Saturday, March 14, 2009

India’s Historic ODI Series Win in New Zealand

Team India’s first-ever One-Day International (ODI) Series win 3-1 in New Zealand is an achievement of significant scale, but an autopsy examining it in detail can wait.There is the small matter of a dead rubber —the fifth ODI in Auckland on March 14, 2009 — won by the hosts.
What cannot wait, however, is a discussion on Virender Sehwag’s evolution into a super batsman.
From the evidence of Napier, Wellington, and Hamilton, Sehwag appears to have cured both — presumably unrelated — shortcomings. And done so without outraging his true nature, which is the most important thing, for in remedying a dripping pipe a sink might burst.

Remarkable Feat
Men in dark blue had a remarkable run in ODI matches since Mahendra Singh Dhoni took over as captain. The team has not only won most of its matches, it has won them in a convincing manner. The batsmen have been ruthless in demolishing varied bowling attacks, so much so that Sachin Tendulkar has described the present bunch as the best batting line-up he's ever been part of. That could be a subjective remark, but the exploits of the present lot do justify such claims.
The current crop of batsmen stand out for their confidence and daring while taking apart bowlers. The most representative of this new crop of batsmen is Sehwag. He was dismissed as a freak when he made his international debut. He could whack the ball a mile but barely moved his feet. Terrific hand-eye coordination, immense power and timing assured that he would be a batting track bully.
Experts reckoned that he would be exposed on seaming tracks and pitches that offered bounce. A decade later, he is still scoring runs, faster and more furious than before.
Devastating Sehwag
This is an attempt to record that Sehwag has reached the stage where his mastery is all-inclusive. This is also an attempt that can swiftly and perilously get derailed by definitions of greatness. But this has not the scope for a nuanced debate on greatness, so a primer must suffice.
There are all manners of greatness — frankly more than you can shake a bat at — and if you were to run a thumb down the list of batsmen, who, by common consent, have achieved greatness, you would find a wide range of talent, temperament, genius, and style. There are certain commonalities of course, but the point being made here is that greatness can be achieved without having achieved completeness.
Sehwag has considerable claims to greatness in Test cricket. But, as a pure batsman, he had yet to attain completeness. The opener’s genius has never been in doubt. There were also no doubts of his ability in adversity — both tangible, pertaining to the conditions and the bowling, and intangible, relating to circumstance. In fact, its Sehwag’s facility for natural expression under duress — a freedom of skilful stroke-making rarely seen under pressure — that makes him so unique.

He is brutal at his best, which he has been on this sojourn belting out scores of 77, 54, 3, 125 not out and 40 in the ODI, like A R Rahman producing one fascinating score after another.But Sehwag, before this tour, had not offered evidence that he was, as Barry Richards said of Sir Garfield Sobers, a 360 degrees player.

Vivian Richards had referred to both the range and the actual physical shape of Sobers’s batting, that is to say, the areas Sobers commanded in terms of where he could send a ball, and the actual act of getting the ball there, as seen from back-lift to follow-through.

If one could be so bold, one could extend the definition of the modern 360 degrees player to include, apart from range and physical shape, format. In this light, it can be seen why Sehwag might have been perceived as just short of completeness.

His method of staying beside the line, leg-side of the ball, allowed him to cleave the off-side field like few before. But it left him open to the break-back, which, without the threat of a punishing pull shot, was dispensed freely by bowlers who could. Also for some reason — he himself put it down to over-reaching — Sehwag had not realised One-Day returns commensurate with his ability. A 50-plus average in 66 Tests with two triple hundreds a feat that even the great Sunil Gavaskar failed to achieve and at a strike rate of 78 is remarkable for an opening batsman. The pull stroke is a versatile, valuable weapon, and in cultivating the stroke, Sehwag has not merely added a dimension — he has transformed forever his batting. He surely deserves to be counted among India's all-time greats.

Useful Contributions from Tendulkar and Gambhir
The master batsman Tendulkar and prolific Gautam Gambhir also played some innings of great value but it was overshadowed by Sehwag's sustained belligerence. The Delhi marauder, who notched his 10th ODI hundred, was brutal against almost all the Kiwis bowlers.

It is this unique fearless temperament that makes Sehwag so special. The best part is that he wouldnot even lose sleep if he got out going for the big hit but because he is so supremely confident he gets there rather than missing out. That made him the fastest Indian to get to a one day hundred and make no mistake he himself will try and break that record and is perfectly capable of doing so.

Donot forget Gambhir’s contribution; he also has the explosiveness of Sehwag but his growth as an international cricketer can be seen by the way he runs the singles and ensures that his partner is not deprived of the strike for too long.

Deserved to Win

Team India played to a simple game plan--donot be too enterprising, play watchfully and donot gift wickets. Every batsman followed the plan rigorously. Undoubtedly, India played better cricket and deserved their series win. Team India is now one of the best teams in the world. India have now won both at home and home overseas and have proved once again that they have moved on from being a true force only in Asia.

1 comment:

SMD said...

You have given a good detail of the recent Indai - New Zealand Tour & have given the qualities of our player specially Virendra Sewag.