Bradman to Sehwag : Redefining Great Batsmanship by Defying Tradition (Part 2)Swaranjeet Singh |
“The great thing in hitting is not to be half-hearted about it. But when you make your mind to hit, to do it as if the whole match depended upon that particular stroke.” – WG Grace
” Innovations invariably are suspect and in no quarter more so than the cricket world.” – Gilbert Jessop
“There is nothing I detest more than the way in which elder men have said their young days had the best. Cricket is constantly in flux ” – Sir Home Gordon (1939)
And then came Sehwag . . .
Virender Sehwag wasn’t always the psychotic murderous batsman that we know him to be today. This fact is often forgotten but is important to understand how he has evolved and grown as a Test batsman. Have a look at his strike rate as he achieved each milestone in his aggregate Test runs.
– First 1000 runs at 62/100 balls
– First 2000 runs at 73/100 balls
– Next 2000 runs at 87/100 balls
– Last 2000 runs at 97/100 balls
Those last two figures are mind boggling and one is not even sure he is done yet.
This isnt all. His hundreds are getting bigger and he is compiling them faster. The man has continued to improve both his aggressive stroke play and his staying power and that’s a scary thought for bowlers for the future.
– First four centuries at 62/100 balls and an average of 122 per innings
– Next six at 73/100 and 200/innings
– Next seven at 97/100 and 255/innings
Now what do these figures tell us? First of all, it completely negates the suggestion that this kind of batting cant be sustained. Second, we still do not know whether this man has peaked or is their another level to reach. Third, we need to immediately stop talking of incredible luck, bashing of minnows and batting tracks to explain his phenomenal success. Lucky streaks do not last for ten years and 77 Tests (or multiple triple hundreds for that matter), the minnows theory isn’t borne out by facts and the batting tracks are common to all batsmen. If we are going to justify our dislike for Virender Sehwag lets at least be smart with our ‘logic’.
Sehwag started off as the poor man’s Tendulkar. The height and built were the same and the strokes appeared to be styled after his senior. Since then, he has developed a style distinctly his own and one hardly ever confuses the two together at the crease. Sehwag’s journey from potentially good to probably great has coincided with the development of his unique style. This style and his attitude to batting is a combination that irks the traditionalists. When he was copying Sachin one did not hear much talk of his technical deficiencies. The murmurs started and became screams as his style evolved, the hundreds became bigger and the batting more belligerent
So why didn’t the traditionalists like Virender Sehwag’s batting?
To start with Sehwag appears to follow none of cricket’s grammar although I suspect his greater transgression was the flouting of established cricketing norms as Bradman had done. Half the cricketing world seemed to believe that Sehwag had no technique and the other half that any technique he had was flawed. Everyone waited for him to fail and fall at the next hurdle – in the longer version of the game, on wickets away from home, on Australian tracks, on English and South African conditions, against the world’s wiliest spinners and then against the fastest bowlers. It never happened. He just kept on going from strength to strength.
Bowlers, who from smiling wryly had turned to gaping in unbridled admiration as stroke followed devastating stroke, continued to think they were going to get him since this couldn’t possibly last. His captains, team mates and countrymen fluctuated endlessly between sheer ecstasy and absolute horror as he played with the arrogant confidence of a Richards one day and the unthinking mindlessness of an Afridi the next. We were amazed at his unbelievable luck as drive after uppish drive went just out of reach of diving fields men with Sehwag standing unmoving at the crease as the ball crashed into the hoarding.
Hundreds of millions of India’s doting fans and the arm chair critics of from its burgeoning electronic media refused to deify him as they had done Sachin before and Dhoni after. He was never considered infallible enough to be treated like another of their cricketing God.
“Luck favours the brave”, they condescendingly told themselves when he kept hitting the ball uppishly through the off side cordon. “He must be disciplined?”, they screamed when he threw away his wicket in a mindless slog. “He must be allowed to play his natural game. That’s what’s best for his team” they opined as he demolished the attack in the very next game.
We continued to judge his failures with our fixed notions of what constitutes good batting and his success with a condescension that follows from the same set of beliefs. We were too conditioned by the so-called conventional wisdom. It never ever struck us that maybe we need to look anew at our criteria. Maybe we are wrong. The near triple century at Mumbai made me sit up and wonder.
I decided to give Sehwag and his batting technique another hard and long look. This is what I saw.
He comes into bat, stands in a comfortable near orthodox stance that would satisfy the most traditional coaches. The grip is almost orthodox unlike Sachin’s or Bradman’s and his backlift is between first and second slip – so far so good.
The bowler comes in and bowls a good length ball, outside the off stump. Sehwag, barely moves his left foot and drives the ball like a tracer bullet to the fence. But guess what? The ball has not sliced off the face of the bat and gone towards point or behind it. It has gone like an arrow to covers. This is not what you expected when the batsman plays so far away from his body without moving his feet thereby opening the face of the bat. But is his body, and more importantly his head, really in such a terrible position? Watch the replay again. Its true the feet haven’t moved but it does not look as if he is playing that far from his body.
Sehwag, even when he does not move his feet, often tends to move/bend his torso towards the ball, his head, almost never in the air, is low, rock steady and actually not that far from being over the point of contact. He leans well forward from the waist so that his head is far beyond the line of his left foot and although not exactly over the ball he isn’t too far. The transfer of his body weight even on almost unmoving feet makes it easier for him to hit the ball cleanly, and more importantly, in the direction he wanted. His balance is always impeccable.
