The pragmatist

On a remarkably slow news day, thank god for Virender Sehwag.

Harsha, while talking to me recently of the phenomenon of Indian players hitting the big time, tasting success, and then going off the boil to the point where they get dropped, mentioned Sehwag in that context, and then added “In my opinion, Viru is the most balanced of the lot — in fact among the most balanced in the team.”

Here’s an interesting interview with the man. In an interaction replete with interesting bits, this q & a is to my mind the most typical of his brand of thinking:

There is this story about you declining a nightwatchman, where you said you were not an able batsman if you couldn’t last 25 balls at the end of the day. Is that true?

It is true. What is the difference between batting at the end of the day or at the start? If you make a mistake you’ll get out. So I don’t think a batsman really needs a nightwatchman, but it is totally an individual decision. Whenever a captain or coach asked me for a nightwatchman I would say, “No, why? If I can’t survive 10 or 20 balls now, then I don’t think I’ll survive tomorrow morning.” I believe that’s the best time when you have the opportunity to score runs, when everybody on the field is tired and you can score 20 runs off those 20 balls.

Also check out the bit relating to Sourav Ganguly’s take on Viru. While on that, this is my favorite Sehwag story.

Incidentally, in case you missed it, here’s Sachin Tendulkar on a related theme:

“The toughest thing is to clear your mind. The mind always wants to be in the past or the future, it rarely wants to be in the present. My best batting comes when my mind is in the present but it doesn’t happen naturally, you have to take yourself there.

“I am not able to get in that zone as often as I would like but, when you are there, you don’t see anything except the bowler and the ball.”

As he grows older, Tendulkar feels, he has realised the importance of good breathing and relaxing while batting.

“You have to allow your instincts to take over, trust me, your instincts are 99 per cent right but, you know, the older I get the more I realise how important your breathing is to good batting. By that I mean, if you focus on breathing and relaxing, you can force yourself into a comfortable place to bat,” he declared.

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7 thoughts on “The pragmatist

  1. Pingback: Happiness is… « SightScreen

  2. What a debut he had – out for 1, bowled 0/35 in 3 overs!

    “But if my mind is blank, then I will play according to the merit of the ball.” Sounds almost like a yogi.

    • Which is actually what he is — remarkably uncluttered mind that man has. Like once when I asked him about a horrendous wicket he had scored runs on.

      Viru, the pitch was keeping so low…

      Yeah, but the ball was on good length and inside my hitting zone, what has the pitch got to do with that?

      Simple. And effective.

      Most batsmen go into an innings with elaborate plans. They factor in the bowling, and the pitch conditions, and mentally go, okay, this bloke bowling on this pitch I have to be careful about since it suits him, I’ll try and see him off and see if I can get runs against this other bloke… and so on.

      Viru’s batting philosophy is considerably simpler: If the ball can be hit safely, it doesn’t matter who bowled it, what his reputation is, and what the pitch is doing. Which, when you come to think about it, is all that good batting is about: keep the really good deliveries out of the wicket, sure, but the objective of the game is to score runs.

    • Didn’t you just love the operative word, “sometimes”? :-) There was this time Rahul once talked of what it was like to bat opposite Viru. We had lost an early wicket, the ball was hard and new, it was seaming around like heck, so when he walked in, RD went straight to VS and talked about consolidating, about trying to see off the newness of the ball, blunt the attack so they could consolidate in the second session.

      Speech done, he played out the rest of the over carefully. Next over, Viru took strike, the first ball was outside off and short and VS got under it and blasted it over point. Two balls later, good length ball on off, Viru whipped it in the air over midwicket. RD went down the pitch, repeated his speech, added more bits about the need for caution, went back to his end, and had to jump out of the way of a ferocious straight swat. “I gave up talking to him and just stood there and watched the fun”, he said. :-)

      • This story – talk of caution, followed by attacking shots – is actually also reminiscent of Tendulkar of 90s. Happened so many times with him in his early playing days.

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