Virender Sehwag: The Genghis Khan of modern cricket

Published: December 10, 2011
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It does not matter whom it was against, or the conditions; 219 runs in a One-Day Internationals is ridiculously good. PHOTO: REUTERS

It does not matter whom it was against, or the conditions; 219 runs in a One-Day Internationals is ridiculously good. PHOTO: REUTERS No other batsmen in my memory has made brutality look so beautiful. PHOTO: REUTERS Along with two triple centuries in Test matches, Virender Sehwag now becomes only the second player in ODI history to hit a double ton, breaking Sachin Tendulkar’s record score made in a match against South Africa. PHOTO: REUTERS

Sometimes, we just have to admit that we have seen something just a little bit special. I was in Antigua when Brian Charles Lara broke the world record (the first time), in Durban when Yuvraj Singh flayed the young Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over in the 2007 World T20, and at The Oval in 1975 (albeit aged one) when a certain Alvin Kallicharran set the inaugural World Cup on fire with a scintillating assault on Dennis Lillee. They were moments when you simply inhaled deeply, and said “I was there!”

In the modern era, smaller grounds, better wickets, and bigger bats, have seen a proliferation of spectacular batting exploits from a number of players, but there are occasions which still take the breath away.

During the course of his 240 ODIs and 92 Test matches, Virender Sehwag has done this on many occasions. I first took serious notice of him on the 2002 tour of India. At this point, he was considered to be a flashy, hard-hitting and entertaining middle-order batsman. He was promoted to open the batting in the opening Test at Lord’s. Surely he would rein it in?

Not a chance of it! Whilst criticised for his dismissal with India chasing down a large first innings total, he entertained the crowd at the home of cricket with an extraordinary cameo in the circumstances of 84 in just 96 balls.

Surely he was not an opener? He still is. Surely he would not make big scores dashing like that at the top of the order? Six Test match double centuries, including two triples, tell a different story. Surely he could only bat like that on the flat pitches of the subcontinent? That is maybe still a slight stain on his record, but two hundreds in Australia, one each in South Africa, England and West Indies is more than many have achieved.

I digress, simply because I have talked about the longer form of the game, but it is the true yardstick by which greatness is measured. An average of 52.25 over 92 Test matches is not quite greatness, but it is pretty close to it. And if nothing else, he has certainly been one of the great entertainers in the modern game.

Perversely perhaps, his record in ODIs is far from spectacular. 8,025 runs at 35.66 is reasonable by anybody’s standards, but not by those that you might expect from him. The strike rate of 104.62 is just slightly useful, mind you!

Again, it is the way that he has plundered those runs that stands out, that blade of his flashing faster than the speed of light, sending the white ball crashing into the board, more often than not somewhere between a wide third man and extra cover. Many players have style without substance; in fact there are many who have had substance without style; Sehwag has both in abundance.

Now the small ground of Indore, a batting track sent from Heaven, and a bowling attack … well, let us not at this point speak about the West Indian attack, is not a confrontation that would have had Sehwag grimacing with fear as he slept the night before the Indore ODI. However, the beauty of this man is that no contest seems to find him taking a backward step.

It does not matter whom it was against, or the conditions; 219 runs in a One-Day Internationals is ridiculous. Ridiculously good that is! It is the kind of performance that few have ever produced in ODI cricket. Sorry, it is a performance that nobody has ever produced in ODI cricket.

Whilst writing a column for another publication with a West Indian slant, I attempted to look away from the bowling figures, such was the scale of destruction caused by this little Indian maestro. It was the kind of innings that could cause psychological damage to those on the receiving end, whilst it was fortunate not to have caused physical damage to those in the crowd.