Of course he will not always hit the middle of the bat but that’s true even of the most orthodox. Its not as if he is happily edging away tempting fate. Far from it. He will hit the ball cleanly to cover and extra cover or turn the face of the bat quite deliberately to hit past point or behind it. Sehwag must be one of the most prolific hitter of boundaries in the cover region in contemporary cricket. This flies thick in the face of the common belief that deviation from the orthodox, and lack of movement of that leading foot, first and foremost affects your ability to drive cleanly and consistently to covers.
He does hit in the air at times but that’s because he repeatedly drives, on the rise, balls that are nowhere close to being half volleys. He drives even slightly short of length deliveries off the front foot. These are bound to travel in the air for some distance. The fact remains that he isn’t caught too often in that region. He must be doing something right. His method is effective.
Now the bowler comes in to bowl the second ball. Having been driven off the front foot to covers, he compensates and bowls short outside the off stump again. Sehwag transfers the weight on to the back foot and hits another tracer past point. If this ball had been rising above waist high he would have coolly hit it exactly in the same direction but over the head of the deep field high into the stands.
The bowler pitches the third ball on the middle and off stump coming slightly in and he stays on the front foot his body leaning slightly forward, head over the left foot and flicks it from the meat of the bat past mid wicket. The fourth ball, an attempted bouncer on the middle stump, rises only chest high. Sehwag moves his weight to the back foot and pulls it almost straight back past mid on with complete nonchalance.
This is a hypothetical reconstruction but we all know that it is very much within the realms of possibility.
So what did we see besides his belligerence? We saw a batsman who got four deliveries, completely different in line and length, and managed, without elaborate footwork, to hit them to four different parts of the ground with perfectly legitimate strokes executed in a manner that we know he can replicate again and again.
What’s the issue then? What is it about his batting that bothers you so much? I ask the traditionalist lurking within me.
Oh, I tell myself, he hits too frequently in the air, he slashes wildly sending the ball in a wide arc rather than aiming for a precise area as great test batsmen do, he hits across the line far too often, his stroke play is premeditated and does not play the ball on merit, has virtually no footwork and is too damn aggressive to survive in bowler friendly conditions.
Wow. What a litany of complaints. The first thing even a person who did not know anything about cricket would have asked is how come someone who does so many things wrong can be successful over such a prolonged period? How come in ten years your world class bowlers haven’t found him out? Good questions but lets address each complaint against Sehwag’s batting in earnest.
1. He plays far too much in the air : Yes he does.
Bradman was asked for one piece of advise by young Harvey on the boat going to England for that famous 1948 tour and the great man said, “If you do not hit in the air, you will never be caught and that’s the most common way of getting out.” Or words that effect.
Solid advise. Batsmen over the years have followed it to different degrees. But the game has changed, particularly since the limited overs game has gained importance. With just fifty overs to last and ten wickets to lose, the risk assessment of batsmen changed considerably. Batsmen started treating good length balls with considerably less deference. Driving on the up became a very profitable stroke. The ball does travel in the air for some time but batsmen became increasingly adept at playing it. In ODI’s opening batsmen found that even with more close catching fielders in the early overs, the chance of a boundary in the relatively unmanned deep fields made it a risk well worth taking. Soon it became a habit. Batsmen tended to employ it in the longer version also, some compulsively out of habit picked up in the shorter game and others, like Sehwag, by design. No his driving in the air is quite deliberate and is a risk well worth taking.
2. Slashes aimlessly : Not true for test matches
Not many realise that Sehwag gets 57 percent of his Test runs in boundaries and that’s not including the sixes! This is an incredible figure. I can not think of anyone who averages in the fifties and gets such a large proportion of his runs with fours in the history of the game. Richards and Lara at 52 were pretty high but 57 is something else. Just to put it in context remember that Gilchrist and Hayden, those spectacular stroke players, both clock under 49 and Pietersen just over 46 percent till the time of going to press. In the modern game Gayle has a high 60 percent but then his batting average is much lower at forty.
A large proportion of these boundaries are in the cover and extra cover region. That surely indicates a command over the stroke both in execution and, more importantly, in placement; otherwise defensive captains, in Test matches, would have managed to block this, his most prolific area.
People do not tend to associate placement with the brutal driving of players like Sehwag as they so readily do with the delicate stroke play of those like Dravid. The ferocity of the stroke play seems to discount careful and precise placement. This is unjustified because Virender Sehwag is amongst the finest in the business of hitting the ball exactly where he wants. This is the reason for his high proportion of boundaries as well as the relatively few catches taken by close in off-side fielders off his driving.
He bats differently, however, in the ODI’s which also partly explains his relative lack of success in that format. Sehwag, like every other batsman, comes to the crease in an ODI looking to bat in a more aggressive manner than he does in Tests. With other batsmen this means trying to bat as Sehwag does in Test matches, viz. more strokes, looking to hit even the good length ball and so on. But Sehwag already does all this in the longer version so he ends up throwing caution to the winds. In Test matches he does not really go berserk. He plays the ball on merit (the Sehwag definition of merit mind you) and plays it accordingly, hits it between fielders and so on. In ODI’s, however, in an effort to do more he loses it completely. One doesn’t see him making as many stupid strokes to get out in Test matches as one does in ODI’s. Sehwag’s aimless slashing and wild hoicks seems reserved especially for the shorter version.
3. Hits across the line : Yes but . . .
Most of Sehwag’s drives are played with a straight bat and that includes hitting balls sometimes from the off stump to straight field and from the leg stump to covers. When he wants to hit from the off stump to an area squarer than mid on he tends to employ the flick. He does not have Laxman’s, or Richards’, felicity to drive a ball from outside the off stump to mid wicket with a straight bat. When he does try to emulate this, he will sometimes end up playing a cross batted heave. The fact that it comes off more often than not does not mitigate the fact that it is an ungainly stroke. When it does not come off it makes him look very silly. Thankfully this isn’t too often. Off side being his major strength he does not have to resort to this stroke frequently but when he does and it ends in disaster, he ends up looking ugly, irresponsible and worse. On top of that it tends to remain in public memory and the Sehwag image of indiscipline keeps getting reinforced.
