India's first ODI against Sri Lanka at Hambantota brought a string of good tidings for team India. They started off the new season with a 21-run victory over the hosts and Virat Kohli cracked a century showing that his scitillating performance last season wasn't a fluke.
But perhaps the biggest positive was Virender Sehwag's return to form and his renewed approach towards the game. It is no secret that Sehwag has been struggling to muster runs in the past six months. His last five ODI innings before yesterday's match were 10, 20, 0, 5 and 30. His Test match returns were no better; in Australia he scored 198 runs at 24.75 from four games.
Sehwag's shot selection and reckless attitude were under fire from cricket analysts and media. His apparent tiff with MS Dhoni kept him in the news for the wrong reasons.
The India opener looked a picture of concentration during his match-winning 96 in the first ODI against Sri Lanka on Saturday.
Sehwag performed well in IPL 5, scoring 495 runs at an astonishing strike-rate of 161.23. He cracked a record five half-centuries in a row and finished as the fifth-highest scorer. But his real test was to perform in international matches.
In his first ODI after more than four months, Sehwag was meticulous in his shot selection and exhibited remarkable constrain during his 96 against Sri Lanka. Early in the innings he found it difficult to middle the ball and was even given a life on 0 when Tillakratne Dilshan dropped a simple catch at point. After that Sehwag became more circumspect; his first five runs took 18 balls.
After getting the measure of the pitch, Sehwag carted a couple of boundaries off Lasith Malinga to set the ball rolling.
He grew confident as he played more balls and started pinching singles with ease. He remained in control of the situation and didn't try to hit every ball out of the park. Sehwag is known to score majority of his runs from boundaries but on Saturday, he surprisingly ran hard between the wickets for as many as 40 singles and seven doubles. Though he hit just 10 boundaries in his innings, his 96 runs came off 97 balls.
It seems like Sehwag has finally understood that in order to notch up massive scores consistently, he needs to exercise discretion and pick the right balls to hit. He's not averse to taking his time to get set and has learnt the art of pilfering singles and doubles rather than largely relying on boundaries.
With the kind of strokes he has in his repertoire, Sehwag can up the ante any time. Perhaps the barren phase has taught him a lesson that will stand him in good stead.