One hundred Test matches is no mean achievement. As Virender Sehwag walks to the centre of the pitch along with Gautam Gambir in the second Test at Wankhede Stadium, one thought will be predominant in his mind. To make the occasion memorable, and knowing the 34-year-old’s appetite for big scores, he will be surely looking to piece together a huge individual target and etch his name in the annals of cricket history as the first batsman to score a century in his 100th Test match.
The swashbuckling Delhi opener is one of the few contemporary batsmen to adapt to short and longer formats of the game. A strokeful century in the first Test at Ahmedabad announced Sehwag’s return to form after two years of low scores. But Sehwag is Sehwag. The elegant VVS Laxman, who played alongside this great cricketer, said the opener has not changed. “His approach to the game has not changed. His batting is always entertaining and exciting. He has a special quality which makes him a special cricketer,” said Laxman.
Laxman said playing 100 Tests is always a great moment for any cricketer. “Very few Indians have achieved this distinction. It will be a big occasion for him. I’m sure there will be a Sehwag special particularly after his century at Ahmedabad. That century showed that he is hungry for big scores and the century also showed that he is a cricketer who plays for the team and for big occasion,” he said.
Sehwag, according to Laxman, is the most devastating batsman in modern day cricket. “He enjoys his batting. There may have been many ups and downs in his career but most of the time he never allows that to affect his batting. He has his own theory to come out of bad form. But one thing is sure that he is a very committed cricketer. He fights his way out through his own style. Of course, whenever he is on a song, it could be bowlers’ nightmare. He makes good bowling or bad wicket look easy,” he said.
Sehwag, who has scored centuries against all countries, was never an opener at the start of his career. One who started as a middle order batsman, was pitch-forked into the job after skipper Sourav Ganguly and coach John Wright persuaded him to do that job during the England series in 2002. He took up the challenge. He went on to hit 84 at Lords and then a marvelous 106 at Nottingham. “He has scored many centuries, including two triple centuries. But I rate his century at Nottingham as one of the best. It was not easy of conditions to bat. The ball was seaming and swinging around. More importantly, he never opened before as he batted at number
six. I still remember I discouraged him (with a smile) to take the opener’s job as I know the difference between an opener and a middle order batsman. But Viru simply laughed and then made a strong statement with the bat. Sehwag never looked back and has enjoyed his cricket as an opener. He is mentally very tough. That is the secret of his success,” he said.
For VB Chandrasekhar, who was himself a hard-hitting batsman, Sehwag is a genius. “He may have played many devastating knocks but the innings against Pakistan in 2005 at Mohali was of sublime. After seeing that knock I firmly believed that he is a special talent bordering on genius,” he said.
Chandrasekhar, who is a former national selector and now the coach of the Tamil Nadu team, said for a batsman like Sehwag who has been playing with the same style and play 100 Tests is a tribute to his skills, temperament and dedication to the game. “We have seen many entertaining cricketers but not many have played that many Test matches. But Sehwag has done it. He has not changed his style and continues to play with same devastating effect. He is the same when he started his career. That explains to his extra ordinary talent in him,” he added.