The former Test opener has taken guard for his second innings. This one isn’t on a cricket field. Sehwag swaggers — he never walks — on to a freshly snipped patch of lawn that looks like a giant, green doormat on the porch of an imposing exposed-brick structure. That is the impressive facade of the Sehwag International School (SIS), which is spread over 23 acres, with numerous buildings that cover an area of 2 lakh square feet. Express photo by Oinam Anand.
The school is said to be close to Jhajjar district, but it’s actually closer to Silani Pana Keso, a little-known village even in these parts. Call the atmosphere tranquil or eerily silent, but Sehwag’s new workplace doesn’t have the mad din of his day job. Express photo by Oinam Anand.
Who would have thought that the man with an ingrained contempt for text-book play and a rebellious approach to batting —singing songs at the crease and hitting sixes while in the 90s isn’t what obedient front-benchers at cricket academies do — would transform into a man with plans to train young minds? The new look has helped Sehwag though. A pair of steel-rimmed glasses has eased his makeover from the bandana-wearing buccaneer, aka Sultan of Multan. Express photo by Oinam Anand.
More so today, as the school is taking a winter break. The corridors, courtyards and classrooms are deserted. There are no children around to call him “Sir” but somehow, Sehwag, the face and founder of the school, still looks the part. Express photo by Oinam Anand.
Of late, the school has been a healthy distraction for Sehwag. But there was a time when it started eating into much of his time. This was around 2011, the year the school started running. His wife Aarti had seen this coming. Even as Sehwag’s dream was taking shape, she would wonder aloud, “Who from the family would give time to the school?” Maybe, she knew the answer all along. Eventually, Aarti stepped in as the boss. “She is a postgraduate in mass communication,” says her proud husband. Express photo by Oinam Anand.
Viru wasn’t just the toughest of the Sehwags, he was also the most stubborn. “From the time I got paid to play the under-19 World Cup in 1998, I haven’t taken any money from home. They were feeding me all those years, isn’t that enough?” he asks. Very early in his life, he told his father that he wasn’t keen on being a farmer like him or managing the family shops at the anaaj mandi. Sehwag didn’t want to take the beaten path, even when driving a car. “Everybody in my family had a Maruti. So I got a Santro. They told me it was a wrong choice,” he says, a chuckle escaping him. Express photo by Oinam Anand.
On the field, Sehwag might not have been the stereotypical “thinking cricketer”, but he pushed those around him to think about their game. When leading a side, Sehwag was known to be a man of few words. During an IPL match, before the final, tense over, Delhi Daredevils pacer Umesh Yadav asked his skipper where he should bowl. “Bowler tu hai ya main?” shot back Sehwag. That day Yadav grew as a bowler. Express photo by Oinam Anand.
Sehwag has seen something similar happen. He had made it happen. A decade ago, Najafgarh’s budding cricketers went looking for the government school in Vikaspuri and its cricket coach, AN Sharma. They had heard of the boy Sharma had groomed into an international cricket star. Express photo by Praveen Khanna.
At his school, he encourages children to break templates and write their own script. “I ask them to pick characters from Ramayana, Mahabharata or Romeo and Juliet and write their own classics. You will be amazed with the kind of ideas they come up with,” he says. At home on weekends, six-year-old son Aryavir dresses up as Hanuman — tail, mask, mace, the works — as he rewrites mythology with his parents playing the divine lead couple. Express photo by Oinam Anand.
Sehwag believes a focus on the details will eventually take care of the bigger picture. In the same breath, he also mentions a misjudgement. “I should have built this school in stages. Since the entire construction started at one go, the loan amount went up. The fees take care of the operational costs but the interest on the loan needs to be taken care of.” Boarders at the school pay roughly Rs 3 lakh as annual fees, while for day scholars, the figure is Rs 60,000. Express photo by Oinam Anand.