The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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On & off pitch, Sehwag slices Pak

Lahore, Jan. 16: Having made an emphatic statement over the 22 yards at the Gaddafi, Virender Sehwag took guard afresh at an interaction with the media. He launched into the hosts yet again, this time over the first Test wicket.

So far, only five batsmen have fallen to the bowlers, with over a thousand runs totalled.

“It’s certainly the best I’ve batted on, but such wickets aren’t good for cricket.... In fact, it reflects the defensive state of Pakistan’s mind,” Sehwag boomed, as if authoring an unbeaten 247 (46x4, 1x6) wasn’t enough.

Just to redden the faces in the establishment and beyond even more, he added: “The unbeaten 403-run partnership between Rahul Dravid and I, for the first wicket, is meant to convey a message ' we’ve come to win, not lose....”

The Team India vice-captain didn’t forget to take a dig at Shoaib Akhtar either. “His figures (none for 70) show he hasn’t met expectations.... There’s no need for me to comment.” Absolutely cheeky and we can expect Shoaib to aim for Sehwag’s ribs.

The poor light-affected Day IV saw Sehwag become the fastest Indian opener (eclipsing Sunil Gavaskar) to a Test hundred and the second quickest batsman ever (behind New Zealand’s Nathan Astle) to a double.

The Jat who has given Delhi’s Najafgarh an exciting identity, and transformed opening at the highest level, timed beautifully. It was a touch-innings from one out of touch in recent weeks.

“I needed one knock to get back to normal.... A big innings makes one comfortable,” Sehwag said. Given his appetite for Pakistan’s bowlers, even a swollen right ankle (owing to a fall last evening) was no handicap.

Sehwag isn’t far from another triple hundred at Pakistan’s expense. Then, if there’s no interruption on the final day and he continues to treat the bowlers as if they were in his benefit game, Brian Lara’s record of the unbeaten 400 could get erased.

Kuch bhi ho sakta hai.... Who knows about tomorrow...,” Sehwag teased. What is set to get wiped off is Pankaj Roy and Vinoo Mankad’s all-time opening best of 413, half a century ago.

Sehwag, incidentally, didn’t know he’d done better than Gavaskar. He also revealed neither he nor the captain was aware of their nearness to history. The flat wicket does dilute the makeshift pair’s effort, but not by much. Faisalabad has often been more batsman friendly and one can’t forget Colombo’s Premadasa.

Asked by The Telegraph whether he was excited being on the threshold of a big achievement, Dravid grinned: “Not really.... Actually, I’m not....” However, back at the Pearl Continental and in the company of Vijeta and Samit, he would have celebrated his first Test hundred (21st overall) as captain.

Dravid got the runs (128 not out) in only his ninth innings as opener in a decade of Test cricket. On the eve of the match, he’d given the responsibility to predecessor Sourav Ganguly, but changed his mind.

Mankad wasn’t a specialist opener either.

Sehwag, of course, feels Dravid shouldn’t open regularly. “He’s the best No. 3 and ought to open occasionally, if required....” Both have been on the field for all four days and staying till stumps is called for the last time can’t be ruled out.

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