Dubai: Former Indian opener Virender Sehwag makes batting look easy, punishing the best of bowlers nonchalantly. The reason for his success is to keep his batting simple, and follow just three basic rules.
“My basics of batting are very simple. Three rules, which ball I can hit, which one I can defend and which one I can leave. My shot selection was spot on with these three rules, if you keep it simple and stay mentally tough and believe in yourself, then you will get the desired success in your game,” Sehwag told Gulf News during the launch of the Mentors Academy by JMR Sporting at GEMS Modern Academy on Thursday.
Sehwag lives, plays and talks by his own rules. But he does it with clarity of thought and with a strong mental fortitude. These traits have enabled him to score two triple centuries, including India’s record 319, a double-century in Tests and a double century in One Day International (ODI). All these great feats he could achieve with technical deficiencies, by his own admission, due to the mental strength that he possesses.
“As a mentor, I think skills are important, but that will take you only to a certain level. After that you have to be mentally strong, mentally tough and tune your mind to score big runs to achieve bigger things. If you are not mentally tough and skilful, then I don’t think you can achieve big goals,” said the 44-year-old Delhi batter, also known as Nawab of Najafgarh.
“I was not technically correct in my batting, but I was mentally strong and because of that mental toughness, I was able to score those big runs,” he added, undermining his own batting standards where he was able to succeed even in the toughest conditions and against lethal bowlers with minimal footwork.
The reason for that, according to Sehwag, is his cool and composed approach while batting. He advocates patience as a vital ingredient to be successful on the pitch.
“Many kids ask me, I am not scoring runs, what to do? I will tell them, make sure you check your batting stance, make sure you check your elbow position and make sure you check your thought process. More often when you are not scoring runs, you keep thinking about your last game, your last ball. You should not do that. Instead, you should focus on the next delivery all the time. Even if you get beaten by a delivery, you should not be worried as you have survived that. The next ball could be a half-volley or a short-pitched delivery,” said Sehwag, who is often known to sing Kishore Kumar songs while batting.
Fomat different, but same game
Irrespective of the format and irrespective of the bowler, he says he would treat a particular ball the same way.
“The format might be different, but the game is the same. So is the bowler and the batter. Only the colour of the ball and the clothing changes. You need to understand, be it Test, ODI or T20, which one is a good ball and which one is an OK ball. If your shot selection is good, you will always score runs irrespective of the format,” he said, dissecting batting into smaller parts.
He also cited Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Joe Root and Kane Williamson as classic examples of mastering the art of perfect shot selection.
“They are successful in all three formats because of their shot selection, which is better than the others. They are also mentally tougher than others, that’s why they are scoring runs. I have seen lot of players who don’t have the right technique, their stance is different, the bat coming from wide, still they manage to score runs because they are mentally tough.
“They have a lot of patience. I learnt from Muttiah Muralitharan that if you have to take five wickets, then you have to bowl 30 or 35 overs. You have to bowl those overs with patience and make sure that the batsman makes the mistake. Similarly, as a batter you have to show a lot of patience to score runs.”
Sehwag, despite all the triple and double centuries, feels his century in the debut Test against South Africa, after coming in as a middle-order batter in Bloemfontein, is his best knock.
Formulating the strategy mentally
He also revealed the secret of how he developed the art of picking the deliveries to adopt his three-rule approach to batting. He also spoke of how he formulates his strategies the night before the match when he would visualise facing all the rival bowlers. He is then ready to execute his plan when he faces them the next day.
“Every day in the nets, I will bat as if I am batting in the match. If I get out, then I will walk out. Kids play hours and hours in the nets, but they make a lot of mistakes and get out many times. Challenge yourself ‘if I get out, I am done for the day’.”
Sehwag might not have too many runs to his credit in Twenty20 but the dashing opener has no regrets. “I was playing ODIs, some days even Tests as Twenty20,” he concluded with a smile.