Virender Sehwag's career may have not ended the way he wanted but certainly he got off to a dream start in Test cricket. The right-hander hit a century on debut, during the first Test against South Africa at Bloemfontein in November 2001.
Sehwag, who retired from international cricket on his 37th birthday on Tuesday, hit 105 on his Test debut and was involved in a 220-run partnership for the fifth wicket with Sachin Tendulkar, who stroked 155.
Former team Ajit Agarkar says it was the best Sehwag innings he has seen. Not many know that Sehwag had actually borrowed Agarkar’s pads for that match and how lucky it proved!
Agarkar spoke to Harish Kotian/Rediff.com on Sehwag’s magnificent century on debut in 2001 and what made him such a difficult batsman to bowl at.
"He is one of the greats of the game. He has hit two triple hundreds, most great batsmen have not got even triple century. His batting style was special and that is what enabled him to get to those triple hundreds without getting tired. The way he played I don’t think he ever changed his game. You see batsmen or bowlers adapting their game and making changes for whatever reasons but Sehwag played the same way throughout, he tried to hit a boundary off the first ball every time he played.
I think we shared a room in 2001 during the Bloemfontein Test against South Africa. Infact, he used my pads in his debut match in which he scored a century. Actually, he was a surprise selection for that match and the Test team was announced during the triangular series before that. So his white pads had not arrived till then so he had to use my pads.
We all enjoyed in the dressing room when he was out in the middle. Someone going and attacking the opposition bowlers, it was a good sight. He was a batsman who would never hold back and it didn't matter how you bowled to him.
In the nets, he was very watchful. I don’t remember him going to the nets and trying to hit everything. I can’t remember him going on the attack in the nets session. He was more subdued in the nets.
He didn’t have a bad technique as such. He had the ability to hit the bad balls. He put the pressure back on the bowlers and as a bowler from experience I know that if you have someone coming at you, it changes the way you think.
In ODIs, a lot of batsmen do it but in Test cricket not too many openers go out and try to smash the bowlers. It was a strategy early on with the field in but you also had to have the ability to do that and he had it in him.
If you remember the Melbourne Test in 2003 he scored 195 on the opening day before he got out to a full toss and there were still 12-15 overs to play in the day. It is incredible if someone puts you in that position, to get the runs on the board and have enough time on hand to take wickets, you bowl well at the opposition.
Australia were bowling well at the start but he took them apart and at the end of the day they didn’t know what was happening.
I felt for the opposition bowlers at times. It’s one hell of a task when you know you cannot miss you mark even by a little because this guy is going to hit you for a four. That’s an unique ability to have and he did it all through his career.
I can’t remember him really changing his game at all. There have been periods when he has not been in form but he still wanted to hit boundaries. Generally, when batsmen go through a rough patch they generally try to be careful and play themselves in but his way of playing himself in was to hit boundaries.
He is a modern day great, I don’t mean Indian great, I mean from all the world in Test cricket. To get two triple hundreds, the only guy in India to get a triple hundred and he has done it twice.
I would never forget the Multan innings of 309. He just kept hitting sixes when he came near a landmark. I can’t imagine too many batsmen wanting to hit a six when they neared their landmarks. You need guts to do that.
Even his hundred on debut at Bloemfontein was a superb knock. He walked out at No. 6 when four wickets were down and to keep up with the way Sachin Tendulkar was playing at the other end it was not easy for a debutant. That probably was my favourite Sehwag innings, maybe Melbourne comes a close second.
That debut hundred is stuck really well in my memory.
I played in a Test match when he captained India in Ahmedabad [against Sri Lanka in December 2005] which we won. He was very sharp. He clearly had everything that you needed to be a good captain. Maybe when the Test captain was up for grabs he fell out of favour and it went to someone else. He was very realistic when he had a chat with his players. In the sub-continent we expected a too much out of our bowlers despite the conditions but every time I had a chat with him he was realistic. Sometimes it was not possible to do something and you had to try something else and he supported you.
Because he was so easy about things, he came across as always honest and a good friend. Everyone warmed up to the way he played and he was exciting to watch, not everyone has that ability and off the field he was the same.
Finally, I would say, I don’t think there will be another Virender Sehwag."