Tag Archives: Yuvraj Singh

Sehwag – The Inimitable Genius

Way back in the early Oughts, Prem Panicker, used to have an online talk-chat show called “Panix Station” (before podcast was even part of the public parlance) where people could send questions in by email. The show’s producer would read the question and Prem would give his take on it. It has since been discontinued and Prem has moved on to bigger and better things.

During the entire life of that show, I had sent in one question/comment only. It went something like this: “I don’t know why people are cribbing so much about how Virender Sehwag bats. He is a free spirit and he brings that refreshing attitude to his batting. Sure, there will be times when he gets out in a silly looking manner, but the team management seems to be okay with it. They seem perfectly happy with the way he goes about it as more often than not, he pulls it off and puts the opposition bowlers under tremendous pressure. We, as fans, should quit quibbling about his batting style and enjoy it while it lasts.”

Picture source: topnews.in

If you had seen the way Virender got out in the 2nd test match against Sri Lanka, you would either be banging your head against a wall for he has thrown out an opportunity for a fourth century on trot, or just shrug the shoulder with a nod of the head, acknowledging, “That’s the way he bats.”  Loads of ink and acres of webspace have been used up in trying to describe this inimitable genius. Of course, there is more method to the seeming madness.

Batting, when performed correctly, is an absolute work of art. Especially in test match Cricket. Sehwag, with a bat in hand, distills this art form to its purest core – See ball, Hit ball. He has been quoted many times that he doesn’t like to play “boring cricket”. Does this mean he wants to score a boundary of every ball? Of course not. There is a big difference between purposeful batting that is full of intent and general savagery where the batsman goes after everything.

I was looking for opportunities to score runs wherever I could,” Sehwag said of what he was trying to do when, for the third time in the series, he faced short and wide deliveries with a square third man, a deep point and a sweeper-cover in place. “If fielders are there I can hit towards mid-off, midwicket or mid-on. Whatever reasons. Because I don’t want to, you know, play boring Test cricket.

An argument has been made that Sehwag gets “bored” when the fields get defensive and the bowler is pitching the ball two feet outside the off stump. I think that’s a pile of garbage. No “bored” batsman could score the mountains of runs that Sehwag scores if he were actually to get “bored”. Sehwag has the highest percentage of 150+ scores  of all batsmen with at least 10 test centuries to their name. All this does is point out the irrefutable fact that when he gets “in”, he kicks on to a very big score.  That is not a sign of a batsman that gets “bored”, is it? The bowling and fielding placements get boring, but Sehwag? I don’t think so.

In test cricket, Sehwag gives the bowler the respect he deserves, not because of the bowler’s pedigree or his reputation, but how he is performing that day, that over. He plays out maidens, with rock solid front food defense but the moment he senses any weakness in the bowler, he launches in to him. When bowling to Sehwag, the bowler’s margins for error, diminish rather rapidly to the point of being almost non-existent. If there is a slight mistake in the length or the line, Sehwag duly cashes in with his lightning bat speed, with a typical flay over point. This undoubtedly has a significant effect on bowlers who are not made of sterner stuff.

Imagine you are Uda Walawwe Mahim Bandaralage Chanaka Asanga Welegedara (Now, say that three times fast and all your wishes will be granted!). A decent bowler with moderate talent and medium pace. You are gently trundling along in your run up and you are about to deliver to Sehwag. In the back of your mind, you know you have to be inch perfect. A little bit towards the middle, he will flick you over squareleg. A little wide, you will be slashed over point. Too full, you will be driven down the ground. Too short, pulled over  midwicket. This is where Sehwag wins more than half his battles. The bowlers need to be perfect, or they are going to be carted for runs. Quite easily.

In 2003-04 test series in Australia, Sehwag was on the threshold of doing something quite unique in the 3rd test of the series at the MCG – a ravishing double hundred on the opening day of the test – and he was only a shot away at 195. He had just hit the part-time crock of Katich for a six over long on. While trying to repeat the same stroke to get to 201, he holed out. The Indian score was 311-3 and India were bowled out for 366 soon after.

Two things grab your attention: One, The Australian bowlers, including Brett Lee, in home conditions, were bowling pretty well as they got the other 9 wickets for 171 runs and Two, Sehwag made a mockery of that bowling and the conditions. He owned them and tried to bat his way to 200 the only way he knows and in the process he got out, and the rest folded. This has happened a few times where the batting conditions look easy and the bowling benign, when Sehwag is still in, and the rest of the Indian batting just folds up after he is out. Perhaps, they are induced in to a false sense of confidence by the ease with which Sehwag has been dealing.

