Virender Sehwag has always batted in T20 fashion, long before the format was even invented. He hit boundaries for fun just like the T20 dynamos do in the present day, humming a tune or two while doing so. He gave brutality an aesthetic touch. Sehwag was a cerebral assassin of bowling attacks, one who did without remorse but never with any visible rage.
When that Sehwag gave way to his current-day avatar, the bespectacled man who runs a school, the world seemed to have moved on to bigger and more lethal hitters of a cricket ball. But on Friday at Wankhede Stadium, the 36-year old showed that he was still the assassin with bat in hand, the man who you would agree to pay anything to watch bat.
When Kings XI Punjab invested in Sehwag, many raised an eyebrow wondering what they saw in an ageing warhorse, presumably well past his prime. While he had shown signs of his old self in brief essays leading up to the Qualifier, there were those who wondered whether he was well and truly finished. Sehwag dispelled all those naysers against Chennai Super Kings, and how.
He had clearly saved one for when it really mattered. Revealing after the knock that he had spoken to the ‘master’, Sachin Tendulkar before the innings. “He told me that my hands were moving fine and that it was just a matter of getting it right in one innings.” That one innings, unfortunately for Dhoni and CSK, came on Friday.
You could sense there was something special in the air pretty early on in his knock, as he began with a flurry of vintage strokes. Slashes past point, glides to third-man, scorching drives without any significant foot-movement to deliveries with width, and an open-faced slice for six. Ashish Nehra was smashed for three fours in an over, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were both launched into orbit in their respective first overs, and Sehwag had cruised past 50 in no time. But he was only getting started.
There was no fancy footwork, no walking around in his crease, and nothing outrageous attempted. This was clean hitting of the Sehwag vintage. And as he brought up his century with a single, he first saluted the owners’ box, in his own way thanking them for having shown faith in his abilities. Eventually he finished with 122 off 58 deliveries, a knock that contained 12 fours and 8 sixes, all of them straight from the Sehwag book of batting belligerence.
Later, he revealed that his son had been teased in school following his repeated failures, with classmates asking him where continued…