It has been almost a year since that fateful night. It was October the 20th,2015 and I suppose it was the 6th day of Navratri. I had just left the Korakendra Grounds after an amazing session of Garba with my friends. I hadn’t looked at my mobile for possibly 2 or 3 hours thanks to all that dancing. But as soon as I took leave, I opened my phone to check my messages. I felt a sudden shudder when I read the message from one of my friends. It was as if I had got hit by some kind of a thunderbolt. It read, ”VIRENDER SEHWAG RETIRES FROM ALL FORMS OF INTERNATIONAL CRICKET AND IPL”. Still in disbelief, I hurriedly Googled it to know whether it was true and to my utter disappointment, it was. Tears swelled up in my eyes and there I was crying right in the middle of the road obviously to the surprise of all of my friends. An evening of fun and amusement had suddenly turned into one of sorrow and despair. You might be thinking that I have dramatized whatever I said big time, but trust me that is exactly what happened.
So what made Sehwag so special to me or rather to thousands of people who grew up watching cricket in the 1st decade of the 21st century was it that nonchalant walk towards the pitch looking at the heavens every time he stepped out to bat ,were it those elegant late-cuts towards deep backward point or those signature upper-cuts, well maybe a bit of all these and even a lot more . Having grown up watching him bat a lot of things have come to my notice. Firstly, he set up a trend of attacking batsmanship right from the word go. He needed no second invitation to deposit that good old leather ball into the stand, especially in test cricket where all other conventional openers would probably sit back when the ball is new and swinging ,trying to see out the best bowlers the opposition had , Sehwag just didn’t care! He always treated each ball on its merit. Be it a blistering pitch at Perth or a rank turner in Eden, if the ball was meant to be hit, he did it. But a lot of people do tend to misunderstand his ‘See the ball, Hit the ball’ philosophy. It was never blind slogging, it was always calculated hitting. There was a method behind his madness. He always played to his strengths and was a man who knew his weaknesses. He never swept the ball or hooked it just because he knew those weren’t the shots that he was comfortable with. So he had the never ending temperament to curb the instincts to hook or sweep the ball even if it was meant to. Instead he would meekly defend it or duck underneath it. And he had the patience to do this throughout the career. That tells you something about the man’s discipline. His anticipation in spin bowling was second to none. For instance, he single-handedly guided India to a respectable 329 against Srilanka in the 2008 Galle test with a guileful 201*. When a certain mystery spinner Ajanta Mendis wreaked havoc through the Indian batting line-up with 8 batsmen getting out on single digits, Sehwag stood tall and played him with an ease as if he had known him for all his life. This was just one of the many greatest innings of his. Be it 83 vs England in Chennai in 2008 or 195 vs Australia in Melbourne, not to forget the 2 triple centuries and almost a third one as well against Srilanka, they will always be etched in our memories forever.
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He had an uncluttered mind whether on the field or off it. He was never known to mince his words or not admit his flaws. Probably this mindset was one one of his greatest assets. Hitting a six to bring up a triple hundred especially when you are about to create history by becoming the 1st Indian to do so, speaks volumes about his audacious attitude.
He always entertained! I hardly remember a match where I wasn’t on the edge of my seat or had a normal pulse rate when he batted. Probably all of these were what made him so dear to us. He left with him a legacy which probably no one can ever replicate. A hard ending of sorts for a person who served Indian Cricket ever so faithfully for over a decade. But nevertheless, he left for his fans a plethora of memories to cherish for a lifetime. Even today, he continues to entertain through his rib-tickling tweets; a true testimony of the character of the man who never failed to bring up a smile on our faces even when he was on the field or off it!