for the Delhi team which was led by the dashing Virender Sehwag. When Sehwag was a hit in the ODIs, he was also not considered for Tests as the purists felt that his style of play is unsuited for the longer version. But once he was given a chance, he revolutionized and brought entertainment to test cricket batting. Records were rewritten and batting never remained the same again in Tests. It was Viru who instilled in Warner the belief that he would do well in test cricket. Inspired by Sehwag’s words and work, he finally landed up in the Test arena. And the rest as they say is history.

Both the hitting machines shared one thing in common. They both believed in only one thing. The ball is there to be hit and hit hard. The pitch is not a concern, the situation is not a bother and the bowler does not matter. The only thing that mattered was where the ball lands for the fielding team to pick up. They have only one cricket gear, the top gear. So they did not have the confusion of switching it as the situation changed. They go all out from the word go. They try to hit the first ball of the match out of the park. Brought up their centuries with sixes. Lived and died by the sword. And on their day, decimated the opposition in such a way that the destruction was complete and total. They are the weapons of mass destruction in cricket. The similarities do not end. Records fall by the wayside when batting for them is a walk in the park. Sometimes it looks like they are out practicing boundary hitting out in the middle a match.

Though Warner’s debut in Test cricket has coincided with a big slump in form for Viru, for Warner, it is just the beginning. He is an improved version of Viru – faster scoring, farther hitting and better footwork are the improved features in the new version. India’s batting machine reengineered and invented at IPL and launched in Australia with a ‘Made in Australia’ tag. Australians have found a Viru for themselves. A new brand of Test cricket batting belonging to the Viru breed has been launched. The weapon gifted by India is being used against its inventor.

The doubts about the improvement in consistency and longevity can be proved only with time. Such power hitting which can influence the results of 5 day long Tests in a single session is going to be a threat for the Test playing nations and a treat for the fans. These power hitters are definitely going to entertain. India will have to think hard and come out with a better version of Viru to counter the Warner threat. A reloaded version of Viru who can last longer and more often. Or we need to find a newer version. Let’s leave that task to Viru himself.


Goutham Chakravarthi

India stand to lose more than just the series when the third Test gets underway on Friday morning. Talks of both teams going with four quick bowlers have donned the headlines over the last two days, but they have been just a sub-text in a week dominated by Haddin’s claims on India being a side not needing much to turn on each other and Zaheer’s counter claims to it. Perhaps, Haddin folding his hands and saying, “Friday the 13th… be scared India…. be very scared…” is sillier than Hrithik Roshan calling this the Agneepath series. Even though some of the cricket from India in Sydney was pretty silly, none could match these sequence of events over the last week.

From being touted to be the best opening pair in the world two seaons ago, Gambhir and Sehwag have largely disappointed. They were Batman and Robin, Holmes and Watson, and Bryan and Bryan: irresistible and scintillating. They would thrill with their strokeplay and running between the wickets. One would sneeze and the other would catch a cold. Two close pals, one a genius on his day, and the other, a determined soul, needing each other more than ever before to turn it around for themselves and for their team. They set the tone and their form usually dictates how well India do as a batting unit.

If they can give India a good start, India will fancy their chances. Photo: AFP

Yes, in their heyday, this team would turnaround every friction, banter and abuse to its advantage. They were among the most respected and tough bunches going around. Yet, with reasons, firstly, with injuries, and now with age, the reasons for decline have not been arrived at. Some have pointed out to Fletcher’s incoming to this team coinciding with its dipping fortunes, but, the coach and the team swear by the culture and insist that nothing has changed.

The reason for India’s declining fortunes is directly proportional to its waning batting performances. India’s planning in the Tests has not been as prudent as it has been in the one-dayers. It took a hard stand to leave out the likes of Laxman, Dravid and Ganguly and groom youngsters and reaped benefits. A similar attempt in Tests has never materialized.