It was right up there with anything that you will ever see, a fact recognised by fellow professionals from across the cricketing globe:

“If you are a cricket fan, please switch your TV’s on right now and watch a genius bat… Sehwag destroying the WI… World record coming…” – Kevin Pietersen

“I say it again! I never saw Sir Viv bat but, I’ve seen Sehwag bat! What a player, 219 in a one day game is next to impossible!” – Yuvraj Singh

The name Vivian Richards appeared on a few Twitter timelines yesterday as people tried to find a comparison. The obvious comparison is that no other batsmen in my memory has made brutality look so beautiful.

I include all of the big hitters of the modern game, the likes of Chris Gayle and Kevin Pietersen, fine players in their own right, but unable even at their best to match such barbaric artistry. They can murder, but not with the grace and beauty of the assassin that is Sehwag, and was Richards.

I started above by recollecting some of the greatest performances that I have been fortunate enough to witness. Although Thursday’s world record was watched from the safety of a television room on the opposite side of the world, it is right up there amongst the very best.

However, there was one performance that I have omitted. That was the May 31, 1984, a day before my tenth birthday. It still remains the greatest innings that I have ever seen as Viv Richards flayed an England attack consisting of Ian Botham and Bob Willis, amongst others, to all corners of Manchester’s Old Trafford.

His maroon cap never unruffled, the motion of jaw chewing on gum never disturbed, the icy stare of a killer undisturbed even by the chaos of 102 for seven and then 166 for nine, Richards’ magnificent 189 not out on a seaming pitch, out of a total of 272 for nine, is still by some way the greatest innings I have ever seen. Period.

However, the modern generation have, and continue to, entertained. At the very top of that list is Virender Sehwag, the true modern entertainer. His legacy is as yet unknown, but there are already a list of moments to which people will say ‘I was there!’

His record is not safe, but that is simply because at the age of 33, I suspect there is still plenty to come from this little daredevil from Delhi.

The article originally appeared in www.cricketcountry.com

Rohan Kallicharan

Rohan Kallicharan

Rohan is based in England where he works as a Recruitment Professional. He also writes regularly for CricketCountry.com and All Out Cricket. He tweets from @ro_jito

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Shafi Ahmed(Deccan)

    funny…!Ghanges khan didnt prove his supremacy at home, invaded d world..Sehwag plays only at home or in sub-continental flat n dead tracks…i disagree with the author… Recommend

  • http://swingingballs.co.uk Rohan Kallicharan

    Shafi, I refer you back to the quote: “That is maybe still a slight stain on his record, but two hundreds in Australia, one each in South Africa, England and West Indies is more than many have achieved.”

    I don’t choose the title so GENGHIS Khan is an irrelevance to me, but I have firmly stated that his record could improve away from the Subcontinent.Recommend

  • malik

    UhOh

    Praising Indian cricketers in a Pakistani website. Not Done. Please stop this nonsense. We have better cricketers than Sehwag. Recommend

  • Punit

    Sehwag is reckless and brutal,so was genghes khan.Recommend

  • Karan

    @Shafi Ahmed(Deccan): hahahaha this ghenghis proved himself everywhere including Pakistan LOL.

    Remember the thrashing he gave to Gul.. God only knows how 180 million pakistani cried and how many commited suicidesRecommend

  • Viper

    He was dropped of an very easy catch, on 166 :ORecommend

  • Waleed

    I was just appalled by this whole article. I mean ofcourse its about sehwag but not once was Saeed Anwars 194 mentioned? Not once? I mean all he did wrong was get out on a six and he
    was caught just edge of the boundary line? I mean was it that bad it didnt even deserve a mentionhere? I rate even tendulkars knock of 200 better than this because he broke the psychological barrier first of the 200 mark and it was against a relevant opponent in South Africa?
    BBut who is this guy kidding? The best knock by far is by Saeed Anwar who scored 194 against
    his fiercest rivals at their home and at the peak of the rivalries and tensions bw the countries. This author has really shocked me by not even mentioning saeed anwar not even once. Nothing can be compared to that innings. Its either that or this guy doesnt have any knowledge of the intensity of the paki indian rivalry of that time. And Sir Viv comes 3rd in my book after tendulkars
    innings.Recommend

