The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Sehwag as beautifully natural as Lara

In my previous column I mentioned that Damien Martyn and Virender Sehwag had been unfairly questioned over form by some critics. Let me delve a little deeper and analyse Sehwag's career, comparing it to Brian Lara's first 25 Tests and 103 ODIs. Lara is the current legend I choose for a Sehwag comparison because I see so many similarities between them both on and off the field, albeit from a distance.

Two very laidback, cool customers are Sehwag and Lara which disguises so well the vicious power they inflict instantly. Neither is devoted to the cricketing textbooks in the way they play but both are so beautifully natural players who get by better than most with style.

Minimal footwork can create batting problems if form is on the wane but can be breathtaking when in full flight and there are no better exponents than these two men in any conditions. They have periods of invincibility when the opposition merely buckle up for the ride. Boundaries at will, shots manufactured from perfect lengths like the flip pull shot Lara plays off his thigh pad with both feet off the ground.

Sehwag's range on the offside is as complete as anyone's. From the finest of slices to thirdman, to off-drives for six. Not as complete on the legside or with the short stuff as Lara, probably due to a lack of exposure, but by no means deficient.

Placement of shots into gaps is a strength of both which stands to reason if you have an opposition attack resigned to waiting for a mistake. To further confuse and frustrate bowlers is an improving awareness of running between wickets.

Let's have a look at the career statistics of Sehwag and Lara at the same career stage. Here I bring in the distinction between Test and ODIs, which people tend to blur and misinterpret.

In Tests, Sehwag has scored only 126 fewer runs at a similar average to Lara (53.93 compared to Lara's 55.83) with a far superior conversion rate of hundreds ' seven hundreds and six fifties compared to four and 13 for Lara. His strike rate is dynamite which may cost him some stats at times but experience already has him tempering this, in exchange for more time in the middle.

Sehwag's record isn't inflated by games against poorer teams either. Just two innings against Zimbabwe and none against Bangladesh. This start, therefore, has been remarkable and far too easily pushes behind a fortnight or so of ordinary performances.

It is the one-day arena where Sehwag probably has hit a wall. Hardly surprising, considering the methods he employs to produce a strike-rate of nearly 95, when the white ball is at its most venomous.

Sehwag is 1100 runs behind Lara after their first 100 innings and 13.5 average points behind (32 compared to 45.49). This is an area of concern and one where he should be able to rectify easily. Simply trusting that if he stays longer at the crease, runs and strike-rate will look pretty healthy.

Batsmen like Sehwag do not need to bat too differently in different forms of the game, yet there is pressure to do just that. Lara, for example, takes less early risks yet his strike rate is still superb at 77.2.

Emerging from the huge shadow of Tendulkar has been made to look a non-event by Sehwag and he has coped with excessive expectations already in his short stint.

These sort of pressures have cost Lara time out of the game and should be a warning to those responsible for all young players' well-being.

Sehwag looks like he loves what he is doing. He has now officially bounced back once and quite quickly from a perceived and publicised slump.

The game is full of characters constantly doing just that. Heads are definitely on the block much earlier these days. I will leave it to you to decide for yourself, if calls not to play Sehwag in the last Test were premature or not.

Email This Page