Cricket before 15 years wasn’t the same. ODI was still the most popular version, opening slots weren’t as dynamic and specialist openers often decided the fate of an elusive encounter. Slam bang approach was not a part of the 21 yard strategy and full throttle test matches were still the bane of the great game. Incidentally, that was the time Virendra Sehwag was lurking around, and quite explosively, I must say. As he hung his boots, very silently, an era has ended. Truly, this time around.
Public memory has always been short, and the administrators of the game have conveniently discarded him as just-another-player treatment to once in a lifetime achiever. We don’t have to unveil a statue but a decent farewell would have accounted for a fitting tribute.
Cricketers like Viru deserve to be celebrated amongst giants of our elite fab. Not for his sluggish average of 35 in ODIs or his near inspiring almost 50-ish in tests. Well, Sehwag is not the batsman with numbers on his side. Neither is he gifted like God nor courageously hard working like Wall, not even precariously talented like Punter or someone as sustainable as Kallis. Yet, Viru has been a hardcore entertainer and a genuine match-winner. If noticed, this continues to remain a niche combination, and not many possess the ability or the flamboyance to destroy the best of bowling attacks with disdain. 15 of his 23 tons in whites are 150+ scores, which is symbolic of his daunting contribution to India’s cricketing success in the last 20 years. Not to mention, a 2 time triple centurion in tests and the lone Indian to achieve the feat amidst stalwarts like Sachin and Dravid, handful of batsman in the contemporary world have this distinction and the numbers might not go past the single figures if I take out Don from the equation. Phew!
Few cricket players belong to a generation, some last longer and very few last forever. Sehwag, quite enormously, belongs to either of them. He always had a mind of his own, and admittedly, his adamant approach led to so many of his downfalls which otherwise could have been converted in to much bigger knocks. But, Viru was never your containment player. He relied on his instincts rather than footwork and the former was backed by impeccable hand-eye coordination. As long as I remember, another player in this extinct clan was Sanath Jayasuriya. Adam Gilchrist was another such destroyer but he was far more tactical than Viru. But for me, no one epitomised the opener’s slot in world cricket better than Viru. And, evidently, he glamourised the position. For India, if Sourav Ganguly bought the charm of a southpaw to the opener’s pantheon, Viru gambled it with his swashbuckling stroke play. And his stamp was so damn fulfilling, enjoyable.
I am not sure how many from Najafgarh will make it big. But, certainly, there will never be another Virender Sehwag. He is too large for someone else to make it big. Faithfully.