As a man who had the front row seat to that epic inning at the MCG (and many others during their time together at Ranji trophy matches), I asked former Indian opener Aakash Chopra about this on Twitter and he responded:

Absolutely…he does make it look so simple. The trick is not to believe it.

If this isn’t the sign of a genius, I don’t know what is. He plays with such ease that can only come from the clarity of the mind. There are millions of fans of Indian cricket who will swear by their allegiance for and devotion to Sachin Tendulkar, for the pure joy he has brought to the fans and his unquestionable influence on all batting records. But if you ask them for an honest answer as to who the key to an Indian victory is, the answer will have to be “Virender Sehwag”. In the days following the dastardly terrorist attacks in Mumbai, England agreed to come back and play the test matches in India. The first match was in Chennai and England set an unlikely 387 for India to chase in the 4th innings. Sehwag launched an assault on the English bowling that sunny afternoon at the Chepauk stadium by scoring a blistering 83 of just 66 balls that left a manageable 256 to get on the fifth day which Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh did with aplomb.

One of my friends put this up on his facebook page and I don’t think I can say it any better.

They can debate about the best batsman in the world all they want but there’s no other delight for the fans and no other nemesis for the opposition in cricket today than Sehwag.

A slightly modified version of this article is published at World Cricket Watch. My debut article there. Support WCW. (They have highlights videos of all matches).

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Bird’s the word

Yuvraj Singh, the potential star to take the middle order spot in the Indian test squad, but for now warming up the bench, was caught in a huge uproar on the first day of the third test match between India and Sri Lanka. I scoured the newspapers, websites and blogs to find out what really happened.

Apparently, he was playing the role of “Bobby Boucher” for his team. As you very well know, India-Sri Lanka test matches are the worst thing to happen to…. test matches. In fact, CIA is  showing these test matches live to their prisoners enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay as part of their remodeled psychological torture methods. In his efforts to be more funny than Adam Sandler (which is actually not that hard),  and entertain the sparse crowd at the P Saravanamuttu stadium, Yuvraj Singh flipped the bird, and all hell broke loose. He didn’t just flip any bird, it was the Jungle Fowl, The national bird of Sri Lanka. Oops!

I like flippin' birds for mah fans - Yuvraj

Yuvraj image source: Khaskhabar.com

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Who’s Next?

*This column is cross-posted at my column in CricAges*

If for one fleeting moment, we can push the hullabaloo from India’ disappointing T20 world cup campaign and the debacle of the second unit in Zimbabwe aside, we can actually see a team that is sitting atop the world Test rankings. The long, winding and arduous climb to the top has been a product in the making for almost a decade, riding on the backs of some of the finest cricketers the game has ever seen: Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble and VVS Laxman. Two of the five have already said sayonara to the international game and the others, being on the wrong side of 35, are not far away either.

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Autobiographies

Recently I came in possession of a few books on cricket, including a biography and an autobiography. That made me think what the titles would be if some of the Indian cricketers decided to put their lives on print.

Irfan Pathan – I used to be a fast bowler

Ajit Agarkar – Get your ducks in a row

Sreesanth – Show the other cheek, said Jesus

Yuvraj Singh – Mom’s the word

Ashish Nehra – What happens in St. Lucia, stays in St. Lucia

Harbhajan SinghMaa ki See, Maa ki do

Sachin TendulkarGod promise, I didn’t hear it

Sourav Ganguly – Striptease

Rahul Dravid – The Bridesmaid’s tale

MS Dhoni – At the end of the day

Zaheer Khan – Return of the dead

Virender Sehwag – I’m a better clone than Dolly the sheep

Send in your suggestions for VVS Laxman, Gautam Gambhir, Munaf Patel et al. Its open season, folks.

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Impending Twitter Crash of 2010

From now on, you can say in public that you follow God and you won’t be misconstrued for a religious person. It has happened folks! Sachin Tendulkar is finally on twitter and I am following him. I first noticed that SRT was on twitter when Harsha Bhogle tweeted about it. As any normal cricket fan and/or an Indian would do, I started following SRT.

