When Virender Sehwag strode in, onto the venue where he scored his last hundred two Novembers ago, he was well aware of the pressure that shrouded him, of the unduly barren stretch of hundreds and his continuous under-performance. But Sehwag also knew more than anyone else to regain the mojo that has propelled him to the Test-giants’ bracket.
The conditions, he knew, offered negligible assistance to English seamers, and it was more about surviving the new ball. “Credit should be given to the video analyst, for he showed footages of my last ten innings and how I was getting out early. So I knew that once I could get over that period I can score a lot of runs. I never doubted my abilities, but only the media did,” he smirked.
His ton assumes in significance when you factor in the context. “Getting a hundred in the first innings of a first Test is very important for it sets a tone for the remaining series. It was very different to my previous hundred because that pitch was good and ball came nicely onto the bat,” he said.
Though he has posted hundreds on trickier surfaces—too many to detail—the Motera track did pose challenges of its own. “It’s not as though we are playing Bangladesh. England are a good bowling unit and the track was on the slower side and some balls kept low. It’s not very easy to play your strokes as the ball didn’t come on to the bat. We have to work hard for our runs,” he said.
By his supersonic standards, he demonstrated enormous patience. “This is a wicket you have to be patient. If you play your shots, you might give the odd chance to the bowler, but if you are not it will be very difficult for bowlers to get you out. After I reached the ball got older and stroke-making was really tough. So I decided to slow the tempo. The first three of our batsmen got out playing big shots,” he reflected.
Hence, dismissing England twice, isn’t as simple a task as perceived. “We are now well placed and hopefully the guys will score in excess of 500 by tea tomorrow. They (England) are not like Bangladesh. They won’t throw their wickets away. Our bowlers would have to work hard and bowl in the right areas. There is help for the spinners and we have to exploit it,” he said.
He was also appreciative of Cheteshwar Pujara and Gautam Gambhir, with whom he stitched partnerships of 90 and 134 respectively.
“Gauti played really well and supported me. It was important for us get a big partnership going. Pujara is a wonderful and showed a lot of class. The best thing about him is that he doesn’t miss many loose balls,” he observed. On Pujara would hinge India’s prospects of posting a 500-plus total.