A happy accident
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India's accidental opener completes a hundred Tests and that is an occasion to celebrate. India have had others pushed up to open in the past, some struggling, some screaming, some shying and nobody quite made anything of it. Maybe they were insecure, maybe they worried too much, maybe they weren't good enough. Neither of those applies to Virender Sehwag. "Yes" he said when asked and made a huge success of it. John Wright who was the coach in some of India's happiest years says, "He didn't redefine his game because of his batting position. He redefined the position with his batting". Typical John. Simple words to make a great statement.
Sehwag never redefined his game. There were moments when you wished he had but then he would never have produced those masterpieces either. We love picking parts of a player. It is an exercise that goes well with a lazy evening and a large drink. But in reality you cannot because the limitation is a strength and an identity. Kumble with a slow loopy leg break? VVS Laxman darting between wickets? No, it wouldn't be them. If Sehwag had sniffed at the ball and let it go, given the first hour to the bowler, would he have been a Gavaskar? No, because he has given us joy and frustration, thrill and heartbreak being the person he is. Along the way he's made 8448 runs at 50.89 at a strike rate of 82 runs every 100 balls. You take that every day of the year with a smile and a thank you.
But to think he's ridden this journey of life armed with but a cavalier attitude is dangerous; it belittles the struggle and the approach to life that has served him so well. He attacks the ball because the bowler must worry about where to bowl next. The batsman is nervous, he once told me, but he must make the bowler nervous too. 'When the bowler is nervous, he will bowl a bad ball.' And so Sehwag will challenge the bowler, play him in areas that will befuddle him, cast a doubt in his mind, and in doing so force him away from his strengths. It is a sound strategy if you have the skill and the right mindset.