Of course, there have been many instances of impostors claiming to be SRT. People start twitter or facebook accounts as some celebrity/athlete X and the actual person, if they wanna join these social networking sites, have to get a handle such as The Real X or something along those lines.

The identity of this SRT account was confirmed by a few people, including Harsha Bhogle and Yuvraj Singh, among many others and also by the picture that was uploaded by Sachin himself.

But I digress. Here is what Aakash Chopra tweeted about Sachin getting a twitter account

Sachin crashed Cricinfo’s servers when he scored that double…Twitter must buck up…and buck up fast!!! 🙂 Go SRT 🙂

and put twitter on high alert.

As of about an hour ago, Sachin is “up to 68000 followers. In 21 hours! An average of over 3000 an hour, but currently gaining over 6000 an hour!” according to Clarkyfanzine.

Twitter… You’ve been warned!

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Match Summary: India v South Africa T20 Worldcup

After accomplishing the first step (as easily as they were expected to) in regaining the T20 world cup trophy, India were on to sussing their strengths and weaknesses, against an equally strong South African team, who should be among the top 3 contenders for the cup, on Sunday May 2, 2010. India had a setback before the toss, with Gautam Gambhir declared unavailable due to diarrhea. Also, they rested Zaheer Khan, which meant, India went in with a spin heavy attack and a brand spanking new opening combination (both bowling & batting).

The pitch, similar to other pitches in the Caribbean, was expected to be slow and assist spinners. But due to the early start, there was to be some assistance to the pace bowlers as well. The outfield at the picturesque Beausejour cricket field was lush, which meant its gonna be slow and there is not gonna be much value for the shots and there will be premium put on running between the wickets. South Africa, winning the toss, elected to insert India in, to take advantage of whatever assistance their pace heavy bowling line up could get from the pitch and through the air. Continue reading

The curious case of Yuvraj Singh

The current Indian squad for the T20 world cup has a lot of players that pick themselves, starting with the Captain MS Dhoni, Zaheer Khan, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh. Yuvraj Singh has been an automatic selection in limited overs cricket for India for a very long time. He is one of the cleanest strikers of the cricket ball the game has seen and the six 6’s he hit off one Stuart Broad over on that brilliant night in Durban during the 2007 T20 world cup is indelible in the memory of all Indian cricket fans and Stuart Broad. But lately, he has looked a little out of sorts. He has had a wrist injury and had a forgettable IPL tournament, where he scored a grand total of 225 runs in 14 matches at an average of 21.25 runs with a highest of 43. For someone as gifted as he is, that’s just abysmal.

That brings me to the point: Did Yuvraj Singh deserve a spot in the squad for the world cup at all? Was his spot a product, more of his reputation than his current form? It is common knowledge that Yuvraj is very comfortable against medium pacers and struggles against spinners. Considering the fact this world cup is in West Indies, where the pitches seem to be aiding spin, makes you wonder about his selection to the squad. Even his fielding quality has gone down. For his IPL team Kings XI Punjab, he doesn’t even field in the hot corner – the backward point area. MS Dhoni has shown that he trusts the off-spin of YK Pathan and the part-time spin of Suresh Raina, so Yuvraj does not bring as much value with his bowling either, any more.

I follow Yuvraj Singh on twitter and some of his tweets indicate that he is really excited to be going to the Caribbean and is looking forward to being with the boys, training and playing. At least that is a change from the sulking Yuvi that was seen for most of the IPL 2010 tournament (Yuvi strongly denied that wasn’t the case, and he wasn’t pissed off with the Punjab team management for stripping him of the captaincy). However, the value he brought to the Indian team as an electric, exciting fielder, and a breathtaking batter and a useful part-time spinner have gone down a lot in the last 6-12 months.

Even with his obvious discomfort against short-pitched bowling, Suresh Raina has gone past Yuvraj Singh in the pecking order and is showing himself to be a better fielder than Yuvi was in his peak and a more-than-useful spinner. If Yuvraj keeps (not) performing the way he is doing currently, soon, Virat Kohli will also be ahead of him in the ODI squad. Rohit Sharma has shown he has got all the talent in the world and is at least as good a fielder and bowler as Yuvraj. There is more than a crowd in Yuvraj’s limited overs cricket rear view mirror, and they are closer than they appear. He’d better get his act together and remind us all that the Yuvi we knew in the 2004-07 stretch hasn’t gone anywhere.