As maverick batsman Virender Sehwag plays his 100th Test, one myth has persisted that he is a flat track bully and doesn’t play well outside India. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
There is one interesting record that Sehwag held is that from 2001-08, he had scored at least one Test century in almost every foreign series that he had played (excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe from the equation).
A look at his highest Test scores in those foreign tours…
South Africa, 2001: 105. England, 2002: 106. Australia, 2003: 195. Pakistan, 2004: 309. Pakistan, 2006: 254. West Indies, 2006: 180. Australia, 2008: 151. Sri Lanka, 2008: 201.
He has missed out only on two Test tours. The first was New Zealand in 2002. But that was a freaky low scoring series where no-one scored a Test century from both teams. In fact, Sehwag’s two centuries in the ODI series were the only international tons for both the Indians and Kiwis in the whole tour!
His only genuine failure was the 2006-07 South Africa tour where he couldn’t even get one half-century to his name.
Most of those centuries have been historic. South Africa 2001 was his debut match. We tied the England 2002 tour 1-1. His 195 in Australia 2003 was scored on the very opening day.
Then we hadn’t won a single Test match on Pakistani soil before Sehwag belted his famous triple century at Multan. In 2006, we won in West Indies after 35 years. The 201 in Sri Lanka in 2008 helped us square the series in the second match. (We however went on to lose the series after that though)
It is after that Sehwag unravelled on foreign soil. In six tours from 2009-12, he has managed to cross the three-figure mark in only one and that too on Sri Lankan soil. In all he hasn’t had a Test century outside the sub-continent for four years now.
That’s a very worrying sign and no convincing answers have come from the team management for Sehwag’s sudden decline outside India. One explanation could be that age is finally catching up with Sehwag.
All his life Sehwag hasn’t relied much on footwork, but on things like hand-eye co-ordination. It is possible that due to this, he is unable to manage on fast green pitches and just managing to get by in the sub-continent.
In fact in the first Test at Motera with the way he was playing, a 150+ plus score was there for the taking and it is very rare to see Sehwag missing out on a big century. One hopes that this is not a long-term trend, for many Indian fans are still waiting for Sehwag to become the first man in history to hit three triple centuries in Tests.
But another factor is that Sehwag’s personal decline appears to be a part of the fall of the complete Indian batting order. Why all the oldies are failing is something that the team management has been unable to address.
Sehwag and Gambhir have formed the most successful Indian opening pair and were looking to be the world’s best. It’s been three years since Gambhir scored a century in 2009. That year had also seen him hit a fine 167 on tough New Zealand conditions.
It’s been 25 innings since Sachin Tendulkar has hit a Test century.
Rahul Dravid also recorded one of his rare failures in the last Australia tour, something that led him to announce his retirement.
VVS Laxman went into a decline on foreign soil along with Sehwag and had also not scored a century outside the sub-continent since 2009.
Captain MS Dhoni had one of the best batting averages in the world for a No. 7 batsman, but he has also been in decline for the last few years.
The sudden lack of form of India’s entire top batsman has been a mystery and has led to the famous 0-8 overseas Test debacle and the loss of India’s ICC No. 1 Test ranking.
It is no wonder that Virat Kohli emerged as India’s top scorer in the Australia tour last year and Cheteshwar Pujara after that.
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/