New Delhi: On the occasion of Virender Sehwag's 100th Test match, Cricketnext spoke to the India opener’s batting coach AN Sharma about his journey to the top, and just why Sehwag has achieved such success at the highest level.
How do you look at Virender Sehwag's journey in Test cricket?
I think Viru has revolutionized the way Test cricket is being played. He has injected an element of excitement and thrill in Test matches, which used to be tad stodgy earlier. He alone has scored 250-plus runs in a day, while earlier teams would be content_cn with 220 in the whole day.
Spectators throng to stadiums just to watch him play. He gives them value for money and time they had spent to come to the ground. He's an entertainer in its truest sense who gives unalloyed joy to the viewers across the globe. He'll always be remembered as someone who turned the game on its head. And of course, he's one of the most successful and finest openers India have ever seen. He re-defined the role and modus operandi of an opener in Test cricket.
Which attributes do you think make Sehwag so special?
He's an intrepid and supremely confident guy. He doesn't get overawed by the reputation of any bowler, instead he intimidates the bowlers. This is one quality which I inculcated him when he was a teenager. I told him that he must feel like a king when he has a bat in his hand and, and must go after the bowlers to demolish their morale. Attack is the best form of defence and Sehwag is the shining example of this truism. His hand-eye co-ordination and ability to pick the length of the ball are the best I've seen in the world. He has peerless skills, unabashed audacity, robust mental attitude and a big heart. His game is uncomplicated and simple.
His technique and shabby footwork have always been under the scanner...
You tell me, what is technique? Can a batsman without technique survive for 100 Test matches and score two triple-centuries and over 8000 runs with an average over 50? Just because Sehwag's method of scoring runs is simple and he doesn't like to gabble those rhetoric jargons, does it make him any lesser batsman than those who spout a lot of gyaan (knowledge) about batting but quail at the thought of facing ferocious bowlers? How many batsmen in the world can claim to be as fearless as Sehwag, and match up to his feats and statistics? I think it's high time those arm-chair critics shut their mouthes. He's unorthodox and different from others, and that's what sets him apart from others. Cricket is about making runs or taking wickets, and Viru is too big a player to be affected by such baseless tripe.
Greg Chappell said that Sehwag was the biggest disappointment of his coaching stint with team India. He also asserted that Viru was slothful and stubborn and had an indifferent attitude towards training and fitness regime...
This is completely rubbish. Sehwag never shies away from fitness regime. Whenever he is not playing, he spends a lot of time training hard in the gym and on the ground. Even in the hot summers of Delhi, he makes it a point to jog around the ground. Sehwag is 34 and still going strong. His body is in the perfect shape. Have you noticed any deterioration in his fitness or body?
What does Sehwag do when goes through a lean patch? Which are the things you work on with him? Do you try to change his game or give technical inputs?
I've never tried to change his game. He is a naturally aggressive batsman from the childhood. Had I tinkered with his game 20 years before, you would not have seen the kind of batsman Sehwag is today. I always encouraged him to back himself and be true to his abilities. That's exactly what I do even now. Every cricketer goes through a rough patch in a long career and Viru is no exception. He works very, very hard on his game and always remains eager to improve his game. Usme bhookh hai runs ki (He has hunger for runs). We both sit down and analyse the videos of his past innings, take note of the manner in which he is getting out and then we both decide that he needs to make a couple of minor adjustments; like not playing a particular shot early in the innings or how to encounter a specific bowler.
Which innings of Sehwag in Test cricket you rate as his best?
I've always told him that innings which win matches for the team are the best ones. What is the point of scoring 500 runs if your team loses the match? Viru's 309 against Pakistan at Multan in 2004 is his best innings to date. It came against a potent bowling attack and it holds a lot of historical and statistical significance for India. He became the first Indian to score a triple-century in Test matches, and India won its first Test on Pakistan soil. Ultimately, the victory in the Test matches, and eventually the series (2-1), made it very memorable.