Forget the feet, look at the feats
By H Natarajan
Remember Sanat Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana at their pomp? Their double-barreled attack in the restrictive phase of the first 15 overs ushered in a new dimension to the game. Oppositions were caught napping and records tumbled faster than an imploded sky-scraper. It was awesome.
It’s such methodology that once saw them savage over 40 runs in 3.3 overs and Jayasuriya turbo power to a 48-ball century and 17-ball half-century. Jayasuriya was at the peak of his career. It was at the Padang, Singapore, that Pakistan got rid of opener Kaluwitharana for zero. But Pakistan were far from happy as Sri Lanka’s score at that point read 76 for one – extras four, and the unstoppable Jayasuriya batting on 72, having recorded the fastest ODI half-century!
Those were not stray occurrences. The ODI canvas was sparkling with many cameos from the two Lankan powerhouses who revolutionalised the game’s abbreviated version. They shattered time-tested belief that starts have to be cautious to preserve wickets for end-innings assault. The Lankans came up with a game-plan that had two slog phases – one at the start and another at the finish. It upset the pre-match calculations of the fielding side. Captains did not know whom to throw the ball to; with the ball still new and protection in the deep to the barest minimal, introduction of spinners before 15 overs posed an even greater risk. Jayasuriya and Kalu triggered debates on the merits of field and bowling restrictions.
One may well see such legalised mayhem again with Mahendra Singh Dhoni joining forces with Virender Sehwag in the India line-up. Sehwag is more dangerous than Jayasuriya and Dhoni is clearly a few notches higher than Kalu. Potentially, the Indian pair poses a much greater threat than Jayasuriya and Kalu. One could thus see a day when both Sehwag and Doni get firing from either ends which will raise the bar again.
Sehwag is in a class of his own – be it his strike rate, his utter regard for opposition, wicket, situation and geographical location. It does not even matter if it’s a Test or ODI. For him a ball is a ball, Test or ODI, and it needs to be hit. Not for him the science of technical perfections. He is a rustic as they get. Ditto for Dhoni.
An endearing aspect about both players is that they just do not care for personal milestones. Sehwag has completed Test match hundreds - even a triple hundred - with sixes, while Dhoni is famous for finishing ODIs with sixes, when most players would take the safety route and come back to the pavilion undefeated and boost their personal averages.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s buccaneering batting conforms to the Virender Sehwag School for Cricket – audacious, attacking and adventurous. Like Sehwag, Dhoni is a total non-conformist. If Sehwag leaves the field standing with static foot, Dhoni can get into the most non-descript position and hits shots that defy cricketing intelligence. Setting fields to them is as much a nightmare as bowling to them when they are in the mood. A good ball is a good ball only so long as they think it’s a good ball. If they deem it otherwise, there is nothing a bowler can do about it, however skilful he may be.
The personal statements with their bats remind one of Robert Kiyosaki’s books: "If you want to be rich and famous, don’t go to school.” Outrageous as the title of Kiyosaki’s books may seem, the fact is that some of the biggest success stories of our times like Albert Einstein, John D Rockefeller (sr), Walt Disney, Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Thomas Edison, William Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Henry Ford, Ted Turner, Bill Gates and Richard Branson did not complete their formal education. Of course, it’s completely different matter that few will dare missing school education.
Sehwag and Dhoni, too, have had coaches, but they may have well ended up teaching their teachers because their methods revolt against coaching manuals, considered sacrosanct by the gurus.
What makes Sehwag and Dhoni stand apart is their positive attitude and supreme self-confidence. Their thinking is different from the rest, but what is more important is that they truly believe that they can succeed doing it their own way. They are mavericks with a mission.