India goes into Perth with little confidence and/or collective form. A green pitch might guarantee 20 wickets for both sides. There in lies India’s best chance. The chasm between the sides has been Australia’s bowling. India’s bowling has been inconsistent and seems to rise and fall with Zaheer’s mood and health. Should the wicket encourage a three day Test, the result will hinge on a crucial 70 here or there, and, right now, that seems to be the best the Indian middle-order seems to be able to produce.

Over the next few days, this Indian team will not just fight the Fremantle Doctor and the Aussies for the series, but for their immediate future. While the right thing would be to blood a couple of youngsters, it is difficult to imagine this team management opting for that. For long, consistency in its team selection counted among its strengths, now, it might have come back to haunt them.

Australia go in as favourites, but the pitch might give India a chance to pull one back.

You can read preview from the Australian camp here.


Prasad Moyarath

History repeats. For a cricket team which depends a lot on history, this can be a solace after its comprehensive innings defeat in SCG. India is 2 down going into the WACA Test like in 2008 but unlike 2008 this team doesn’t inspire any confidence in its followers to remain optimistic. When the captain of this side which has now lost six consecutive Test matches outside the subcontinent says “We can beat this team in Perth”, it draws only laughter.

Not much to celebrate for the Swami Army this Australian Summer so far.

SCG has always been a favorite venue for India for its comparatively low bounce and help to spin. Batting is easy on the first few days and there are many memorable knocks by Indians there including those from Tendulkar and Laxman. Those who anticipated the Indian batting greats to flourish in SCG were treated to a show of their fading antics which were rustic and devoid of any flamboyance or passion. The realization that the Great Wall has developed cracks, Laxman – no more Very Very Special, Sehwag – a lottery and Tendulkar – trepid while nearing his personal milestone, was a jolt for many.

Dhoni looked courageous but was unrealistic with his decision to bat first. The Indian procession to the dressing room started in the first over. Sehwag looked like playing club cricket in both the innings and it is time for someone to remind him that he cannot continue in the side as a once in a while performer. Though Gambhir put up a brave face in the second innings when the conditions were good for batting, he never looked convincing whenever the ball moved or bounced. Dravid never lived up to his stature and Australians succeeded in rearranging his stumps for the fourth time (once of a no ball) in this series. Laxman looked rusty though he scored a half century in the second innings. Ageing footwork and reflexes of Dravid and Laxman have been exposed in Australia. Kohli showed glimpses of his talent but did not utilize the opportunity. Only Tendulkar looked assured but his continued inability to play a long innings should be a worry for the Indians. Dhoni once again proved to be a non performer outside the subcontinent and his unbeaten half century in the first innings came more because of the Clarke’s decision to attack the tail enders than his batting ability. Ashwin once again proved that he has the abilities to become an all-rounder. Indian fast bowlers never looked menacing except Zaheer on the first day. This can be attributed to the good batting conditions and also to the short gap between Melbourne and Sydney Tests. Dhoni’s mediocre captaincy made run making easy for the Australians. Seeing the Australian bowlers correct their mistakes after each session, the Indian supporters were forced to wonder whether this Indian team really has a bowling coach.

After a poor start, the Australians sent Indians for a leather hunt. Unlike the Indian veterans, Ponting and Hussey seemed to improve with age. Clarke assured an Australian victory in the 100th Test in Sydney with a captain’s knock and a prized wicket and declared the innings without bothering about his personal milestone. Will this open the eyes of those Indians who see every Test match as a venue for Tendulkar’s milestone? Haddin had a very poor match behind the stumps. The pace trio of Pattinson, Siddle and Hilfenhaus once again tormented the Indians. The Australians had a plan for every Indian batsman and executed it to perfection like in Melbourne.

