Watching Virender Sehwag bat is more akin to getting to grips with the atonality of a rebellious Igor Stravinsky, than being soothed by the mellifluous temperateness of a sedate Chopin. Yet there are few batsmen in the world who can bestow upon their audience Proustean bursts of ‘moments bienheureux’.
Possessing a style of batting that is more apt to be described as ‘speculative cavort’, Sehwag is more audacious than assiduous, substitutes sagaciousness with savagery and prefers the phenomenal over the prosaic. Sehwag seems to possess an unswerving belief which espouses that in addition to line and length, a bowler’s mind is also malleable to suit the hedonistic needs of a batsman. An impetuous repertoire of stroke making is ably assisted by an incredible hand eye co-ordination. As delectable wrists combine with powerful forearms to send seemingly good deliveries soaring over the third man boundary, screaming through covers and searing the blades of grass abounding the on-side, the destruction of many an egregious ego is accomplished with a precision that can only be termed surgical. This devastatingly unique style of batting was best summarized by the candid Ian Chappell when he remarked “Sehwag can change the course of a match with the ease of Moses parting the Red Sea”.
The unassuming may be forgiven in concluding that Virender Sehwag is more a fan of Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade” than Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”. But beware; Virender’s is a beguiling ‘Charge’ with a very significant difference. It is more a “Charge of the Light Brigade – Redefined” than redux. In this Charge, it is the opposition who wilt under the remorseless rage of the sword or rather the willow; a charge which embodies a philosophy that is fundamental yet fascinating – the philosophy that when it comes to batting, there are no philosophies. Profound and sage theories considered sacrosanct by acclaimed Pundits are debunked as being merely puerile. While bad deliveries need to be necessarily put away, good deliveries ought not to be accorded discriminatory treatment. Swing and spin are treated in an impeccably impartial vein. The distinction between the longer and shorter formats of the game is considered irrelevant and inconsequential. The first ball of a Test Match as well as the final ball of the 50thover in a One Day International is treated with equal equanimity, impeccable impartiality and absolute irreverence.
While Sehwag in scintillating form is an intolerable headache for a bludgeoned opposition, it is an unbridled delight for his own team. A Sehwag blitzkrieg not only ups the morale of the Indian team but the pace at which he goes about his business also provides ample time for his side to have a dig at the opposition batting twice, if not bowl them out. This results in more opportunities to win a Test Match than would otherwise have been possible. A classic case in point being the memorable triple hundred in Multan which enabled India to win the game comfortably. Even though this particular encounter would be famously or rather infamously be remembered for the declaration made by Rahul Dravid with Sachin left a mere 6 runs short of a double hundred, the most indelible feature of this game was the savage decimation of the Pakistani pacemen by Virender Sehwag. Sehwag driving, cutting, pulling, slashing and flicking with aplomb and extraordinary disdain was a rapturous delight to his fans neutrals alike. This was an innings that would have received wholesome approval and warm accord from the likes of Gilbert Jessop and Victor Trumper.
This boisterousness of Sehwag is incidentally exemplified by this famous quote attributed to the mercurial talent himself – “It doesn’t matter if you have one billion rupees in your bank account or one rupee. This is one life you get, and you’d rather spend it enjoying whatever you have, rather than thinking, ‘Oh, I should have scored seven more runs, or I should get more money.” More often than not when Sehwag succeeds in going about his merry ways, it is money in the bank for the team that he is representing.
Yet it is this atonality that has made this wonderful batsman cricket’s Auguste Escoffier. The delights that he serves up are undoubtedly original and undisputedly breathtaking. The sight of Sehwag carting Shoaib Akthar down the ground with an effortless swing of the bat or sashaying down the track to dispatch Murali over cover with a glorious inside out shot is one which has a lure that can only be termed ‘lambent’.
As Stravisnky himself said “I haven’t understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it”.
Very few batsmen feel the art of batting more than Virender Sehwag.