Tendulkar and Sehwag, the yin and yang, at it again
India has more to thank Sourav Ganguly for than transforming the mindset of the team through the early 2000s; he’s the man who brought together arguably Indian cricket’s most high-powered opening partnership in limited-overs cricket, Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag.
Sehwag and Tendulkar amassed 4387 ODI runs together, which included several matches when they opened the batting. As a partnership, their characters were yin and yang. Sehwag’s penchant for power-hitting had a diametric opposite in Tendulkar’s measured approach. You would have thought that with both batsmen having hung up their boots more than half a decade ago, the duo’s opening exploits would have been consigned to yesterday’s news in the fast-paced world of T20 and T10 cricket.
But, they continue to captivate. Why? Simply because by lighting up the Road Safety World Series (RSWS) in Raipur, they’ve once again challenged the notion that professional sport is irrevocably becoming a pursuit for young athletes. Tendulkar and Sehwag are magnets for accolades. Such as when Tendulkar swivelled across and pulled Tino Best, of West Indies Legends, over fine leg for six. Fans instantly started drawing parallels from the World Cup in 2003, when Tendulkar essayed a pull shot off Andrew Caddick that sent the ball soaring over the stands and straight out of the ground. Or when Sehwag drove the first delivery of the match from Sulieman Benn, of West Indies Legend, through extra cover for four. His back foot drive off the first ball of the World Cup in 2011 instantly came to mind.
Some people come to watch a cricket match in Raipur. But it is easy to see why most of them are here for the nostalgic experience, in adoration of two men, who, through their careers, endearingly endured the otherwise unsustainable pressure exerted by the adulation they received in a cricket-mad country. An endless quest by fans wanting to be in a photograph with them, to take away a piece of them.
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These are the same people who today crowd the stands at Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh International Stadium, trying to glimpse Tendulkar and Sehwag through their blend of hazy memories and selective detail. Many moments stand out with Tendulkar and Sehwag at the crease. Tendulkar’s glance towards the sky as soon as he steps on the field, pinching singles, making Sehwag take that one run he would have turned down otherwise. Then there’s Sehwag, bringing up milestones with huge hits while humming Bollywood melodies between the overs.
While the love for Tendulkar can occasionally be ill-making in its excess, there is no denying the impression he continues to leave on millions of fans. As for Sehwag, he is thrill-a-minute, and their partnership; simultaneously beautiful and ruthless. There are a few great players today, what Tendulkar and Sehwag can do batting together, they can too. But most cricket fans relate to the cultural impact of Tendulkar and Sehwag, the former – a child genius turned human superstar who embodied India and the latter, whose irreverence for a certain kind of orthodoxy became the harbinger of what was to come in Indian cricket.
As Tendulkar and Sehwag gear up to open the innings one more time, in the RSWS final on Sunday, fans will come out in numbers to relish the human beneath their star personas.