  • Mohinder Singh

    @malik:
    MirchiRecommend

  • alex

    Excellant piece. Sehwag murdered pakistanis in multan with best bowling attack at that time. Same pakistani attack would have destroyed india without sehwag.Saqlain would be still be playing and probably would have been best pakistan spin bowler. Sehwag changed the future.
    In India , we admire Imran khan , wasim akram for their supreme bowling. if pakistanis trash sachin , i can admit he is a loser. Sehwag is a brutal destroyer. He is kinda smiling assasin like michael jordan was. Sehwag scored seaming conditions in melbourne 195 and he could have scored first 300 if not for that reckless shot to get 200. He has matured. He probably value his wicket more…i hope he make more centuries before he reaches 401 not ou in TEST because if he reaches that he will retire. He don’t crap about stats or what you and me thinks. He is a pure entertainer…he has fan in his heart. He is a Amateur. If you are amateur golfer you know what that mean…you experiment and always look for that perfect swing ..perfect… Professionals accept their weakness and play around it. Sehwag still not admitting his weakness….instead he try to hide it by bulldozing opponents as much possible.Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    Not to take anything away from him but come on .. short boundary, dead pitch …What are you Indian groundsmen making.??? Utterly a bating platform and nothing for the bowler. Recommend

  • MD

    @Shafi Ahmed(Deccan) @malik
    Mr. Shafi, I doubt your tag “Deccan”, because you took pains to add the silly thing. Whoever you might be, but, let me enlighten you on few of the irrefutable facts. Sehwag reached his first triple test century by hitting a huge six at the Multan test, right inside your beloved country, Pakistan. His second triple century was against South Africa. Perhaps, you are in shock at, how, a person with a name ‘virender’ can achieve those feats.
    Mr.malik, all I can tell you is that a sportsperson shouldn’t be judged by his/her religion, race, gender or nationality. All of them should be beyond those silly identities. Recommend

  • Dr.A.K, Tewari

    It’s not a suitable adjective at least for a Indian cricket star . Pleasd don’t abuse him ……..Recommend

  • Sharjeel Malik

    Sehwag is no doubt a devastating batsman on the dry and low indian subcontinent pitches but should only be termed a great player if he has equivalently good stats when he has played well on pitches outside of the indian subcontinent. Cricinfo – please shed some light on this subject :)Recommend

  • Deb

    @Shafi Ahmed(Deccan)

    Shewag is not the only cricketer who takes part in those matches played on sub-continental pitches.There are another 21 players, 11 of whom obviously from an overseas team.If it’s that easy why they can’t bat the way Shewag does?Recommend

  • Sammy

    Great article!! Last time Sehwag was in Pakistan, he plundered 319 runs!! The ‘fast’ bowlers of Pakistan was make to look like chickens running around with their heads cut off.Recommend

  • Sammy

    @malik:
    Really…how come we do not see anyone today…and please stop quoting History…Recommend

  • Gaurav

    @Waleed: It was a good ininings; played in Chennai. But you should thank us that we provided a runner for the major part of that.Recommend

  • subba Rao Ch

    Schwag proved all over world,if he is fit England bowling attack might have been murdered,He did a mistake going to England despite knowing that he is not fit,We do hope he will not repeat such acts in futureRecommend

  • http://India Feroz

    The point I would like to make is that Sehwag is the product of an uncluttered mind. On his day nothing matters, the quality of the bowling or pitch are of no consequence. On such a day no matter whatever the line or length the ball will disappear. Among the Greats the easiest of batsmen to dismiss but the most difficult to contain. One hour at the crease will win his team a ODI, considering his pace of scoring at the Top. Two hours at the crease in a test match most likely to produce the same result. Imran Khan had once said I would love to have Sehwag as an opener in my team, he can single handedly win the game and simultaneously create psychological havoc with the opposition. For a bowler to see his best delivery disappear for six can be Soul destroying. Recommend

  • Mohammad Assad

    Sehwag is what Afridi should have become but instead he remained Afridi. Regardless much love for both Sehwag and Afridi.