Australians made a remarkable comeback after their poor performances against South Africa and New Zealand and made the 100th Sydney Test, their own. The innings defeat in SCG has flooded the Indian camp with gloom and now it is up to the team to sit together and find a way out. The WACA pitch is well known for its pace and bounce and the Indian win there in 2008 might have prompted Dhoni to express optimism in the presentation ceremony after the SCG Test. For the moment, all the Indian fans are heart broken not because of the Indian team’s loss but because of its lack of passion, professionalism and willingness to fight. Swami Army summed up the Indian minds in their song “Why This Kolaveri Di”.


Goutham Chakravarthi

It was the most fascinating twenty minutes of the day. Sourav Ganguly and Ian Chappell had spent twenty minutes on air both talking two separate things. Ganguly spoke of Tendulkar’s solid defence. Chappell responded saying Chopra and Sehwag ran well between the wickers and that Gambhir and Jaffer, previously, were walking wickets at the top of the order. “Coming back to the point,” said Ganguly “Tendulkar’s defence is solid. See how he takes his foot out to reach for the ball.”

An all too familiar Indian collapse put Australia on top Photo: Reuters

It was bizarre. May be that is how any conversation between any Chappell and any Ganguly transpires. I didn’t know which was weird: the commentary or India’s batting out in the middle. It had been an hour and half of poor cricket: Gambhir came and went, Sehwag lived on the edge before nicking one to Ponting who promptly dropped it only for Pattinson to send back Sehwag shortly thereafter. Dravid and Laxman look more like the Dravid and Laxman of 1999-00 than of 2003-04. They struggled. Tendulkar and Kohli took India to the brink of lunch when Clarke summoned Hussey to deliver the final over. After 20 minutes of rambling, finally Ganguly and Chappell struck a conversation.

Ganguly: This is a smart move by Clarke. Everyone expected him to bring in Lyon for the last over, but he springs a surprise. Tendulkar has a history against these dibbly-dobbly bowlers. He hated facing Hansie Cronje.

Chappell: Then he must have nightmares facing Kiwis!

I pictured Greg Chappell chuckling at this back home and perhaps throwing a couple of air punches in delight at his brother’s clever retort.

Ganguly: Not sure about that Ian, but am sure you guys have problems. You just lost to them in Hobart last month!

The cameras panned to the Indian dressing room and they were clapping. You’d think for Tendulkar. Surely, they were clapping for Sourav. If you can take out two Chappells in one sentence, it is worth more than the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

I punched the air in delight. At least waking up at 4 in the morning didn’t go waste. We were one up going in to lunch even if the score card said something else!

And that was that! Nothing went India’s way. Even a determined Tendulkar who looked in tremendous form dragged one on to his stumps. It was another day of good fast bowling by the home team. Their lengths to the Indian top-order would have done their bowling coach, McDermott, proud.

Pattinson set up Sehwag and Laxman with the guile of a veteran while Siddle bowled a hostile over to knock over Kohli who had looked very comfortable till then. Between the three quick men, they had India in knots for the third successive innings. Given India’s repeated weak response to good quick bowling, the three quick men will fancy a rich harvest this summer.

Jokes of Indian batsmen’s lack of patience and feet movement fill the entertainment sections of Australian newspapers. “If you want to see fancy Indian footwork, bypass the SCG and take in a Bollywood musical,” read one of the newspapers. And the taunts of No Country For Old Men seemingly now a dig at the Indian middle-order than their own ageing greats.

It has been a miserable time for Indian batsmen over the last one year playing outside of India. No longer can the batting unit continue to surrender meekly. Yes, the Australian bowling has been hostile and good, but the application and hunger they were famous for seems lacking. It is highly unlikely that they will all survive should this series pan out like their last English summer.

All is not lost. There are another four days left in this Test to redeem themselves. Meanwhile, Ponting, Clarke and Hussey will know that two sessions of batting tomorrow could well seal the Test in their favour.


Goutham Chakravarthi

India hadn’t won the Boxing Day Test in its three recent attempts before this tour. They didn’t this time either. They come to Sydney with a similar track record: no wins in their last three attempts. And the last of those Tests will be remembered as the bloodiest among all India-Australia tests. It wasn’t cricket. Reputations were scarred. Careers suffered – both cricketers and umpires. Cricket burned.

