Virender Sehwag is widely regarded as one of the most destructive openers in cricketing history. Sehwag is credited with revolutionising batting at the opening spot in cricket, as his aggressive approach would often put the opposition on backfoot from ball one. Sehwag, alongside India’s batting legend Sachin Tendulkar, formed an exceptional opening duo in ODIs; he also holds the record for the highest individual score by an Indian in Test cricket (319 vs South Africa, 2008).
In a blistering international cricket career, Sehwag represented India in 104 Tests and 251 ODIs, as well as 19 T20Is, playing key role in the side’s T20 World Cup (2007) and ODI World Cup (2011) triumphs. In Tests, Sehwag’s contribution for India has been immense; in addition to his twin-tripe century knocks in the longest format, Sehwag’s aggressive approach in Tests also helped the side put instant pressure on the opposition, aiding India to many memorable wins in the whites.
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On many occasions, Sehwag would single-handedly take on the bowling attacks and steer India to strong scores on his own. One such game took place in 2008 when India toured Sri Lanka; during the second Test of the series, Sehwag remained unbeaten on 201 when only two other batters in the entire XI could breach double figures. His knock took India to a competitive score of 329, with the visitors eventually beating Sri Lanka by 170 runs in Galle.
During a chat with popular YouTuber Ranveer Allahbadia, Sehwag recalled how he could’ve scored even more if Ishant Sharma – the number 11 batter in the innings – hadn’t urged him to take a single. The original question was about negative influences in the dressing room and as Sehwag opened his answer with players being “selfish,” he gave the example of his interaction with Ishant to make a point.
“Bad vibes are in the sense that some want to score runs but want others to fail. Growing up, I’ve always wanted both, the opponent and I, to score runs. Whoever is better will eventually be selected. Why should I get selfish?” Sehwag said as he began the story.
“Let me tell you a story. I was batting on 199. Ishant Sharma was my partner. I knew Ishant couldn’t play out Muralitharan and (Ajantha) Mendis. I could’ve been selfish that time, I could’ve taken a single to reach my 200 and give Ishant the strike. But I played out five deliveries against Muralitharan and took a single off the last ball.
“Ishant came to me and said, ‘Bhaiya, I will play. You’re getting scared for no reason’. I said okay, I scored 200, took a single, reached 201 and gave him the strike. Ishant couldn’t survive two balls. Then I asked him, ‘So you played them out? Are you done?’
“Here, I was thinking that I can add more runs to the scoreboard and he said he will play them out. It wasn’t important for me to score 200. All I wanted was to be at the strike and score as many runs as possible for the team. So, I didn’t have that selfishness,” Sehwag said.
India bowled Sri Lanka out for 292 and Sehwag made another important contribution, scoring 50 in the second innings as India scored 269. Chasing a 307-run target, the Sri Lankan batters faltered in the run-chase as Harbhajan Singh (4/51) and Ishant (3/20) ran through their lineup, bowling the hosts out for 136.