    Rohan are u related to the westindian great Alvin Kalicharan?Recommend

  • Yasir

    He played well, he broke recored and he deserved it period!!! Recommend

  • Nandita.

    @malik:

    Comments like yours will only tarnish your name and the name of your country. It only shows how intolerant you are.Recommend

  • Raj

    He scored his first triple century against Pakistan in Pakistan. I am surprised; Recommend

  • rizvi

    Saeed Anwars knock will be the greatest. 219 vs 194, runs don’t matter, opposition and situation matters. And if we have a choice between Afridi and Sehwag, then Afridi is the man to go to, he is one of the best bowlers in the world and has a good average of 24 with strike rate of 120 in ODIs which in words of Martin Crowe means an average of 40. And moreover, Afridi’s attitude is very positive and brings lots of energy to the team.Recommend

  • Shafi Ahmed(Deccan)

    No one can compare sehwag with sir VIV or Tendulkar…they scored runs all over d world n sehwag is a chicken outside sub-continent…i will approve him if he takes on English,South African or even pak bowlers outside sub-continent….just hailing him 4 smashming bowlers in dead tracks is stupidity n just Amusing… Recommend

  • vickram

    @rizvi:
    Afridi’s faster one is dodgy. Some of his deliveries come with a suspect action.

    Next time watch when he bowls carefully. Umpires are afraid to report for fear of raising an outrage in Pakistan. Recommend

  • rizvi

    @vickram:
    You guys are always jealous of Afridi. 3years ago when he was not bowling well you guys were very happy to criticize his batting. Now that he is one of the best bowlers in the world, you have found an excuse to belittle his performance. I have never heard the idea you just cooked up about suspect bowling action. He bowls fast with his wrists, and remember he was a fast bowler before coming into Pakistan cricket. So please grow up and accept the fact that Afridi is one of the few match winners out there, and that to with Class.Recommend

  • Nirav

    Some of the comments from fellow pakistanis shows how much hatred they have towards their neighbour and now you expect India to come to pakistan and play cricket.Recommend

  • http://swingingballs.co.uk Rohan Kallicharan

    Guys

    Thanks for all of the comments, will reply to a couple of points briefly:-

    Saeed Anwar: wonderful, wonderful and stylish player. His 194 against India was a top innings. Like this one, played under favourable batting conditions.

    I have mentioned that conditions were favourable for this innings of Sehwag, quote: “the small ground of Indore, a batting track sent from Heaven, and a bowling attack … well, let us not at this point speak about the West Indian attack

    This is the reason why I would have Viv Richards innings in Manchester above either of them.

    As a West Indian, I admire both Pakistani and Indian cricket – I can’t see the relevance of mentioning Shahid Afridi in this thread. Talented and exciting cricketer, but not to be compared with the likes of Richards or even Sehwag and Anwar.

    Finally, yes I am related to the former West Indian international Alvin.

    Thanks again for the comments and lively discussion.Recommend

  • Bilal – Peshawar

    Great respect for V. Sehwag. Such a clean hitter of the ball. I think the audience here needs to go mature and get out of India-Pakistan bashing. Recommend

  • Anonymous

    Sehwag’s stamina and concentration are admirable, but he wouldn’t even have made the top ten batsmen of the 80s or 90s which had class acts such as:

    1. Viv Richards
    2. Gary Sobers
    3. Barry Richards
    4. Greg Chappell
    5. Sunil Gavaskar
    6. Brian Lara
    7. Sachin Tendulkar
    8. Javed Miandad
    9. Allan Border
    10. Martin Crowe

    And these batsmen proved their mettle against the best fast bowlers the world has ever seen, usually without a helmet: Lillee, Marshall, Holding, Roberts, Hadlee, Imran, Garner, Croft, Akram, Younis, and others. Heck, sloggers like Sehwag and Afridi cannot even come close to the strokework of even “lesser” batsmen of the era such as Kallicharan and Majid:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8lfKm0NRnQ

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDnTC6V1Q-sRecommend

  • reformistani

    I can hardly say I cheer for India but I can certainly appreciate a dominating performance. This was a dominating experience. When this fellow clicks, he brutalizes. He is a game-winner.

