| Bob Woolmer
Lahore: Believe it or not, Sunil Gavaskar holds the record for the fastest Test century by an Indian opener. That, however, is under threat from (who else') Virender Sehwag.
With the elements (overnight rain, haze and rain again) taking centrestage, only 73 minutes of cricket was possible on Day III of the Allianz Cup, on Sunday, but that was enough for Sehwag to clobber 60 runs and reach an unbeaten 96 ' 135 minutes, 89 balls, 20x4.
The Team India vice-captain’s panache is simply mind-blowing.
As Gavaskar cracked his century (at the Kotla versus the West Indies, over 22 years ago) in 94 balls, Sehwag could erase the record with much to spare. If there’s a problem, the forecast isn’t encouraging and there’s the fear of truncated play over the next two days as well.
One is, of course, also hoping that the fall Sehwag had while playing volleyball after the early closure at the Gaddafi isn’t going to hamper him. The vice-captain didn’t take any calls, but assistant manager Wng Cdr M.Baladitya told The Telegraph there was “nothing to worry.”
Sehwag, though, wasn’t comfortable while walking to the team bus for the trip back to the hotel. Then, on reaching the Pearl Continental, he had a shower and straightaway headed for physio John Gloster’s room ' apparently, to get the right ankle treated.
Interacting with the Media a few days ago, Sehwag had said he was in “good form” but wasn’t getting “big runs.” He has, finally, prompting Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer to acknowledge “certain players play very well against certain teams.”
Last year, after Pakistan’s tour of India, Woolmer had even compared Sehwag to Sir Don Bradman. Specifically: “Sehwag has redefined how an opening batsman can approach an innings... Today, he must come close to resembling a modern-day genius because of his unerring and unnerving ability like Sir Don to manhandle attacks...”
Sehwag was into the manhandling-gear in the first Test (Multan) itself, on the last tour, and has begun similarly. Despite poor light, there were times it seemed he saw the Kookaburra like a football. Most of his square cuts and square drives were, well, breathtaking.
Clearly, Shoaib Akhtar doesn’t just have to worry about his left ankle.
Sehwag’s aggression was in contrast to captain Rahul Dravid’s solid innings. Staying focused is never easy with delays and interruptions, but Team India’s newest makeshift opening pair ' the combination, by the way, “surprised” Woolmer ' has done a tremendous job.
Incidentally, if he could, Woolmer would probably ‘borrow’ Makhaya Ntini. According to him, the South African has “found a way” of dismissing Sehwag.
Asked whether lifeless tracks served any purpose, Woolmer responded that while he wasn’t criticising anybody, “good wickets produce good cricket.” He added: “With there being uncertainty over the weather (it was in the build-up to the series), it’s difficult knowing what will help a team win...”
Weighed down by Pakistan’s 679 for seven declared, the pressure is bound to remain on India. However, even if the last two days don’t see an interruption, it’s difficult to look at anything except a draw. The real battle, now, is for psychological points ahead of the second Test (Faisalabad).