4. Premeditated: Its merely an illusion
In our hypothetical scenario above, faced with four completely different deliveries, Sehwag played four completely different shots. Did he hesitate? Did you find him floundering? It is the same in real life. He plays a wide variety of shots one after the other and does it effectively and without hesitation. How can he be premeditated? With such an aggressive style of batting, premeditated stroke play would stand out like a sore thumb due to the large number of miscues this would result in. The fact that he hits such a large number of balls so powerfully even when the ball deserved better makes us feel it must be premeditated. The successful execution of shot after shot shows that this feeling is merely an illusion.
5. Negligible footwork: Only partly true
This is the most common flaw people talk of in the context of Sehwag’s batting and not without with some justification. His use of body and head positioning and weight transfer to one foot or the other is discussed before. We need to just mention that he is not as devoid of footwork as some people seem to believe.
His feet do not move much early in his innings but they do as the innings progresses. Watch any of his long innings and you will find him going back and across to cut or fend off a rising ball and also moving his left foot close to the pitch of the ball to drive on the off side. One of his favourite shots is to shuffle backwards to outside the leg stump and then from there move his left leg right forward and drive a ball pitched on and even outside the leg stump, cleanly through covers. There can be few examples of better footwork than that. His footwork against spinners is also second to none. He will come right down the track to the best of them.
Still there is some justification in the observation regarding not moving his feet early in his innings against the quicker bowers. Even mid innings, he will suddenly lapse into this “stand-and-deliver” mode. He has evolved his batting to give full freedom to his attacking instincts. Getting his left leg out of the way to allow for a full and free flow of his bat for those booming cover drives is what he finds works well for him on the wickets we play most of our Test cricket on. Yes it can leave him vulnerable to the sharply in coming delivery but let the bowlers around the world exploit it often enough to hurt him and then lets see how he responds to a new and real threat. Till then lets the critics hold their peace.
6. Too aggressive – wont survive in bowler friendly conditions : Really?
With over six thousand runs, eight scores above two hundred, two above three hundreds, an average in the fifties and a strike rate in the eighties and climbing it is difficult to take the he-is-too-aggressive bit seriously except as a compliment?
That he won’t survive in bowler friendly conditions begs two counters.
Firstly, is he alone in that category? Time and again we have seen the finest of the modern day floundering when conditions are bowler friendly and then complaining about bad pitches and errant groundsmen. The fact is that the batsmen today are spoilt by perfect batting tracks and this phenomenon needs to be tackled for the good of the game and not to show Sehwag his place. Yes a more defensive batsman may last longer in more bowler friendly conditions but that’s the Hobbs versus Bradman argument all over again. Unless bowler friendly wickets become the norm there does not seem any reason for Sehwag to temper his aggression. That’s all there is to the argument.
My feeling is the traditionalists, at heart, dislike Sehwag for his attitude to batting; his unbridled aggression and his utter contempt for line and lineage and they point to his feet to express their displeasure. His continued success makes them even more irritable. I exaggerate somewhat but it is probably closer to truth than we (I include myself without hesitation) have been willing to admit.
The traditionalists might have welcomed a modern day Jessop if he had batted lower down the order, played destructive cameos and on the rare occasions reached the three figure mark. But for an opening batsman to bat like that in a Test match, do it day in and day out, scoring double and triple hundreds, is completely unpalatable for them. They are grievously offended. I was too.
How could this man bat like that and achieve what Tendulkar, Dravid and Gavaskar had not been able to do, viz. score a Test treble. Then he goes on to do it again. Finally when I went to bed after that second day’s play in that last test against the Sri Lankans with the thought that he might get a third one the next day, I was wondering whether I was being fair. Why did I refuse to consider this man even an equal of these towering Indian masters. I needed to answer that question fairly and objectively
Lets face it. He is not a technical cipher or anything remotely like it. He just does a few things differently. He does not move his feet all the time but does plenty of other things right. He is pre-meditated only in his aggressive intent not in his stroke play. My hypothesis is that Sehwag does not assess the length early (particularly off the faster bowlers) when he first comes in to bat. With this constraint an early foot movement would end up second guessing the bowler and being pre-meditated in the choice of stroke. He, therefore, employs another method. Without moving his feet he waits that extra fraction of a second till he has assessed where he needs to make contact with the ball and then, with no time left for elaborate foot movement, uses his transfer of body weight, still head, fabulous hand eye co-ordination and free flowing bat plays the shot best suited to the delivery. Unable to see the ball early like Tendulkar does, he still manages to give expression to his aggressive intent. Why should he be denounced for that?
By the way, there are the rare moments when Sehwag defends, mostly off the back foot. Watch him closely on these occasions. He is completely transformed. His feet move almost as well as anyone else and better than most. When Sehwag goes back in defense he goes well back and across and the bat comes up straight and perpendicular. It never fails to amaze me but it also reinforces my belief that what we are seeing in Sehwag is not a lack of technique but a harnessing of his skills to suit what he wants to do which is hit as many balls as hard and as far as he can. Whether he has done so consciously or not is not for me to say but Sehwag is clearly a thinking cricketer. I do not put it beyond him.
