No Stifling the Sehwag Swagger

It seems the one-day series was not necessarily the storm before the calm. The transition to the more genteel surroundings of test cricket rarely stifles Virender Sehwag.

Any hope a pensive New Zealand bowling attack held about India's extravagant opener modifying his aggressive stance when the three-test series starts at Seddon Park today was given short shrift.

As if captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's quizzical reaction yesterday when asked if Sehwag might, say, play a little more conservatively was not enough, his test statistics are unambiguous.

Not content with plundering 299 runs at a remarkable strike rate of 150.25 per hundred balls during the five ODIs, Sehwag's performances in the test arena threaten to be as demoralising.

Should he be allowed to get set, the results could be devastating for an opponent already bewildered by his unbeaten 125 the last time he batted in Hamilton.

Sehwag slammed the fastest ever ODI hundred by an Indian -- off 60 balls -- during a run rampage last Wednesday that confirmed India's first limited over series win in New Zealand in six attempts.

It was just another accolade to add to the many the 30-year-old from Delhi has accumulated since he announced his arrival on the international stage with a 70-ball century against New Zealand's ODI attack on neutral territory at Colombo in 2001.

Sehwag was hardly breaking new ground by cracking that quickfire ton, but his almost unique ability to score at a similar pace in test cricket sets him apart as a special cricketer.

Along with West Indian captain Chris Gayle, who also made a lasting and laid back impression here earlier this summer, Sehwag rarely makes a distinction between Twenty20, 50-over or five-day cricket.

Sehwag slammed his maiden test century -- on debut -- when India were a parlous 68 for four against South Africa in Bloemfontein.

Selected to open in a test for the first time in England in 2002, Sehwag set the ground rules for his 66-cap career by careering to 84 at Lord's from 93 balls.

In the next test he made 106 at Trent Bridge -- one of the few times he has failed to kick on once he raised his bat.

Sehwag's test tons are invariably big. Of the 15 he has recorded so far, 11 exceed the 150-run barrier.

He has three double hundreds on his resume and against Pakistan at Multan in 2004 Sehwag became the first Indian to surpass 300 -- a feat that eluded the great Sunil Gavaskar.

In early 2007 he punished Pakistan again by making 254 at Lahore and that June he was a single shy of scoring a century before lunch against the West Indies in St Lucia.

His boldest statement yet was issued at Chennai a year ago when he created the fastest-ever test triple hundred off just 278 balls against South Africa. His eventual 319 allowed him to join a select few to pass 300 twice in tests -- he has Sir Don Bradman and Brian Lara for company.

Despite membership of the 300 club, Sehwag actually rates his unbeaten 201 against Sri Lanka at Galle last year as the high point of his career.

While most of his substantial innings were constructed on docile pitches against unthreatening attacks, Sehwag had to defy Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis on a turning track.

Sehwag picked both spinners' variations with ease and collected his runs from just 231 deliveries -- fellow opener Gautam Gambhir's 56 was the next best contribution.

If there is a flaw in Sehwag's game it is the fact he rarely scores heavily after an initial onslaught.

Only once has he made a hundred during India's second innings -- though it was a memorable one at the Adelaide Oval in 2007.

Sehwag followed his 63 with a valiant 151 off a relatively pedestrian 236 balls to guide India to a draw.

He recalls that knock fondly, smiling when saying it proves he can play within himself, albeit reluctantly.

"I played a full session without scoring a boundary and saved the game. I keep thinking I don't want to waste balls or defend them or leave them but there are times when you have to."

NZPA

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