| Sehwag celebrates his century. (AP)
Port of Spain, March 19: The World Cup’s organisers and sponsors would have heaved a sigh of relief after Bermuda opted to bowl first on winning the toss.
They would be wearing wider grins than Virender Sehwag after the Indians put the minnows’ hapless attack to the sword, blasting a Cup record 413 for five that would do their net run rate a world of good before a crucial encounter.
A big victory against Bermuda would almost ensure the Blues’ qualification to the Super Eight if they beat Sri Lanka on Friday.
Today, they beat the Lankans’ Cup record of 398 for five, achieved against Kenya in 1996, thanks to a marauding Sehwag who came good when it mattered most – to himself and his team.
Without a fifty in 14 matches, the media and experts crying “last chance” and the fans unwilling to give him even that, he collared the game early, belting 17 fours and three sixes in his 114.
Bermuda may have gambled on the early movement doing the Indians in, as it had against Bangladesh. Their hopes would have risen when Robin Uthappa left for three and Sehwag walked in to join Sourav Ganguly.
The script for what followed may have been written at Team India’s batsmen-specific practice session yesterday. Sourav, enjoying a day off after the physical drills, had played a special role, spending time with almost every member of the side separately.
It began with a close discussion with captain Rahul Dravid for nearly 15 minutes and ended with Sehwag one and a half hours later.
Today, Sehwag was dropped down to number three but didn’t have to wait long. In Sourav’s company, he started off sedately but soon went about the bowling like a starving man falling upon food. Sourav walked down several times during the 202-run stand to calm his partner’s nerves as he approached his eighth century.
Whatever advice Sourav may have given Sehwag, he should have listened to it himself. Eleven short of his hundred, the left-hander fell to a shot he would regret. He is now just one short of completing 1,000 runs in World Cups.
But the platform had been built and Yuvraj Singh (83) and Sachin Tendulkar (57) took charge, adding 122 off 63 balls. Yuvraj hit seven of the 18 sixes in the innings and Sachin four.
India’s previous best had been 373 for six versus Lanka in the 1999 Cup. Today’s score is the third best in ODIs, after South Africa’s 438 for nine and Australia’s 434 for four in the same match last year.