No, Sehwag is not a man deficient in technique. He has adjusted his technique to suit the aggressive intent that is the essence of his game and that is what all great sportsmen must endeavour to do. He does not care what we think and say about his footwork. He cares about what he does to the ball and in that his philosophy is simple and uncluttered. History will judge him from what the scorebook records and, from all indications, that record will vindicate Sehwag’s methods long after he and his critics are gone just as it happened with Bradman.
Instead of being so critical of Sehwag we could actually use his phenomenal success and his fantastic strike rate to understand what is happening to our game.
Not only are wickets far more batsmen friendly, the bats are better and the boundaries are getting smaller. The risks associated with unorthodox batting are much reduced. The definition of percentage cricket has changed. Modern day conditions in general and those underfoot in particular are perfect for more aggressive methods. They are also, unfortunately, the graveyards of bowlers. This is what Sehwag and his phenomenal success has shown us.
I too do not like the fact that bowlers are slaughtered the way they are but that’s not Sehwag’s doing. Its also not going to change any day soon unless ICC decides to restore the balance between bat and ball. Why should a smart batsman not take full advantage of the situation – be he is name Donald Bradman or Virender Sehwag.
Absolutely bang on Sir!! If ever a biography on the cricketing exploits of Sehwag shud be discussed..you might stake claim to be the author! Very incisive, a very correct assessment of the cricketer! An absolute pleasure to read, of course with some humor thrown in like mild garnishing! Well done Sir, pls keep sharing your thoughts and views on this great game of cricket!
Comment by jai walia | 12:00am GMT 15 December 2009
So how would you two feel lets say in the upcoming next decade. We have a potential revival in quality pace attacks in AUS (Hilfenhaus/Siddle/Johnson) – WI (Taylor/Roach/Edwards) – SA (Steyn/M Morkel/Parnell) IND (Sharma/Sreesanth) – PAK (Asif/Aamer/Gul) – SRI (Malinga/Prasad/Thushara).
Along with potential decrease in flat decks (although it may still remain if the ICC doesn’t do some restrcuting & actually do something about pitches worldwide) & the balance between bat & ball becomes a bit more even. Would you still look back at the last 10 years of batsmen with the same high regard?
Comment by aussie | 12:00am GMT 15 December 2009
They scored bucketloads of runs, more runs than anyone else did. What the hell else were they supposed to do?
Comment by Uppercut | 12:00am GMT 15 December 2009
“They scored bucketloads of runs, more runs than anyone else did. What the hell else were they supposed to do?”
Ha the ideologies are definately coming out now..
Why did they score a bucketloads or runs more than their contemporaries?. Isn’t it obvious the decline on quality pace attacks (outside of AUS) for this decade & increase in flat decks in the main reason for this?.
If you agree with the above then surely if pace bowling standards get better worldwide (along with better pitch standards) in next decade & a more even battle between bat & ball returns & averaging 50 is something [B]only[/B] the upper echelon of batsmen can acomplish – rather than almost everyone who hits a purple patch.
Then surely you can’t rate FTBs of this era in the same breath as the potential future dominant batsmen who would play in a era/period where they will also score runs than their contemporaries also – but rather under more difficult batting conditons – rather than on roads.
Comment by aussie | 12:00am GMT 15 December 2009
“Along with potential decrease in flat decks (although it may still remain if the ICC doesn’t do some restrcuting & actually do something about pitches worldwide) & the balance between bat & ball becomes a bit more even. Would you still look back at the last 10 years of batsmen with the same high regard?”
People look back at the batsmen of the 1930s with fondness and high regard, don’t see why this generation will be any different.
Comment by GingerFurball | 12:00am GMT 15 December 2009
this article of a great cricketer comes from the heart of the author.
read it twice.
Comment by V.Ramamoorthy | 12:00am GMT 15 December 2009
“I had warned that there is going to be some controversial stuff here so I am not surprised. Look forward to the “complaints”. Will try to answer.”
Ok SJS sir, here i go. Its alot, so take your time to answer…
“Now what do these figures tell us? First of all, it completely negates the suggestion that this kind of batting cant be sustained. Second, we still do not know whether this man has peaked or is their another level to reach. Third, we need to immediately stop talking of incredible luck, bashing of minnows and batting tracks to explain his phenomenal success. Lucky streaks do not last for ten years and 77 Tests (or multiple triple hundreds for that matter), the minnows theory isn’t borne out by facts and the batting tracks are common to all batsmen. If we are going to justify our dislike for Virender Sehwag lets at least be smart with our ‘logic’.”
Well this part immediately stood out at me. Since if he has to play on flat decks & poor attacks 90% of the time, it really wouldn’t be that hard for him to pile up these kind of runs all the time TBH. Is that too harsh of an assesment?. I certainly dont think it is…
“Everyone waited for him to fail and fall at the next hurdle – in the longer version of the game, on wickets away from home, on Australian tracks, on English and South African conditions, against the world’s wiliest spinners and then against the fastest bowlers. It never happened. He just kept on going from strength to strength”
With all due respect SJS sir, I dont think this accurate reflection of his performances in AUS, ENG or SA at all.
– Firstly opening in SA 06/07 againts a very good attack in bowler freindly conditions he averaged 14 for the series. Thats not my opinion, thats what happened.
My personal opinion of his first series in SA 2001 was that it was an average SA attack on flat pitches. Pollock was the only good bowler – Nitni had not peaked yet – Hayward was wayward & Kallis & Klusener where passed their peaks a bowlers (Klusener by then was bowling off-cutters from a short run, he wasn’t that bowler than is remembered so fondly from the 99 WC for example).
