India is a weird country, interesting but weird nonetheless. Here you could have been forgiven for not knowing who is the president of India (well that’s before the Intolerance phase set in :p) but you have sinned if you don’t know about cricket and the demigods (read: Sharapova not knowing Tendulkar). It`s thus no wonder that cricket is nothing less than a religion and that every open space, if not encroached by slums or builders, is used for cricket – be it anything from the quintessential maidan, gullies to the 20 feet wide and 50 feet long passage in my building which I proudly call my ‘home ground’.
It`s from one of these maidans and gullies rose one very unassuming cricketer whom we have lovingly come to know as Viru. Unassuming because he kept his game simple and uncomplicated much like every kid on the maidan – if you are a bowler you have to bowl fast, as fast as u can! Even if that means bending your elbow by so huge a margin that a blind umpire can call you out for chucking. And well if you are a batsman, then it’s even simpler -See-ball-hit-ball. It`s this simple approach of Viru that has endeared him to so many of us!
In today`s age of technology and improvisation, Sehwag managed to stay away from the vagaries and complications of cricket. It didn`t matter whether the pitch was a green top or a dust dowl, the bowler Dale Steyn or a net bowler, the opposition Pakistan or a local Ranji team – he knew only one thing, batting in the way only he can. And to say he did that exceptionally well, time and again, keeping us mesmerized and hooked on is like making a clichéd statement. In an era that boasted of the legendary Fantastic 4, to come and make it the Fab 5 is no mean feat but the ease with which he did it is what making it even more commendable. Imagine, you are given a role to play in a movie starring SRK (aka Tendulkar – is there anyone with a bigger mass following), Salman Khan (aka Dada – who better to display the aggressive streak), Abhay Deol (aka Laxman – quietly goes about his work while suddenly coming with something spectacular that makes everyone sit up and take notice) and last but not the least, Nawazuddin Siddique (aka Dravid – highly under rated despite repeated mind blowing performances). Now the director comes up and tells you to make a mark in this blockbuster – and that`s exactly what Viru Pa did!
I envy him, not for his fame or money or fan following. But more for his ability to forget everything and keep things simple. Harsha Bhogle in his last interview with Viru asked him if he felt he had missed out on something. With a face as straight as any of his classic drives down the wicket, he said he felt he could have gotten 400 having ended the previous day on 308 only to get out on 319. The statement was a matter of fact for him with not even a touch of remorse nor with any hint of air or pompousness. And instances like these are far too many with him – getting out on 195 in Melbourne, 293 in Mumbai, missing out on Mankad record for the highest opening partnerships and the list goes on! It’s this attitude that made it impossible to hate him – you can hate Sachin for ‘failing when it mattered the most’, dravid for playing too slow, Kohli for being overtly aggressive and Dhoni for not being innovative. But with Viru, you can get mad at him but you just can`t hate him.
I really hoped for a fairytale ending to his career – one laden with a fitting farewell studded with a Viru special but sadly that wasn’t to be. Guess that is only reserved for Gods while Viru was simply a mere mortal amongst them. However, his knocks in the All Star games and the century in the Ranji match post retirement only reminded all of us why cricket will no longer be the same. Here`s to the man who brought back life into Test cricket, who made time – pitch – bowlers – opposition as non-existent dimensions around him, who played cricket like you, me and any other kid holding the bat for the first time. Here`s to cricket`s Common Man!
P.S. It`s been a month since his retirement, more than 2 months since his birthday and a week since the 4th anniversary of his ODI double ton. So obviously many would question the timing of this post but then not everyone is blessed with the gift of getting the timing right like Viru 😉
This post has been written by Kushal Patel. Kushal is the quintessential MBA-after-engineering post grad. He is currently working with Airtel in the market planning team for MnG and these days he’s busy cashing in on the buzz created by the 4G Airtel girl