Indore: Virender Sehwag has often been compared to Mushtaq Ali for his innovative, flamboyant and destructive strokeplay. All the virtues of his batting were on display at the legends hometown as the stand-in India captain sent another reminder that with him, theres no upper limit of success.
In recording his maiden double hundred in one-day cricket, the second batsman to do so after Sachin Tendulkar (200 not out against South Africa in Gwalior), he overtook the Master on whom he has modelled himself. Sehwags 219 off 149 balls left everyone breathless and awestruck, setting up in the process the 153-run victory that sealed a series win with one match remaining.
Despite the lull in this series, he has always maintained that there was nothing to worry about his form. It was just a matter of one innings, and on Thursday, he chose the Holkar Stadium to put to rest the doubting Thomases.
Two crucial decisions by the stand-in captain worked to his and the teams advantage. First, Sehwag decided to bat first keeping in mind the mixed fortunes in the previous three games. Then, the decision to open with Gautam Gambhir keeping in mind their track record and the forthcoming Australian tour, also bore fruit.
The assurance and understanding a well-settled opening pair brings to the crease was evident. Theres nothing one can do when Sehwag is at his merciless best and the West Indies bowlers simply had to bear the assault hoping for a breakthrough.
That, though, didnt arrive before the 47th over by which Sehwag had recorded the highest individual score in ODIs. Indias 418 for five was also their highest total, and the West Indies were destined to their fate.
From the time he hit the second ball he faced for a boundary, he didnt look back. Sehwag dealt in fours and sixes like a millionaire in a casino. In all, there were 25 boundaries struck with awesome power and timing, but the most audacious was a slice over the slips that fetched him the first of his seven sixes.
The small ground worked to his advantage. Once he found his confidence and got his feet moving, he destroyed an attack that deflated as swiftly as a pricked balloon. The fielding generated into a litany of fumbles and dropped chances as the Indians rode to glory.
Sehwag was lucky to survive twice. Once when on 20, Kieron Pollard missed the stumps with the batsman out of his crease, and then on 170, Darren Sammy dropped a regulation chance in the extra cover region.
The Man of the Match, however, was guilty of running out Gambhir (run-a-ball 67), but not before the pair had put on 176 runs, their first century opening stand in 22 matches. With the ball coming onto the bat, run-making wasnt difficult but Sehwag made it look simpler.
As Sehwag ran amok, he reached his century off only 69 balls, his first since the 175 in the World Cup opener, against Bangladesh, in Dhaka. The next ball, he ran Gambhir out, to a direct hit from Marlon Samuels.
Sehwag, though, was on song, and there was little to worry. He raced to 150 off 112 balls and went past 200 off 140. As he approached his 200, he became a little cautious, showing his determination to reach the coveted mark this time.
Once he went past Sachin to complete his double-century, cutting Andre Russell to the point boundary, he celebrated it in style ó pumping his clenched fist before breaking into a smile.
That was the defining moment and everything else ó including Suresh Rainas useful 55 off 44 balls ó paled in comparison.
Sammy, who had forgotten to shake hands after losing yet another toss and had blamed it on the disappointment, was the first to congratulate Sehwag. His teammates followed, having heaved a sigh of relief, but by then, the damage was done. The match was over as a contest.
The West Indies were never in the chase as they lost regular wickets. Debutant Rahul Sharma (3/43) made it even more difficult with his mixture of leg breaks, googlies and top spinners. Danza Hyatt was bowled between the legs as they found it difficult to read him.
None of the West Indies batsmen, except for Denesh Ramdin (96) who added 64 for the last wicket with Sunil Narine, could muster a fight. They seemed to be reeling from the after-effects of the Sehwag deluge.