– His record on his only tour to ENG 2002 where he averaged 39. As my home team i can say without a shadow of doubt than ENG attack Sehwag faced in 2002 was a poor one on flat wickets. None of Hoggard/Flintoff/Jones/Harmison had peaked yet as bowlers – while Caddick was a shadow of his formed self. They all peaked during the famous tour to WI 2004 en route to the 2005 Ashes win. Most knowledgable English fans should know this.
He did not tour England with IND 2007, because he dropped due to a string of very bad performances on bowler friendly pitches/quality pace attacks in 2006. See:
– Karachi 06
– Kingston 06
– Along with his failures vs ENG 05/06 & SA 06/07
When Sehwag did face quality England attack in 05/06 in Indian on some suprisingly bowler friendly pitches by historical Indian standards. He averaged 19, with Matthew Hoggard at the peak of powers & much improved from the young boring English seamer than Sehwag encountered in 2002, exposing all his technical woes during that series.
– His record in AUS. Well the runs he scored in 03/04 was againts the worst AUS pace bowling attack of the dominant years of 95 to 2006/07 (outside of the pace attack that toured IND IN 98) on some real roads. No McGrath/Warne, Lee was a poor test bowler & Gillespie was playing injured. The likes of Bracken, Williams, Bichel, MacGill (with a proven poor record againts good players of spin bowling) was no match for Sehwag & that Indian batting line-up.
I rate his 151 vs AUS on the recent tour 08/09 mainly because he showed great mental ability a defense given that was his return test match after being dropped for over a year. But it was on the traditioanlly flat Adelaide pitch & scores in that test proves this.
“The bowler pitches the third ball on the middle and off stump coming slightly in and he stays on the front foot his body leaning slightly forward, head over the left foot and flicks it from the meat of the bat past mid wicket. The fourth ball, an attempted bouncer on the middle stump, rises only chest high. Sehwag moves his weight to the back foot and pulls it almost straight back past mid on with complete nonchalance.”
I agree overall with your hypotetical synopsis of how Sehwag usually bats againts a bowler. But thIS partical one i disagree with slightly, since seeing Sehwag over the years againts quality fast bowlers & reading about the instances i have not – he clearly has a glaring weakness againts inswingers or vs bowlers who naturally bring the ball back into right-handers like a Ntini. Plus he plays short pitched bowling very poorly, i dont ever recall Sehwag playing a hook short or a pull short (behind square leg) with any conviction againts the quicks.
Look at this cricinfo descriptions of his dismissals in past test matches againts such bowlers in such conditions:
1. Mumbai 2004
[quote=cricinfo]Gambhir, Virender Sehwag’s Delhi team-mate, thus became his fifth opening partner, but the association didn’t get off to the most auspicious start. Gambhir flicked the first ball he faced, a leg-stump half-volley from McGrath, on to Simon Katich’s shin at forward short leg, and after a single to fine leg had taken him off strike, Sehwag slashed the first ball he faced to gully where Hauritz put down a sharp chance to his left.
Another uppish prod past the slip cordon suggested that Sehwag was living dangerously, and McGrath was soon to get his man. After a straight-drive was stroked back at him, McGrath feigned an angry throw back to Adam Gilchrist while catching Sehwag’s eye. [B]The next ball was full, moved in slightly off the seam and Sehwag’s airy swish did nothing but provide a yawning chasm between pad and bat for the ball to pass through before it cannoned into the stumps. [/B][/quote]
2. Karachi 2006
[quote=cricinfo]Mohammad Asif to Sehwag, OUT, gone! this is seam bowling at its best! good length delivery, pitched in line with the off stump and seaming in late, Sehwag is comprehensively beaten and the ball crashes into the woodwork, India two down and in deep trouble here
V Sehwag b Mohammad Asif 4 (9m 5b 1×4 0x6) SR: 80.00[/quote]
3. Nagpur 2006
[quote=cricinfo]Hoggard to Sehwag, OUT, bowled’m! good length delivery, the one that nips back into the right-hander, Sehwag drives on the up, ball moves in just enough to beat the bat and sneaks in through the gap between bat and pad, stumps are shattered and Sehwag walks back for a duck! India one down!
V Sehwag b Hoggard 0 (19m 13b 0x4 0x6) SR: 0.00[/quote]
4. Mohali 2006
[quote=cricinfo]Harmison to Sehwag, OUT, gone!!! Sehwag goes for a low score yet agiain, a short one nails him this time, Harmison follows his bouncer with yet another short delivery, rising just about Sehwag’s shoulder height, Sehwag goes back to defend but plays the wrong line, the ball kisses the glove on the way through to Geriant Jones, its first blow by England!
V Sehwag c ?? Jones b Harmison 11 (19m 13b 2×4 0x6) SR: 84.61[/quote]
5. Mumabi 2006
[Quote=cricinfo]Hoggard to Sehwag, OUT, first strike! short rising delivery, pitched outside the off stump and coming in with the angle, too good a delivery for Sehwag, who fends at it awkwardly, ball clips the shoulder of the bat and goes straight to Shah at first slip, that’s big wicket – India in trouble here!
V Sehwag c Shah b Hoggard 6 (27m 15b 1×4 0x6) SR: 40.00[/quote]
[quote=cricinfo]Anderson to Sehwag, OUT, another one bites the dust! good length delivery, pitched close to the off stump line and reversing in, Sehwag is bit late on it and the ball hits the pad plumb in front of the stumps, bowling change works for Flintoff, India six down.