Thankfully, the relationship between the two sides are more amicable these days and some credit for it should be given to the IPL. Four years have passed, and Symonds and Harbhajan are now teammates and reigning champs of Champions League T20. But Symonds might still feel let down by his Aussie teammates and the board with the incident four years ago. It affected him and eventually ended his Test career. He never made peace with the incident and felt more let down by his board and his teammates.

Neither India or Australia are the top Test team any longer, but cricket between the two sides, for most part of the Boxing Day Test, was exhilarating. It is a great moment for SCG as it is all set to host its hundredth Test. And Tendulkar’s quest for his hundredth ton has now reached Sydney (On the occasion of Sydney’s hundredth Test, Sydney Morning Herald listed the top 10 innings played there and Tendulkar features twice in it).

India have won only one Test in 1978-79 in Sydney in all their tours (in 9 attempts) of Australia so far. That it is supposed to be the ground that suits them the most in Australia is not translated in to more Test wins at least. When India walks in to the SCG on Tuesday, they will know that it is still their best chance of putting it across Australia in a generation.

SCG is all set to host its 100th Test. Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

India’s batting has shown up to be brittle over the last year. A famed batting order has been tamed. And as much can be inferred from their recent performances, it must not be forgotten what they are capable of. Each of them have defined some great batting moments of the decade gone by, and some, like Laxman’s 281, have redefined the fortunes of their country.

Sometimes, it takes an enormouns effort to change the tide. Viv Richards’ decline in his last three years of his career were offset by Richie Richardson’s backfoot strokeplay and the emergence of Walsh, Ambrose and Patrick Patterson. The swagger never really disappeared and Australia seemed to be more worried about hosting the first three Tests on bouncy wickets before going to Sydney and promptly lost the series before the Sydney Test came along in 1988-89. Yes, it was an Australian side still re-building and West Indies was still the overwhelming champion concealing its cracks rather well.

But this is more the opposite for Indians. They are not fighting Steve Waugh’s Australia of 2000. Their batsmen made their names with performances against the great Australian sides and then some others. This is more a case of a heavyweight boxer returning to the ring after being felled by a young challenger. Often, adversity was tackled and overcome. But apparently, not so over the last year. The mind knows what it takes to be the champion again, but it also wonders if the punch is as strong as before, if the reflexes are still good enough to sway out of strong punches and if the legs can survive twelve rounds of boxing.

Sometimes, you need to take a blow and stand the ground to know that you can still do it. It was the same for a young Virender Sehwag playing the Boxing Day Test in 2003. He was peppered with bumpers, and after an hour of ducking and weaving, he was hit on the head by a Lee missile. He stood his ground and scored one of the most celebrated near double hundreds in Australia. He would later say that getting hit made him realize that there was nothing more for him to be afraid of. He was hit and he was still there. He realized he could take it. And he realized he could scare the opposition as much as the quick bowlers scared him and his teammates. Perhaps that one ball was all it took to shape his career in the remarkable way it did.

There are more worries and question marks over India than Australia going into this Test. Once the game starts, it only takes one inspired moment of cricket to change things around. A top draw batting order will fight its battles individually and collectively and a celebrated captain has confessed to having been conservative when he had the chance to finish off the battle with the right call.

Remarkably, bowlers have come through well in the first Test, and the captain and the supporters will hope the fitness and form will continue through the remaining Tests. Australia still remains a fragile batting side and it will keep the Indian bowlers interested even when a strong partnership is flourishing.

It is still a battle of two teams capable of lot more than what they have achieved of themselves over the last one year. Series are won over jelly beans, and careers made in a single Test. India should believe Sydney’s hundredth has one inspiring moment in it that will change the fortunes for them.

More than that, let’s hope the cricket helps erase the pains of 2008.

You can read the match preview from the Australian perspective here