India’s Sehwag sets the pace

(Reuters) – After hitting the seventh fastest century in one-day cricket, Virender Sehwag goes into India’s test series against New Zealand carrying a reputation as the world’s most destructive batsman.

“He’s now very much in a class of his own and is easily the most destructive player in the game today. Given his innings in test cricket, triple hundreds, exploits in Twenty20s and, obviously, one-dayers, he continues to defy really what batsmen have been trying to do for ages,” New Zealand batting great Martin Crowe wrote in Mumbai tabloid Mid Day..

Sehwag’s century in the fourth one-day international in Hamilton last Wednesday was the fastest by an Indian. The explosive opener, who spent nearly a year out of the Indian test side after being dropped for poor form, hit 100 in 60 balls, reaching the mark with a six.

He finished with 125 not out in a 201-run opening stand from 23.3 overs in the rain-hit ODI to help India secure their first series victory on New Zealand soil.

Sehwag notched up a 27-ball 40 with three sixes and as many fours in the final match on Saturday which New Zealand won by eight wickets to register their only victory in the five-match series.

The three-test series between the two teams begins in Hamilton today.
Spectacular comeback

England’s Kevin Pietersen and West Indian captain Chris Gayle are among batsmen in contemporary cricket capable of changing the course of a game in a matter of minutes, while Australia’s Adam Gilchrist was acknowledged as the ultimate destructive match-winner of this decade until he retired last year.

The 30-year-old Sehwag has been amassing runs and setting up victories with ridiculous ease since his spectacular comeback in January last year and could well be the world’s best batsman on current form.

A leaner-looking Sehwag smashed test cricket’s quickest triple century against South Africa and a double hundred of rare quality against Sri Lanka’s spinner Ajanta Mendis to announce his return after having been dropped in 2007.

Although he has always been aggressive, he demonstrated a tighter technique and a refreshing new attitude as he racked up 1,462 runs in 14 tests in 2008 at an impressive average of 56.23. He also scored 893 runs from 18 ODIs at just under 50 in 2008, as India emerged as serious contenders in all forms of the game.
Run chase

The following month he struck a stunning 83 to successfully launch the then fourth-highest run chase in test cricket for an unlikely win after India were set 387 by England in the first test.

“He set it up brilliantly. How many players in the world can do that? Very few people in the world can do what he does and we are extremely happy that he plays for India,” Sachin Tendulkar said after the victory in Chennai.

Sehwag, voted India’s international cricketer of the year for the 2007-08 season, struck a century in the third ODI against hosts Sri Lanka as India recorded a 4-1 series win in February. He scores runs at breakneck speed, his strike rate is 78.14 in tests, 101.85 in ODIs and 144.80 in Twenty20  and his last 11 test centuries have been scores of 150 plus.

“Sehwag creates a momentum at the top of the order and is such an aggressive player that he can take the game away quite quickly,” New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori told reporters at the start of the series.

He is only the third batsman in the world, after Australia’s Don Bradman and West Indian Brian Lara, to score two test triple centuries.

Crowe said Sehwag had the capacity to score 400 in a test innings. Lara is the only batsman to have scored a quadruple century in test cricket.

“He’s got to 300 twice and now he is at the peak of his powers and scores at a rate that could turn this possibility into reality soon,” Crowe wrote.

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