Sunday, March 30, 2008

How Good is Virender Sehwag?

What is the relevance of 319?

Its quite high if you are the only triple century scorer of your country and hold the record for the highest test score by a test batsman from your country.

The relevance is even higher if its your second triple century that places you in the same league as Sir Donald Bradman and Brian Lara.

And finally, it puts you at an entirely different pedestal if with that score you hold an Indian batting record and you don't have the surname Gavaskar, Tendulkar, or Dravid.

Thus 319 is of great relevance to Indian cricket as well as Virender Sehwag who smashed those runs in a mere 304 balls. Fastest ever triple century, 10th consecutive century above 150, and all mentioned above is what was special about Sehwag's innings. Definitely a treat to watch.

Uncle J has even mentioned all that he could have left to watch that innings LIVE. It was THAT good.

But how good is Sehwag really?

Apart from his first 4 test centuries, all the rest (10 of them) are 150+ scores, a fact that has been well documented over the last few days. These 10 centuries have come in a span of a bit over 4 years between December 2003 (195 vs Australia) and March 2008 (319 vs South Africa).

Less than 3 test centuries per year - does that place him among the greats?

Sehwag scored 151 against Australia in his previous test. But there was a gap of 7 tests and 13 innings between the 151 and the century before that - 180 against the Windies at St. Lucia. He had only 2 fifty plus scores in those 13 innings with a best of 65.

Between the 180 against the Windies and his previous century - 254 against Pakistan - there were 6 tests and 11 innings during which he scored only 1 fifty, an unbeaten 76. Plus, between the 254 and his previous century, also a double (201) against Pakistan, he played 9 innings in 6 tests scoring only 1 fifty.

Sehwag definitely scores big when he gets to a 100 but his centuries are few and far in between. They are quite dispersed and the scores are inconsistent in between the 100s. Compared to his 14 centuries, he has only 13 fifties, which highlights the inconsistency of scores between the 100s, but at the same time shows his ability to score big, really BIG when he does.

Despite being inconsistent can he be considered as a great?

Moving on, I think that there is one fact that goes entirely against Sehwag. Sachin has been criticized in the past for not playing enough match winning innings for India. I'm afraid that the same can be said about Sehwag.

India have won only 1 out of the 10 tests in which Sehwag scored over 150. While India drew 6 of those 10 tests, they lost 2 of them - to Pakistan in Bangalore when he scored 201 and to Australia in Melboune when he scored 195. The current one will in all probability end in a draw.

Have Sehwag's innings been of importance to the team? Not exactly.

They haven't secured wins for India apart from in Multan when he scored 309 against Pakistan. Nor have they been 2nd innings match-saving type knocks - all of them have come in the first innings.

Definitely an entertaining batsman with the ability to keep on scoring once he gets set, but is he one of the greats as Sanjay Manjrekar has described?

Special he is, no doubt about that. But great? Not really. What's your call?

Make your pitch on this post...

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21 Pitched:

  1. Ottayan said...

    I thought his innings in Chennai akin to flogging a dead horse.

    When the ball started moving he was back to his familiar for of dismissal edge to slip.

    Somehow, I am against this rush to label someone great.

    (BTW, most probably I will be flamed for expressing this opinion. :) )

  2. Q said...

    I thought I would have been flamed by majority of the Indian fans but surprisingly u share my opinion :-)

    I thought his innings was one of the best test innings I have watched just cause of the sheer entertainment it provided.

    But to label him a great is you mention, rushed. Esp when a few facts go against that label.

  3. Ottayan said...

    I differ slightly with your opinion that Sehwag's innings was entertaining.

    It was as unexciting as making love to a dead woman. :)

    To explain, I would have been entertained if there was some semblance of a contest between the bat and the ball.

    BTW,to validate my point, the SA fans would have undoubtedly found it as boring as we found Amla's innings.

  4. Q said...

    Ive always enjoyed a batsman ripping the bowlers apart. Sehwag did just that while Dravid on the other end made it look like it required tons of concentration to play on that pitch.

    40 odd boundaries, 5 sixes - quite some entertainment :-)

  5. Ottayan said...

    I agree that it was entertaining when compared to Dravid's laboured knock.

