He got to 16 off the first 54 deliveries. The next 179 runs were scored at a run-a-ball. And well inside the first day’s play, Virender Sehwag had smashed 195 in a Test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia.
There are a lot of things that Sehwag is credited for in Indian cricket. He changed the definition of an opening batsman with his extraordinary approach. At the top of the order, he set up games for his team consistently. If he was in form, India always had the edge.
And it was, perhaps, that unforgettable knock of 195 runs at MCG in 2003 that summed up how devastating he was on his day.
Highest scores by visiting Test openers at MCG
|Player||Runs||4s (6s)||SR||Inns||Start Date|
|AN Cook (ENG)||244*||27||59.65||2||26 Dec 2017|
|Azhar Ali (PAK)||205*||20||56.31||1||26 Dec 2016|
|V Sehwag (INDIA)||195||25 (5)||83.69||1||26 Dec 2003|
|W Rhodes (ENG)||179||15||44.19||2||9 Feb 1912|
|JB Hobbs (ENG)||178||22||60.13||2||9 Feb 1912|
The paradox of Sehwag was that one would think his game was tailor-made for white-ball cricket. See the ball, hit the ball. He went after bowlers no matter what and limited-overs games gave him the license to do so... not that he ever waited for approval.
But it was in Test cricket where Sehwag had his biggest impact for India. With him scoring at a rapid rate from the get-go, his team always had a much-needed cushion. ‘Give the first hour (or session) to the opposition as an opening batsman’, the cricketing adage goes. Take the innings by the scruff of its neck as quickly as possible’, was Sehwag’s mantra. And he lived and died by that sword.
Indeed, to this day, no visiting opening batsman has scored 100-plus at MCG at a better strike rate than Sehwag.
Best SR by visiting opener at MCG (centuries)
|Player||Runs||4s / 6s||SR||Inns||Start Date|
|V Sehwag (INDIA)||195||25 / 5||83.69||1||26 Dec 2003|
|Majid Khan (PAK)||108||16 / 0||68.78||3||10 Mar 1979|
|AJ Stewart (ENG)||107||16 / 0||66.87||1||26 Dec 1998|
|MP Vaughan (ENG)||145||19 / 3||66.51||3||26 Dec 2002|
|Mohsin Khan (PAK)||152||18 / 1||63.59||1||26 Dec 1983|
Best SR by visiting opener in AUS (centuries)
|CH Gayle (WI)||102||141.66||2||Perth||16 Dec 2009|
|RC Fredericks (WI)||169||116.55||2||Perth||12 Dec 1975|
|K Srikkanth (INDIA)||116||99.14||1||Sydney||2 Jan 1986|
|VVS Laxman (INDIA)||167||84.34||3||Sydney||2 Jan 2000|
|V Sehwag (INDIA)||195||83.69||1||Melbourne||26 Dec 2003|
Heading into the 2003 Boxing Day game at the MCG, Sehwag had scored four centuries in the 18 Tests. None of those hundreds were slow by any means, but they weren’t quite as blistering as the knock he played in Melbourne.
The ‘Nawab of Najafgarh’ decided to hit the Aussies hard.
Having suffered an unexpected defeat in the second Test after the drawn first game in Brisbane, Australia’s bowlers came aggressively at the Indian batsmen in Melbourne. Both openers – Sehwag and his Delhi statemate Aakash Chopra – were struck on the head by vicious bouncers as the hosts tried to gain the upper hand quickly.
Sehwag, to his credit, was patient and saw off the new ball burst. But once he got his eye in, the MCG crowd was treated to an absolute masterclass. Australia’s attack of Brett Lee, Nathan Bracken, Brad Williams, Stuart MacGill, Simon Katich and Steve Waugh was hit to all corners of the ground.
The right-hander ended up scoring 195 runs off 233 deliveries at a strike-rate of 83.69, with 25 fours and five sixes. It was the kind of marauding knock that Indian cricket wasn’t quite used to (especially away from home), and neither was the watching public.
Sehwag's inning progression
Sehwag was all set to score his first double-century in international cricket. He hit Katich for a six and then smacked the next ball too but unfortunately, he didn’t connect well enough with the full-toss and got caught at the boundary.
“My whole focus was to score a hundred and after I reached my century, I thought about the 144 scored by (Sourav) Ganguly, (Rahul) Dravid’s double hundred in the previous Test and VVS Laxman’s 160-odd in Sydney, so I wanted a big hundred,” Sehwag told News18 in 2018.
“Preparation before the Test was that I didn’t want to waste a start. Then after I got struck on the helmet twice in the first half hour, I knew that I have to make a big score otherwise I won’t get the respect that I deserve. Back then the belief was there that if you score centuries in England, Australia and South Africa, you get more respect as an Asian player,” added Sehwag.
While the game has seen aggressive Test opening batsmen over its history, few did it with the disdain Sehwag showed.
“If you have an aggressive opening batsman in your team, not only do they boost your own team by taking the bowlers on, but they also deflate the opposition,” former Australian captain Ian Chappell told ESPNcricinfo in 2012.
“Sehwag was an enormous asset to India in that regard. A lot of people thought he would struggle in Australia. But he was the one who troubled the Aussie bowlers. I love watching him bat because he looks at every delivery as a scoring opportunity. He absolutely flayed the Australian attack in that innings of 195 runs. It was an incredible effort.”
India went on to lose that match at the MCG by nine wickets, thanks to a batting collapse that was followed by a masterful 257 by Ricky Ponting, but there was no turning back for Sehwag. This innings sealed his position as one of the most destructive opening batsmen in the world, and one who would leave a lasting impact on Indian cricket.
For the man who made scoring daddy hundreds a habit, this was the first of 14 occasions he would cross 150 in a Test innings. Only Sachin Tendulkar has done it more times for India in Tests.
Most 150-plus scores in Tests for India
|Player||No of 150-plus scores in Tests||HS|
Any other batsman would have played it safe to reach the milestone. A chance to score a double century at MCG on Boxing Day — those don’t come around too often. But Sehwag was not just any other batsman. As he would show in Multan not long after (incidentally, the next century in his Test career after the MCG knock), his Modus Operandi was to reach a landmark in style.
It did not work out at MCG that day but that was Sehwag in a nutshell.
He went on to score four double-centuries and two triple-tons in his illustrious Test career. For many fans, though, that knock of 195 remains right up there with his very best.
Watch highlights of that unforgettable innings here:
Stats courtesy: ESPNCricinfo