Virender Sehwag shines for India as usual
The Indian cricket team is lucky in many aspects. They players like Sachin Tendulkar in their ranks who rarely fail in international cricket. They also have a brilliant skipper in the shape of Mahendra Singh Dhoni who keeps wickets and leads the side aggressively. But the one person who stays away from the limelight but delivers all the time is Virender Sehwag, and his contribution has brought India back into the Colombo Test against Sri Lanka.
Any opening batsman would have been under pressure after scoring a century and a 99 in his last two outings. But that’s what makes Sehwag different, as he began the day at 97 and quickly moved from the nervous nineties to a triple figure. It was Sehwag’s innings that prompted the other batsmen to contribute as well. His innings helped India build up a lead by the time they were bowled out, and it may help them in winning the match as well.
The Sri Lankans very shrewdly prepared flat tracks for the second and third test after winning the opener, but they didn’t bank on the fact that some players don’t need supportive tracks to score. They just score anywhere they want to, and having Sehwag gives India the edge to have a good opening. With Murali Vijay, he began the innings in his explosive manner and continued to score runs at a rapid pace. He ended the second day at 97 and completed his 21st test century in the morning of Day 3.
This century would have given him a hundred in each of his last five Tests. He was dismissed for 109 in the first Test in Galle and before that, had scored 165 and 109 in the two Tests against South Africa last February at home.
During his latest knock of 109, the dashing Indian opener also became the 38th batsman overall and the sixth Indian to score more than 7000 runs in test cricket. Before him, fellow Indians Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Saurav Ganguly managed to reach the landmark. At 31, Sehwag has ample time to overtake all but Tendulkar, the batsman he idealises, and loves to bat with.
Sehwag achieved the feat in just 134 innings, which is second to England's Wally Hammond who achieved the feat in 131 innings. Sehwag's record is however better than India's very own Sachin Tendulkar (136 innings), Sir Garry Sobers of the West Indies (138 innings), Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka (138 innings), Pakistan's Mohammad Yousuf (139 innings), India's Sunil Gavaskar (140 innings), Sir Vivian Richards of the West Indies (140 innings), Rahul Dravid of India (141 innings) and Australia's Matthew Hayden (142 innings).
Although Sehwag and Tendulkar went early in the day after adding 91 runs for the third wicket, their influence remained till the very end. Their hitting inspired the tail enders Amit Mishra and Abhimanyu Mithun who scored 40 and 46 respectively to take India past the first innings score by the Sri Lankans.
Sehwag returned to play an important part in reducing the hosts to 45 for the loss of two wickets in their second innings. He dismissed the openers to leave the hosts with a lead of 34 runs with eight wickets in hand. Bowling off spin, Sehwag had in-form Tharanga Paranavitana caught behind with his fifth ball of the second innings while he accounted for the dangerous Tillakaratne Dilshan in his next over, caught superbly by Murali Vijay at short-leg.
If India manages to take the remaining 8 wickets in quick succession, they might bank on Sehwag’s hitting to level the series and end the year as the top ranked team in the world for the second consecutive year. The match still has some time and with the pitch providing turn for spinners and bounce for the pacers, there might be a result after all.