V Sehwag lbw b Anderson 0 (20m 16b 0x4 0x6) SR: 0.00[/quote]
6. Kingston 06
[QUOTE=cricinfo]Taylor to Sehwag, OUT, he’s gone! India two down! Sabina Park is aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive! Delivered from wide of the stumps, full and quick, jags in from off and traps Sehwag right in front of the stumps, that ball kept low and Sehwag is clueless, everyone up in appeal and the umpire raises the dreaded finger, West Indies on a roll, Taylor on fire, India have plenty to ponder, their second-innings record seems to be catching up…what a start, make that 22 wickets in a day-and-a-half, folks…dont move from your seats
V Sehwag lbw b Taylor 4 (32m 6b 1×4 0x6) SR: 66.66[/quote]
[quote=cricinfo]Ntini to Sehwag, OUT, Gone this time! Straight to Smith at first slip. [B]Lands on a length, outside the offstump, comes in a touch[/B], Sehwag jabs at it as he plays slightly inside the line, bat brushes the pad before making contact, and the outer edge is swallowed up by Smith. SA celebrate and why not. India lose their first wicket. India need another 340 runs, SA need 9 wickets.
V Sehwag c Smith b Ntini 8 (17m 11b 1×4 0x6) SR: 72.72[/quote]
[quote=cricinfo]Steyn to Sehwag, OUT, what an important wicket for South Africa! Steyn pitches it outside off and gets it to come back inwards, Sehwag shapes to cut but is cramped for room and he manages a thick inside edge onto his offstump
V Sehwag b Steyn 6 (23m 12b 1×4 0x6) SR: 50.00[/quote]
[quote=cricinfo]Ntini to Sehwag, OUT, first blood to Ntini, he delivers that from wide of the crease and lands it on a good length just outside the line of offstump and gets it to move in slightly with the angle, Sehwag gets a half stride forward and meets the ball in the middle of the pads in line with middle and leg stumps, Hill is convinced
V Sehwag lbw b Ntini 17 (32m 20b 1×4 2×6) SR: 85.00[/quote]
[quote=cricinfo]Steyn to Sehwag, OUT, lbw! South Africa are thrilled! Steyn follows several short balls with a good length one that pitches just outside off and angles into the right-hander, Sehwag hardly moves his feet while trying to defend and gets hit in line with off stump, that ball is heading for middle stump and Asad Rauf raises the finger in a flash
V Sehwag lbw b Steyn 8 (21m 14b 2×4 0x6) SR: 57.14[/quote]
[quote=cricinfo]Lee to Sehwag, OUT, and he’s gone! Lee strikes, rapping a leaden-footed Sehwag on the crease, he didn’t move his feet at all, bat coming down way too late as the ball pitches on a length and strikes him on the front pad in front of middle and leg, Lee is off in celebration and Aleem Dar raises the finger
V Sehwag lbw b Lee 1 (10m 2b 0x4 0x6) SR: 50.00[/quote]
[quote=cricinfo]Lee to Sehwag, OUT, bowled ’em! Lee dislodges Sehwag for the second time in the match, pitching on a fuller length and getting the ball to nip back in a shade, Sehwag’s feet go nowhere and he gets a little inside edge back onto the stumps
V Sehwag b Lee 16 (37m 17b 2×4 0x6) SR: 94.11[/quote]
This test pitch was road. But Lee wasn’t exactly bowling well, but he was still able to expose technically in both innings.
[quote=cricinfo]Anderson to Sehwag, OUT, Anderson’s got Sehwag playing a feeble shot! Pitches back of a length and comes into Sehwag, who stands leaden-footed and tries to play a cramped guide to third man but only chops it back onto his stumps .. Anderson is thrilled, for thats a dangerous man to dismiss early
V Sehwag b Anderson 9 (24m 16b 2×4 0x6) SR: 56.25[/quote]
[quote=cricinfo]Welegedara to Sehwag, OUT, long thought and then its given! Welegedara pitches it on about middle and off, 134k, just shapes it in wee bit and strikes Sehwag flush on the front pad as he gets two-thirds forward, bat just late to come down, and after taking some time to ascertain whether there was any bat on it Tony Hill raises his finger, and on replays it shows he is spot on, that was hitting middle and off
V Sehwag lbw b Welegedara 16 (31m 11b 3×4 0x6) SR: 145.45[/quote]
This fault was also seemingly prevalent since the NZ tour of 2002 as well.
“What’s the issue then? What is it about his batting that bothers you so much? I ask the traditionalist lurking within me.”
Oh, I tell myself, he hits too frequently in the air, he slashes wildly sending the ball in a wide arc rather than aiming for a precise area as great test batsmen do, he hits across the line far too often, his stroke play is premeditated and does not play the ball on merit, [B]has virtually no footwork and is too damn aggressive to survive in bowler friendly conditions[/B][/QUOTE]
Indeed & as far as i know, he has yet to survive & dominant a quality attack in bowler friendly conditions.
“Lets face it. He is not a technical cipher or anything remotely like it. He just does a few things differently. He does not move his feet all the time but does plenty of other things right. He is pre-meditated only in his aggressive intent not in his stroke play. My hypothesis is that Sehwag does not assess the length early (particularly off the faster bowlers) when he first comes in to bat. With this constraint an early foot movement would end up second guessing the bowler and being pre-meditated in the choice of stroke. He, therefore, employs another method. Without moving his feet he waits that extra fraction of a second till he has assessed where he needs to make contact with the ball and then, with no time left for elaborate foot movement, uses his transfer of body weight, still head, fabulous hand eye co-ordination and free flowing bat plays the shot best suited to the delivery. Unable to see the ball early like Tendulkar does, he still manages to give expression to his aggressive intent. [B]Why should he be denounced for that?”
