Cricket is the greatest leveller.
Form is temporary but class is permanent.
Its character and not talent that, more often than not, triumphs in the face of adversity.
All clichés. Yes clichés will do. Yes clichés will do if we were to define that wild Hyderabad afternoon. It was a day made for clichés.
While Sachin Tendulkar once again took an opposition back to the school, something more significant happened at the other end. Virender Sehwag came through a rough phase, probably the first one in his career, scored an uncharacteristic hundred and silenced the disbelievers.
What difference just a day can make. Not so long ago, actually just three days ago, there was Sehwag not able to put bat to ball. On that Bangalore night, Sehwag’s face hid nothing. It’s not a very good feeling when you have to score at 7 an over from the word go and not being able to lay bat on ball and to top it all, knowing very well that you are the man who is crucial to the run chase. It was just like getting caught in a car’s headlights and not knowing what to do, except in Sehwag’s case, the car didn’t run him down straightaway. It was a kind of slow torture, where after every ball you hoped that nobody put their hopes in you. A time when you wanted to dig a deep hole and escape for sometime.
Sehwag went into the Bangalore game with a reputation of a man who just doesn’t remember what happened yesterday. Hell a day is a long time; you beat him all ends up with an unplayable ball and can still find the next one out of the fence. But there was Sehwag, for the first time in his career, carrying with him the fear of failure; the fear of unknown. For the first time in his career, he had let things from past bother him. For the first time, demons from the previous game had got into his head.
And three days later, just three days later, there he was having a field day against the helpless Kiwis. But it didn’t surprise me, not a bit. It didn’t surprise me because any doubts as to his character were washed away when he scored a century in NZ against NZ on what could be best described as a nightmarish tour for all Indian batters. It was that day when, without curbing his stroke play he tackled a tricky pitch, I said to myself that this man was here to stay. It was that day when I realised that failures will have to work very hard to affect his mentality.
Much as Sehwag showed great character, there were two events that signified and actually fuelled his return to form. Sehwag, like any other honourable team man, had tried to slog so that he could either score or get out and not waste overs. And from not so far came Sachin, who comforted him with a few words of wisdom, just like a big bother would. One can only guess what Sachin would have said but it had the right kind of effect, Sehwag soon realised he was not alone amidst a bunch of ruthless and remorseless Aussies. There’s a lot written and said about Sachin but after those two days spent with Sachin, Sehwag would have discovered another fact about him, something which is not celebrated that often, that he is the best man to have on the other end when you are not in the best of forms.
The other thing which was so refreshing to see was the crowd behaviour. Now, I can name, in single breath, at least 5 venues in India where the crowd would have started jeering Sehwag in that innings, much like The Times of India which had an opinion poll to know whether Sehwag should open the innings anymore. The Bangalore crowd, on the other hand, showed the affection they had for their hero and actually got behind him when he was down. It was one of the most remarkable things ever done by Indian crowds when they chanted “Sehwag, Sehwag” before every delivery he played. Sehwag then knew he will still be the crowd favourite even if he were to fail once again. It’s an amazing feeling to have 35,000 people behind your back, it gives you great kick. Bangalore people can now afford to pat themselves on their backs because they have played a major role in reviving the magic that Sehwag, just for a few days, had lost.
After the Hyderabad hundred, after receiving the Man of the Match award, when he would have sat down alone, recollecting his thoughts, Sehwag would have realised one thing that no career is complete without lean phases and what’s more, coming back from some rough time gives you even more joy and satisfaction. This is not the last time when he has a tryst with poor form, he will have grater tests, but for now we can say he has passed his first test of real poor scores in flying colours.
Originally posted 2003-11-20 15:14:22.