Viv and the Najafgarh battleship

Richards liked to intimidate; Sehwag prefers to exasperate. Richards’ eyes would stare you down; Sehwag’s eyes are actually shut.

This week is all about two words: Virender Sehwag, the most destructive batsman of the modern game after Sir Issac Vivian Alexander Richards. I should know. As a young boy I was Vivian Richards. I had the walk, the swagger to and from the wicket, the stance and the maroon cap. And although I never really got a run to and from the pitch, I was Vivian Richards. I remember even experimenting with the Antiguan accent in Gujarati. Richards is long gone, but his legacy lives on in the unlikely form of a little battleship from Najafgarh.
They make a strange twosome. Richards was all power; with Sehwag you wonder where the power comes from — don’t forget he grew up in Najafgarh, a place more often than not bereft of power, unless of course you mean the political kind. Richards was muscular and V-shaped; the only thing V-shaped about Sehwag is the first letter of his first name. Richards had that regal walk of a monarch leading his army; Sehwag walks with his feet close together, almost like he’s balancing an orange between his knees, and when he runs between the wicket it is like he’s dropped the orange and is trying to find it in a certain bureaucratic, unhurried civil servant sort of way. Richards would stare down the bowlers, against that Sehwag is closer to the Mona Lisa. He prefers to smile at the bowlers, not a mocking smile but one that says that he himself is not sure of what he is thinking.
Richards liked to intimidate; Sehwag prefers to exasperate. Richards’ eyes would stare you down; Sehwag’s eyes are actually shut. So what I’m saying here is that while Richards smashed a 291 at the Oval in a Test match, he was all alert, all focused, with all senses acute. Sehwag made 219 at Indore during which he was often in sleep mode.
To find out more about this modern champion, I travelled to Najafgarh on Friday. I learnt many things. First of all, it’s very difficult to pronounce Najafgarh, even for the local population. So now it has been officially renamed Virender Sehwag’s Place! (Apparently he now has enough money to buy the whole of Najafgarh, including the toll booth on the outskirts. Many a time and often on long drives he and Navjot Singh Sidhu never paid the toll.)
As a young boy Sehwag would wake up at 4.30 in the morning, most times for no reason at all and occasionally to practise. Other startling facts come to life. He never had a girlfriend, at least not till he was 10 years old. He had no interest in American politics and till today can’t tell a Democrat from a Republican. But then this is the same guy who says he can’t tell an outswinger from an inswinger. And that too after he’s deposited the outswinger over the third man fence for a six. While still an adolescent he saw Sachin Tendulkar bat at Ferozshah Kotla. Young Sehwag swore that when he grew up he was going to be taller than Sachin, failing that he’s going to sell the same beverages, mobile phones and pharmaceuticals as Sachin. Young Sehwag also dreamt of one day having a friend called Gautam and that one day the two friends would open a restaurant together, failing that they would open the batting together. More and more facts came to life. Such as the fact that Viru was right-handed, knew how to drive a car and had voted in the last general election. As we dig up more and more facts we are even more amazed at this cricketing phenomenon.
This one-in-a-generation player has caused us to replace a word in a popular Hindi movie dialogue.
“Tumhare paas kya hai?” “Mere paas Sehwag hai.”

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