  6. Anonymous said...

    His last century before the 319 was in Adelaide two months ago. He scored 151 of India's second innings 269 - definitely a match-saving effort.

  7. David Barry said...

    I don't think it's fair on either Sehwag or Tendulkar to talk about their lack of match-winning innings. If Tendulkar and Steve Waugh had each been in the other's team, then Tendulkar would have scored many centuries in victories, and Waugh the same in losses, because winning and losing is heavily dependent on the quality of the team, not just one star.

    Take Sehwag's 195 in Melbourne. Australia went on to a very comfortable victory. But I don't see the logic in criticising Sehwag because his innings wasn't "influential". What else could he do? He almost hit 200 when none of his teammates could pass 50.

    Comparing 13 fifties to 14 hundreds works both ways. It means he has a good conversion rate once he gets to 50.

    Sehwag averages one century every 6.57 innings. If you take all batsmen (qual. 20 innings) who average 50 or more, you see that they average a century every 6.60 innings. So there's nothing there that should disqualify him from greatness.

    Judging him by centuries per year isn't fair, because he got dropped from time to time.

    Anyway, I wouldn't count Sehwag as a great, because batting's too easy these days, and he has an inflated average like most batsmen today.

  8. Q said...

    David - I think that criticizing a batsman for being a heavy scorer who doesn't win matches for the country is quite apt.

    The most glaring example is the test match between ind and pak in Jan 99. Ind were chasing 270 odd and sachin on 130 odd had taken them to 240 before holing out to Saqlain. India lost it from there...Sachin just needed to be there for another 7-8 overs or so.

    There have been many other innings which haven't led India to a win. Steve Waugh single handedly took the Windies down and single handedly took the Aussies to the semis in 99WC after defeating SA in the must win super six game.

    Sachin has played a few innings like those but still majority of his centuries are in losing causes.

    Compare that to Inzamam - 18 out of 25 tons being match winning ones and majoriy of them in matches where he was the only one who held the batting together. Definitely worth a lot more than a 300 in a drawn game.

    You are though right about the 195 of sehwag. He doesn't deserve to be criticized for that but maybe the manner in which he batted - hogging the strike and doing all the scoring, maybe that was the hindrance for the other batsmen who just couldnt get it. Just a thought...

    He has a very good conversion rate I agree but what i was trying to point out was that it also means that between his 100s he has a consistent run of poor scores.

    U mention batsmen averaging over 50 scoring a 100 every 6.6 innings. In the 7 innings the batsmen have between the centuries u will find (its a guesstimate) that they score 2-3 50+ scores on average. Sehwag scores atmost 1. That highlights the inconsistency.

    Would u have a batsman who scores a 60-70 every game or one who gets single digits for 6-7 innings and then smashes a BIG 100?

    Centuries per year as a bad measure I agree. I thought of that after I had written it when I though that Sachin in 17 years has 30 odd centuries meaning 2 or less per year - so thats no measure.

  9. David Barry said...

    the manner in which he batted - hogging the strike
    Sehwag faced less than half the balls while he was at the crease.

    I'd agree with your criticism of Sehwag if he only made runs on flat pitches that peter out to draws, but that's not the case. A couple of the draws he's made centuries in were rain-affected.

    "Holding the innings together" requires someone at the other end, and winning matches requires bowlers, something that Pakistan traditionally have and India don't (outside of India, at least).

    Would u have a batsman who scores a 60-70 every game or one who gets single digits for 6-7 innings and then smashes a BIG 100?
    If they average the same, I wouldn't prefer one or the other. Both clearly have room for improvement - the first guy needs to learn to stop throwing his wicket away after he makes a fifty, and the second needs to fix his starts.

    Interestingly, a common complaint amongst English fans in recent times is that their batsmen were keeping their averages up over 40 by making lots of consistent 60's and 70's, without any hundreds. They wanted less consistency, so that there would be more hundreds.

    I find that position just as wrong as wanting the consistency. I just want my batsmen to score lots of runs. Ideally, of course, you want consistency AND hundreds. That would make the average go up.

  10. Straight Point said...

    Q and OTT

    just a thought...

    if a century or so is not given that much credit coz of flat track...

    how would you rate failures even on these track...?

    why we highlight bowlers feats on seaming and overcast conditions??

