Friday, 4 December 2009

Se7en: in praise of Viru

What is greatness in batting? It's a question worth asking. Virender Sehwag was seven runs away from doing something no-one has done. No-one, from Grace to Bradman, from Gavaskar to Richards, Tendulkar to Lara, no-one who's ever picked up a bat has scored three Test match triple centuries. In all of the history of the game, Sehwag has got almost as close anyone has. If he had scored seven more runs, the question would be moot already.

There is a certain tyranny to statistics. Seven runs, in the context of nine hundred, are neither here nor there, and yet statistics are an undoubted measure of greatness. There are batsmen - Border, Waugh [S], Tendulkar, Boycott, Chanderpaul, Dravid, Jayawardene - who are made great [albeit not exclusively] by them. Then there are batsmen who are ostensibly players of great innings - Lara and Viv Richards for example [which is not to deny the reach of their overall statistics]. There are others - Gower, Mark Waugh - whose aesthetic beauty overrode their stats.  There are yet more who were denied the chance but whose brilliance has them accepted anyway - Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock spring to mind. There are great partnerships - Greenidge and Haynes, Hayden and Langer. 

Then there is the notion of personality, best illustrated by the equivalency in stats between Shiv Chanderpaul and Viv Richards. Chanderpaul would certainly be more highly regarded if he had some of Richards' brooding aura.

So where does greatness leave Virender Sehwag? He has come of age in an Indian team containing three batsmen over whom the nation has obsessed. He is an avuncular and humble presence; he is more Inzy than King Viv physically. His average sets him alongside the greats, yet fifty is the new forty. He seems unconcerned by protecting or valuing his wicket. He even feels sorry for the bowlers he flays, not an emotion Boycott or Bradman usually bothered with.

And yet no-one has batted like Sehwag. Eleven consecutive times he turned centuries into scores of 150+, five of them went over 200 and two over 300. Last August but one in Sri Lanka, he carried his bat for 201 out of 329. He has made the game's greatest wicket-taker his bunny. He has scored the fastest 300 of all time. This is not just the stuff of greatness, it's the stuff of legend.

He may yet get another 300. His rarest talent is the ability to go on and on, to 'see ball, hit ball' for days on end. But even if he doesn't, I think history will see Sehwag as the avatar of a new era in batting, a transition between Tendulkar and Ponting and whatever comes next. He is a genius. He is undoubtedly, indisputably, ineffably great.


jrod said...

I hate to be a stickler, but the closest person to making 3 triples is Bradman, as he was 299* in one innings.

But, yeah, Sehwag is good too.

live cricket said...

i love him .... great bating....

Mark said...

'But, yeah, Sehwag is good too'

If there's a better example of damning with faint praise, I've never seen it.

Rohit said...

I don't get this whole '50 is the new 40' business at all. If 50 were the new 40 for the batters, then 30 is the new 23 for the bowlers making most of the bowlers today all time greats!!
You can't have it both ways. Andy Roberts and Michael Holding averaged in the region of 25 in the 80's. That would make them avg 33 today, somewhere in the range of RP Singh?
Don't see how the old timers can refute that