'Virender Sehwag kept things simple' – is a statement that has been excessively used in the last few days. From fans, to experts, to critics, everybody had this one thing in common to describe his approach to batting and cricket in general.
While most of us started trending the hashtag #ThankYouSehwag minutes after he hinted about hanging up his boots at a press conference in Dubai on October 19, somewhere within our hearts, we also wanted the news to be untrue. Having said that, we also knew his comeback was a distant dream as the current Indian set up is full of in-form youngsters.
Sehwag was one of those cricketers who would put the coaches and their manuals to shame with his unique style of play. Team meetings and strategies may be pivotal for modern day cricket, but Sehwag’s approach to cricket was free from its technicalities. He saw the ball and hit it if it was in his zone. Simple as that.
Initially, while we saw him being dismissed trying to hit boundaries every now and then, even though there wasn’t a significant change in his batting style later on, he definitely picked the bowlers and the balls, which deserved punishment.
Despite him being a brute force at top of the order in limited-overs cricket, there weren't many takers for the idea of Sehwag playing Tests. But once he started doing so, India became a force to reckon with in whites, as while they had the massive experience of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, they also had Sehwag at the top, who could put the opponents under tremendous pressure by piling heaps of runs, session after session. Sehwag played a major role in helping India become the No. 1 Test side under the captaincy of MS Dhoni.
Whenever India toured New Zealand and Australia, he was one Indian batsman (after Tendulkar) who forced fans to sacrifice the warmth of their quilts during wee hours and get up to watch him play. The trouble was totally worth it as Viru on most occasions thrashed the bowlers in alien conditions.
What was more fascinating to see was that even though he wasn’t strongly built compared to the likes of Chris Gayle, Andrew Symonds, or David Warner, Sehwag was a nightmare for bowlers, as he was blessed with remarkable hand-eye coordination.
A unique aspect of Sehwag's batting was his fearless approach, which went up by several notches the moment he reached the nineties. While most of the batsmen spend ages scoring those ten runs – from 90 to 100 – Sehwag believed in getting there as soon as possible. The crowd would begin chanting his name the moment he reached the nineties and Sehwag would oblige them all by tonking the ball into the stands to reach the three-figure mark.
Soon after his retirement, Sehwag smashed a ton playing for Haryana in the Ranji Trophy match. When VVS Laxman said he should go on to hit a triple ton, Sehwag was modest enough to reply that it was difficult to score it in domestic cricket as the captains put the players on boundaries the moment he reached a fifty. The words came from a man, who still owns the record for the top three highest Test scores by Indian batsmen. Not Sunil Gavaskar, not Tendulkar, not Sourav Ganguly, not VVS Laxman, but Sehwag is the only Indian batsman to score a triple ton in Tests, two of them!
When he was discarded from the Indian cricket team, Sehwag made sure he entertained fans in the Indian Premier League. Even though Kings XI Punjab comprised some big-hitters - Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, Manan Vohra, none of them could match Sehwag, who continued to pummel the best in the business, despite poor vision.
In the recently concluded 5th ODI match against South Africa, even before India began their chase of the mammoth 438-run target, thousands of fans on social media shared the same opinion that if there was one player who could help mount a serious chase, it was Sehwag. Whenever the required run-rate will go beyond the reach of most of the Indian batsmen, Viru will be missed.
The 'Nawab of Nazafgarh' has given us fond memories to cherish for a lifetime and will undoubtedly go down as one of the biggest entertainers the game has seen.