  11. Ottayan said...


    Personally, I like to watch games which gives some help to the bowlers. It brings out the best in the batsmen.

    I haven't given much thought about batting failures on a dead pitch.

    I would rate a bowlers haul on a bowler friendly pitch as low as a batsmen who scores a triple on a flat wicket.

  12. Q said...

    David ur answers and arguements always make sense and u justify them with solid facts and numbers so i can't do much but to agree with you.

    Maybe I used to the wrong barometers to test Sehwag's greatness.

    However, I think we both agree on the bottom line that Sehwag is not one of the greats as labelled by Manjrekar.

  13. Q said...

    SP, a failure on a dead track could be caused by a rash stroke or an unplayable delivery that comes by only a few times in ones innings. I would only criticize failure due to the former.

    Bowler's feats on lively tracks are highlighted because they are so rare in these days.

  14. Q said...

    Another example:

    Karachi test 2006 between India and Pakistan. Pathan took a hatrick in the 1st over. Pakistan were 5 to 6 down for very little. Grassy wicket, Indian bowlers swinging the ball heavily and Kamran Akmal saved Paks innings with a brilliant 100.

    That 100 was worth so much more than the HUGE centuries that Yousuf and Younis knocked during that seres.

  15. Obaid said...

    Interesting discussion here. I think that from a purely qualitative angle, the mark of a good batsman is that he brings out the best in others around him. Q brought up the fact that 18/25 of Inzi's centuries came in winning causes. My belief is that paretnerships/stands win matches, not individual efforts. Using Inzi as an example, Im sure he inspired others around him to bat better as well when he was at the crease, whether they were established batsmen or tail-enders

    The same probably goes for Waugh and other greats... I dont agree with you Q that he single handedly won the series, Im sure he needed someone at the other end to hang on as well

    Anyway, maybe we can get David Barry or Q to do some analysis on the correlation between centuries, conversion rates and partnerships over 100 runs fostered during the course of the centuries

  16. Q said...

    That was exactly my point aby Inzi Obaid - when he scored runs he made sure other bat around him and he more or less carried the batsmen and the tail with him and inspired them to stick around and give Inzi all the help needed for a chase or a match winning total or a match saving innings.

    Surely he had others doing well but many of his efforts were single handed.

    As for Sehwag, the way he plays is very different from the rest of the Indian batting line up and he doesn't necessarily carry his partner with him. There's the difference.

    Its unfair to compare the two batsmen.. I brought up the point only to discuss the 2 different styles of batting..

    Inzi's style is a mark of a great player in my books..

  17. David Barry said...

    I'm sceptical about the notion of some batsmen being able to carry the others around him, but I'll have a look into it later today.

  18. Q said...

    David, if you have a look at a stat like the total runs scored and total balls faced in partnerships between a batsman in the top 6 andtailenders (numbers 8 to 11).. I sense u will find Inzamam near the top of the list.

    I think Steve Waugh will top the charts.

  19. arjwiz said...

    That'll be interesting to know (what q said). I'm guessing Steve W as well.

  20. Tashi said...

    Isn't this comparison totally unfair? Sehwag's job is to give his team a good start. He is an opener. Waugh and Inzamam are middle order batsmen. Their job includes 'finishing' and 'batting with the tail'. They are truly great players and they would have constantly improved at 'batting with the tail' and 'lifting other players'. How often will Sehwag bat with the tail? All the players who follow Sehwag are true greats. They don't need inspiration from Sehwag and even if Sehwag's presence made them play better we cannot recognize it. We'll just attribute it to Sachin's or Dravid's greatness. To me, this is the same as comparing oranges and apples.

  21. Q said...

    Tashi, I completely agree with you. I think our discussion here went on a tangent and no one meant to compare sehwag to inzi or waugh.

    That's why I mentioned that it was more a comparison of the batting styles rather than the players in order to determine which style makes a player great.

    My simple question was whether u think sehwag is a great or not.

    As for an analysis on who has batted more with the tail and made them play around him, it doesn't apply for sehwag. That's to see if inzi was a batsman who did that or not.

    Welcome to well pitched tashi.

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