Bowling greats admit Sehwag fear factor
Sehwag brought to life the worst fears of the West Indies bowlers during his 219 run-innings. Four great ex-bowlers who were recipients of his wrath speak out on their misery when they were up against the hard-hitting batsman.
Like most of Virender Sehwag's hundreds, there were records aplenty at the Holkar Cricket Stadium in Indore on Thursday. The destructive opener already holds the record for the third fastest double-hundred in Tests, the fastest triple hundred (since the time number of balls per innings were recorded), the highest Test score by an Indian, and others.
But numbers will never tell the story of this once-in-a-lifetime batsman. Now, Sehwag also boasts of the highest score by any batsman in a small matter of 3,223 ODIs. Through all this carnage, Sehwag has not done any favours to bowlers over the years. MiD DAY spoke to four great bowlers who were recipients of his wrath:
Saqlain Mushtaq (Before the Multan Test in 2003-04, Saqlain enjoyed a stellar run against India -- 24 wickets from three Tests with four five-wicket hauls. But Saqlain didn't have to contend with Sehwag during those three Tests. The Multan Test was the last time Saqlain represented Pakistan, finishing with figures of 1-204 from 43 overs. Sehwag's 309-run blitzkrieg was, in a way, responsible for ending his international career.)
"What happed at Multan was unfortunate for me on a personal level.
"But what he did there -- getting 100, 200 and 300 with sixes -- proved to me that he was not an ordinary player. The sort of concentration he possesses, the fact that he doesn't fear any bowler, his positive attitude, I truly salute him as a modern day great. I must admit that he put some fear in me (while I was bowling). I like him a lot, and appreciate his game. I am a big fan of his.
In my defence, I had not practised for close to six months before that Multan Test. I was playing with pain-killing injections. I always got pleasure while bowling against players like Sachin (Tendulkar) and Brian (Lara). I put Sehwag in that same category after that Multan Test. Unfortunately, the powers-that-be didn't want me to bowl to him ever again. As you know, my career ended with that Test. I regret that I could never bowl to him again. But that's how life is. The knock he played today (against West Indies) was special and only he could have done something like this.
Chaminda Vaas (This retired Sri Lankan seamer was at the other end when Sehwag blasted 201 runs off 231 balls in the 2008 Galle Test. Sehwag remained unbeaten and became only the second Indian after Sunil Gavaskar to carry his bat through a Test innings. Later, in the 2008 Asia Cup final -- Vaas witnessed Sehwag blast 60 runs off just 36 balls. That was their last encounter).
"Oh, what can I say about this genius. I bowled a lot to Sachin (Tendulkar), Azhar (Mohammed Azharuddin) and other Indians, but I found nobody more difficult to stop. When he gets going, he's got the calibre to score big hundreds. He's never satisfied. He's a player who can make a lot of runs in whatever format or conditions. I think it's become easier to score a double (ton) in ODIs now with powerplay rules, but I don't want to take any credit away from him. As a bowler, you need to have patience against him as he's always trying to dominate.
I used to try and bowl in the same spot for six balls in a row, bowl wicket-to-wicket, but you can't do that against Sehwag. I have managed to get him out many times, but I was lucky. Wherever I bowled, he managed to find ways to score. His batting has improved recently because he plays more through the leg-side. I want to congratulate him for his fantastic double ton. It will give more bowlers around the world nightmares now (laughs). The only way to get him is in the first few overs.
Makhaya Ntini (This retired South African pacer actually had the wood on Sehwag on many occasions during the Test rubbers in 2001-02 and 2006-07. But all that was erased from his memory during Sehwag's triple century against South Africa at Chennai in 2008. He conceded 128 runs from just 28 overs but guess who removed Sehwag for 319?)
"He's simply one of the best I have bowled to. It's particularly not easy to bowl to him on flat wickets. He can destroy you and leave you demoralised. As a bowler, there's not a lot you can try, especially if the pitch is flat. If there is some movement in the air or extra bounce, you can do some things. But world cricket is full of flat tracks today, and that's why a batsman like him becomes more dangerous. During that triple hundred at Chennai, we tried everything.
I remember Dale (Steyn) and I went around-the-wicket, and tempted him with wide balls, with fielders in catching positions, and still he kept finding ways to score through his pads. In the end, I was happy to dismiss him. Though he got 319, it was still a wicket. I am happy that he has got a one-day double century. He's a great bloke. Though he shows no respect to bowlers on the field, he's a fantastic person and person. Cheers, Viru."
Shaun Pollock (This retired South African great had many fascinating battles against Sehwag. When Sehwag scored Test century on debut at Bloemfontein in 2001-02, it was Pollock who clean bowled him on both occasions. However, he rarely dismissed Sehwag in the final few years of his career. Who can ever forget Sehwag's 62-ball 77 against South Africa at Bangalore in November 2005?)
"To be honest, when he crossed 130-odd, I had a feeling that he was going to get it. I haven't been watching a lot of cricket, but I actually saw this match. It was a phenomenal knock, one of the best knocks in one-day cricket. I wouldn't say he put a fear factor in me while I was bowling but definitely he's someone that made me think as a bowler.
When he scored that 319 against us at Chennai, he scored so many runs in unconventional areas where you don't see batsmen scoring in Test matches. I remember he played lot of reverse-sweeps and kept generating unique ways of scoring. I was glad to have retired by then, but did bowl to him a lot before. He's a champion batsman. Definitely someone who puts bowlers on the back foot... I am not surprised that it's Sehwag who has broken the record of another great Sachin Tendulkar"