    Well done, sir.Recommend

  • Babar

    “However, the modern generation have, and continue to, entertained. At the very top of that list is Virender Sehwag”

    Sir with all due respect i beg to disagree, Afridi is a bigger and a better entertainer but is far more inconsistent to anyones liking. I am not drawing a comparision or anything as i am a Big Sehwag fan but couldn’t digest this line of yours.. Overall a nice read.

    ps: There was Viv, There is Viv and there will be only One King VIV. Period.Recommend

  • Babar

    @ Waleed:

    He never mentioned Tendulkar either. why creare fussRecommend

  • http://[email protected] umarz

    With the pitches like this you would even expect 1000 runs in 50 oversRecommend

  • Tony Singh

    @Babar:
    I agree Afridi is a better, perhaps best entertainer. Who else can chew a cricket ball?Recommend

  • Cynical

    @Tony Singh

    And you forgot his scrubbing the pitch with his boot in Faisalabad Test against England.Recommend

  • Babar

    @ Tony Singh:

    And he (Afridi) doesnt appeal too much to get a one match ban? *does it ring any bell to you*

    Anyways again let me clarify im a Sehwag fan and consider him one of the greatest entertainer but not the greatest.Recommend

  • Babar

    @ Author

    Are you in anyway related to the great West Indian south paw with whom you share your sir name?Recommend

  • Fasi

    what a knock by Sehwag!!.. he played very well..n his innings deserves all the applause.. but there should be some standard minimum size of the grounds….Recommend

  • Arsalan

    Congratz to Viru for playin such a wonderful inning,,,,,,,,,,,Recommend

  • alex

    Sehwag is a crowning jewel of Indian cricket. WIthout sehwag even with sachin prime form india would play for draw first and may be if opposition choke they will win. Upon arrival of sehwag, everything changed. Indian mediocre crappy bowlers have ample time to get wickets by boring the batsman into making mistakes. he changed whole indian way of thinking. India will go back to normal old ways once sehwag retires. India don’t even want to play T20s before but sehwag , yuvraj and dhoni changed the perception that tiny weak indian players can’t hit big shots. Sehwag is a terror for pakistan. There is one thing pakistanis do not understand…sehwag likes aggressive bowlers more than thinking deceptive bowlers. if you go aggressive at sehwag he will eat you alive…shewag is his own worst enemy. If you bore him and not tease him or sledge him , he will throw his wicket on his own. if you challenge him…he will kill you on his day so much that you will quit cricket. Steyn and morkel , notini were carted around like club bowlers on chennai. Until then steyn was cocky…he now realise he can’t bowl in flat wickets…I see saeed anwar game …he is most stylish left hander ever…but he played against worst of worst indian bowling on a flat wicket against worst captain of india. So saeed anwar knock don’t even count against sehwag. Sachin knock is like his own style of sneak when no one watching…he was inching and stopped hitting when he was close to double century. Sachin ia a pathetic batsman who play only for records. VIV is always the emperor of all batsman. Sehwag is the free spirited prince of entertainment.Recommend

  • http://saidcanblog.blogspot.com Said Chaudhry

    Long Live Veeru! The most ruthless of the flat-track bullies. And we have plenty of those in out Pakistan team also, but out of the entire lot, Veeru is the greatest. Recommend

  • Cosmo

    @Waleed:
    Saeed Anwar looped a simple catch to short third mman when he got out on 194, go and fetch a video on youtube. Recommend

  • Cosmo

    @Babar:
    How is excessive appealing and Chewing a cricket ball are comparable. I mean, dude it is cricket we are talking about not gilli-danda !!Recommend