Virender Sehwag in actionAs the floodlights at the Premadasa Stadium were switched off one by one, Sourav Ganguly, captain of India, issued an order. “Everybody…” the Indian captain said over his shoulder to the assemblage of reporters, camera crew, ice officials, policemen and hangers-on, “everybody clap for Veeru.” Everybody clapped,Virender Sehwag in actionAs the floodlights at the Premadasa Stadium were switched off one by one, Sourav Ganguly, captain of India, issued an order. “Everybody…” the Indian captain said over his shoulder to the assemblage of reporters, camera crew, ice officials, policemen and hangers-on, “everybody clap for Veeru.”Everybody clapped but it seemed pitiful, inadequate. Maybe, a thunderclap would have been more fitting for Virender Sehwag, flayer of cricket balls and slayer of opposition hopes, small-town boy turned big-time bully.In the short game, the Indians today are not just a cricket team. With 10 wins in their past 13 matches they are a curious collective of artists and escape artists, builders and jailbreakers, locksmiths and lockpickers. Every time there’s a job to be done, there’s a man around who knows just how to do it. In Colombo it was Sehwag: a century and a 50 and a handy turn with the ball at the death that brought him two man-of-the-match awards and took his team into the final of the biggest tournament in cricket after the World Cup.Sehwag destroyed England in a matter of 90 minutes – this when chasing 270 to win. Then the Indians choked World No. 2 South Africa – or rather South Africa choked itself – in a semi-final that was all done until Herschelle Gibbs began to cramp and the Indians decided they hadn’t heard any fat lady sing. Not bad for a team Tony Greig described as playing “without a logo, sponsor or a fifth bowler”.What the team has instead is a core of young players who are getting used to the temperature of the international game. Sehwag, 23, is one of them, a player with talent that leaves his seniors goggle-eyed and a mindset that has survived and outlasted two breaks due to injury and even a diplomatic crisis (the Mike Denness affair).It is a mindset that began and ended with the catch-phrase band leaders use to open campus gigs: hit it. It’s one thing to crank out a few tunes in front of dopey teenagers, quite another to do so in an arena crammed with the paying public. The transition in this case has had to be made from being an attacking batsman bowlers believe will go after everything and give them a chance every ball, to a player who keeps bowlers nervy wondering when the latest round of punishment is due.SHOULDER TO SHOULDER: Sehwag has flowered under Ganguly (left)Sehwag’s gifts – balance and the eye to pick length early – allow him to play a high-risk, high-returns game, where boundary board and scoreboard keep clattering. His Ranji Trophy captain Vijay Dahiya of Delhi says, “He took the game he played at the domestic level to the international level, played the same strokes, dominates in the same way.”The ability to dominate and subdue can also give a young man an addiction to aggression. Sehwag’s buddies in the Indian team used to despair at how many one-day centuries he has let go as opener due to loose shots before scoring his second in Colombo. Now it has become a job of keeping that marvellous eye on the ball, the scoreboard-and the clock. “Earlier I had no responsibility. All I did was go out and hit shots. But now I need to stay at the wicket longer for India. The more I do, the better our chances of getting big scores.”None bigger in terms of occasion than his patient century as Test opener in Nottingham earlier in the summer; he was another in a long line of makeshift openers but has no time for the anxieties of the job: he would rather fuss over his batting, he says, not his batting position.Bishan Singh Bedi first saw Sehwag when he played for Jamia Millia Islamia, after enduring a daily 42-km round-trip bus commute starting at 4.30 a.m. To the burly old left-arm spinner, the chunky son of a flour-mill owner was ” an uncut diamond”.John Wright, the coach who speaks as softly as Sehwag does, recently had a quiet word that hit home. With a single half-century in his last 13 one-dayers, Sehwag was reminded that Sachin Tendulkar had sacrificed his opening slot in the one-day game for him – a spot where he scored a century every three games. That if he could apply his mind for 40 overs, he would get a hundred and take his team past tall totals. That this was not any old batting spot. It was the seat of royalty itself in the Indian team, handed over by the king. Swapping places with Tendulkar was only the final act in their two-man drama. Sehwag’s nickname, Najafgarh ka Tendulkar, was bad enough but then the syndrome went potty, physical similarities highlighted by television gurus lining up slow-mo shots of the two side by side. But Sehwag is a sturdier sort, trying to return the respect given by his peers with big runs and treating the comparisons that follow like media manure. A deep-rooted common sense helps; asked for the nth time about the difference between Tendulkar and himself, Sehwag says, “Our bank balance.” advertisementadvertisementUnderneath that deadpan cheekiness is a nerveless competitor. Yuvraj Singh describes Sehwag as operating in two gears: “Either he’s bashing bowlers or he’s asleep. Fifth or neutral. Nothing else.” Away from the centre, Sehwag prefers neutral. He’s comfortable in his own skin and knows that a lack of English has cost him nothing more than a shoe contract. The marketing men told his agent that he wasn’t worthy of their shoes because “he can’t speak English and he is the kind of player who just hits or gets out”. Guess, who’s cringing now?The cautionary notices are already up: Viv Richards told INDIA TODAY, “He’s on fire. But it’s how he plays when the ball is in his ribs that will be the true test.” Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya says, “You can bat like this for one series, maybe two or three, but continuously, it’s going to be very tough.”This, however, is the man who has won a match for India with a broken thumb, and says he didn’t panic even when Jacques Kallis hit him for a six in first ball of the final over of the match against South Africa because he knew that one dot ball in the next five would take his team into the semi-final. The Indian team and Virender Sehwag, a batsman of expansive talent and supreme confidence, are discovering that rewards lie in wait if they keep the balance between the big picture and the smallest detail.-with Vivek Law
The four new ministers inducted into the Goa cabinet will be allotted portfolios on Monday, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said on Sunday. Chandrakant Kavlekar, who was the Leader of the Opposition, will be designated as Deputy Chief Minister, Mr. Sawant told reporters.Days after 10 Congress MLAs in Goa joined the BJP, Mr. Sawant on Saturday reshuffled his cabinet, dropping three members of the ally, Goa Forward Party (GFP), and an Independent legislator as ministers.Michael Lobo, who resigned as Deputy Speaker of the Goa Assembly, and three of the 10 MLAs who joined the BJP — Chandrakant Kavlekar, Jeniffer Monserratte, Philip Neri Rodrigues — were sworn in as ministers on Saturday.The monsoon session of the Assembly begins on Monday. Asked how the new ministers would handle questions in the House, Mr. Sawant said, “I will be there to help them.” The 10 Congress MLAs joined the BJP last Wednesday, increasing the saffron party’s strength to 27 in the 40-member House.Prior to the swearing-in, Mr. Sawant issued a notification, dropping all three GFP leaders — Deputy Chief Minister Vijai Sardesai, Water Resources Minister Vinod Palyekar, and Rural Development Minister Jayesh Salgaonkar — and Independent MLA and Revenue Minister Rohan Khaunte from the cabinet to accommodate the new members.The GFP, which has three legislators in the House, and Mr. Khaunte withdrew their support to the BJP-led State government on Saturday. Mr. Sardesai said the induction of the 10 Congress MLAs into the BJP was the “death of the legacy” of late chief minister Manohar Parrikar, who was a towering figure in politics of the coastal State.