He shouldn’t. That style works/has worked very well for him on flat decks againts poor pace attacks this decade. But as you rightfully said in this same quote:
“My hypothesis is that Sehwag does not assess the length early (particularly off the faster bowlers) when he first comes in to bat. With this constraint an early foot movement would end up second guessing the bowler and being pre-meditated in the choice of stroke.”
Seeing him bat againts the top pacers, that 100% on the mark & this premidation when the ball is moving about has gotten him into trouble all the time in bowler freindly conditions.
“Instead of being so critical of Sehwag we could actually use his phenomenal success and his fantastic strike rate to understand what is happening to our game.
Not only are wickets far more batsmen friendly, the bats are better and the boundaries getting smaller. The risks associated with unorthodox batting are much reduced. The definition of percentage cricket has changed. Modern day conditions are perfect for more aggressive methods. They are also the graveyards of bowlers. This is what Sehwag has shown us.”
Indeed but as i asked another poster in this thread earlier. How would you two feel lets say in the upcoming next decade. We have a potential revival in quality pace attacks in AUS (Hilfenhaus/Siddle/Johnson) – WI (Taylor/Roach/Edwards) – SA (Steyn/M Morkel/Parnell) IND (Sharma/Sreesanth) – PAK (Asif/Aamer/Gul) – SRI (Malinga/Prasad/Thushara).
Along with potential decrease in flat decks (although it may still remain if the ICC doesn’t do some restrcuting & actually do something about pitches worldwide) & the balance between bat & ball becomes a bit more even. Would you still look back at the last 10 years of batsmen like Sehwag with the same high regard?
Comment by aussie | 12:00am GMT 15 December 2009
“People look back at the batsmen of the 1930s with fondness and high regard, don’t see why this generation will be any different”
Really?. Last i checked the 1930s, 20s & post WW1 batsmen (except Bradman, Hammod & Headley also maybe McCabe) have more issues surrounding them vs batsmen of this 2000s era.
Since the pitches where probably flatter & no real quality fast bowlers/fast-bowling combo existed then except for Larwood/Voce & Gregory/McDonald, which is worst than this decade.
Comment by aussie | 12:00am GMT 15 December 2009
“Ok SJS sir, here i go. Its alot, so take your time to answer…”
Well. Yes thats a lot but I will answer. However, I will not answer every single sentence or every single reference to a match since that tends to miss the broader point and there is always a broader point. If there isn’t one then the post/article under discussion isn’t worth the paper its written on but if there is then the reader’s mising it is not the writer’s fault. So I will tell you what my broader point in that feature was and then try to address what you have said in that context.
I have said at the outset that I am a traditionalist. That should make it clear what I think of modern day cricket and the massive runs scored in today’s game by today’s batsmen including Sehwag. Everyone knows where I stand on this and wrote an earlier feature – An Open Letter to the ICC – exactly based on my anguish for the state of affairs. You may not know but after Murali Vijay got out that day, I did not watch the rest of the second day’s play. This has nothing to do with Sehwag but my disappointment with the types of wickets and the toothless bowling that batsmen face today. That Sehwag bats invariably on true bating surfaces, does not need an Einstein to discover. This feature was beyond that accepted fact.
I also know the flaws in Sehwag’s batting and have mentioned his weakness to the incoming ball but that’s like talking of Bradman’s weakness against the sharp in-swing of Alec Bedser which is well recorded. The fact remains that there were not enough bowlers in the Don’s twenty year long career to exploit it enough to make him look like an ordinary player. The same, as I have clearly indicated in the feature is the case with Sehwag. I quote from my feature.
“Yes it can leave him vulnerable to the sharply in coming delivery but let the bowlers around the world exploit it often enough to hurt him and then lets see how he responds to a new and real threat.”
Every batsman, howsoever great, will have weaknesses but if they remain unexploited due to the quality of bowlers or the type of wickets that widely prevail (or a combination of both) we have to accept that as a given and assess the player on the basis of what the rest of the cricketing world confronts him with. Otherwise we leave ourselves open to the same criticism as is now made of all those who criticised Bradman, with absolutely valid arguments mind you, of being weak on sticky wickets. This is what that feature was about. A player taking full advantage of the favourable conditions he faced and playing the percentages smartly, not just while facing a ball or in an innings, but even in an overall career.
This particular feature was turning out to be even longer than it is. I will put here one of the bits I removed.
“I have always felt sad that Larwood never played again for England and Bradman wasn’t tested with more truly fast stuff again. Not because I think Bradman wasn’t up to it but because I value a contest between an immovable object and an irresistible force much more than a tantalising figure like 99.94. ICC is today denying the current generation, and maybe future ones, of the really great cricket which can only come when a great batsman and a great bowler face each other on a level playing field.
The last Sri Lanka India Test may have been an occasion to toast Sehwag, truly a modern day great but for me that innings and that match was sad because I saw one of the game?s all time great bowlers being given the hiding of his life when we should have been toasting the end of a great career and a great era in spin bowling.”
I wish that the world’s best batsmen, not just Sehwag, were faced with the best spinners, and on spiteful wickets, fast bowlers like Imran ,Hadlee and Lillee in conditions that promoted sharp lateral movement. Only then would we know what truly great batting is all about. That is why Gavaskar 95 in losing cause in his last Test innings is also considered his finest. Unfotunately, as I wrote, we need to use Sehwag’s batting . . .
“his phenomenal success and his fantastic strike rate to understand what is happening to our game.
Not only are wickets far more batsmen friendly, the bats are better and the boundaries getting smaller. The risks associated with unorthodox batting are much reduced. The definition of percentage cricket has changed. Modern day conditions are perfect for more aggressive methods. They are also the graveyards of bowlers. This is what Sehwag has shown us. ”
“I too do not like the fact that bowlers are slaughtered the way they are but that’s not Sehwag’s doing. Its also not going to change any day soon unless ICC decides to restore the balance between bat and ball.”
The feature does not deny the easy conditions for batsmen as they exist but uses Brdaman’s example to show why we should not decry Sehwag’s making best use of it just as we have, over time, learnt not to decry Bradman’s doing the same in a different context.
People seem to forget how easy batting conditions were in Bradman’s time. Even in his first ever Test series (at home 1928-29), 6826 runs were scored in those five Tests ! Ten batsmen (five on each side) averaged above fifty, two of them above hundred. Another two averaged in the 40’s and eight others in the 20’s and 30’s ! This is amazing run getting. The series had no draws but that was because the Tests lasted till they ended. The second Test lasted six days, the third and fourth lasted seven days and the final test ended on the eighth day ! Surely those wickets were not just made to last but they did. The fourth innings scores in the last three Tests were 332, 336 and 287.
England won the series with a decisive 4-0 margin and were leading 4-0 at the end of the fourth Test and yet their leading new ball bowlers Larwood and Tate averaged in the 40’s. For Australia there best bowler and by far the leading wicket taker, Grimmett averaged 44.5 for his 23 wickets.
The point I am making is not to compare Sehwag with Bradman or the bowlers of those times with those we have today but to show that whenever batting tracks appear as they have more often than not since the 1920’s, the batsmen will make merry. Hammond, England’s greatest batsman barring Jack Hobbs scored 904 runs in that series. He never did it again.
Coming to Sehwag’s performance on helpful tracks or in difficult conditions as you have mentioned, without going into specifics, my point remains, I have conceded that “a more defensive batsman may last longer in more bowler friendly conditions” but, as I have gone on to say, “Unless bowler friendly wickets become the norm there does not seem any reason for Sehwag to temper his aggression”
So I accept that his present style of batting will be found wanting in bowler friendly conditions. I don,t need to be told that. In fact, I bemoan the fact that such conditions do not exist. I wish they did so that not just Sehwag but even the Tednulkar’s and Pontings besides the lesser batsmen of the day, had to raise their game a few notches higher and that would be cricket I would wake up whole nights to watch. Today I dont watch it much even though I am retired. So I am not in disagreement about batting tracks, his relative vulnerability in bowling conditions but why should he not bat like he does if such conditions are so rare that he can averages in the fifties, score double and triple hundreds and do it at a run a ball?
Thats all I am trying to say. 🙂
Comment by SJS | 12:00am GMT 16 December 2009
“Ha the ideologies are definately coming out now..”
Listen, it’s very simple; if those that were supposedly better score less runs than those that are supposedly worse, then you can no longer devalue those runs.
Not every innings is the same, there are more difficult innings and easier ones. Don’t let me fool you into thinking I think all performances are equal.
However, over 10 years, the fact that someone like Tendulkar, without minnows, is averaging 47 and his teammate (Sehwag) is averaging in the 50s, says it all about supposed easiness to score runs.
There is no “he cashes in on flat-tracks more than others”, because flat tracks are found easier for everybody not just a select few.
Comment by Ikki | 12:00am GMT 16 December 2009
I remember doing an analysis sometime back abt Sehwag in games involving him with Dravid and him with Tendulkar …. At that point (iirc) he beat both Dravid and Tendulkar to 5000 runs (which is quite an achievement considering how good Ten and Dravid are)
Comment by ret | 12:00am GMT 16 December 2009
In an era where armchair experts spam the internet, I won’t be surprised when forums become a place to rate cricketer based on how a batsman did well in bowler friendly conditions and a bowler did well in batsman friendly conditions. Runs scored and wkts taken are beginning to sound irrelevant and only thing that matters is conditions …. Also makes me wonder how many runs/wkts in tests a player would have to miss out based on conditions
Some of the points that I read makes me wonder as if some are taking watching cricket as watching (/playing) a video game! Generally, there is no perfection and one has to understand that
Comment by ret | 12:00am GMT 18 December 2009
Mr. Aussie here has used reverse analysis to justify his bias. I could do the same innings by innings analysis of many batsmen including Ponting and \”prove\” that he is unworthy. Indeed, Ponting has struggled in batsmen friendly India against spinners and pacemen. One cannot cherry pick one set of rules for a player and not apply the same to others. When Sehwag makes runs it is always because of flat pitches and/or bad bowling attacks! Mr. Aussie seems not be able to comprehend elementary logic as the author of the article points out. How is it that others do not have comparable records facing similar bowlers on similar wickets? In fact one can see that Sehwag\’s 201 n.o. on a spinner\’s paradise clears him on the spinning front. Do I think that Sehwag is the greatest ever etc.? I dont know, as it is impossible to judge because he sometimes fails on batsmen friendly conditions too. He was also paradoxically the one to score 2 centuries in the ODIs in NZ with Bond on green trampolines. I was there and nobody on either side scored much in low scoring affairs. The only thing that makes me want to watch him (or Gilchrist) is that they entertain more than others and are truly unique.
Cricket is and always was a batsman dominated game by design, unlike baseball where scores are low and hits are few. Historically, pitches have mostly been fairly flat on average. What I think has happened is bowler burn out due to too much cricket; Test, ODI, T20…Just look at the injuries list. Holding & co took wickets on flat pitches but had more recovery time. As the French say, the more things change, the more they stay the same…..
Comment by Denmark | 12:00am GMT 21 December 2009
Um, Bradman’s grip wasn’t orthodox in the least.
He has had the most unorthodox grip, stance, and backlift amongst all specialist batsmen in the history of the game.
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