Brett Lee has lauded Virender Sehwag to no ends, describing him using the most affluent adjectives while explaining why his unpredictable batting style made him so difficult to bowl to. He went on to compare Sehwag with Sachin Tendulkar and recount tales that made him realize his immense talent.
India has been lucky to produce great opening pairs over generations, be it Sunil Gavaskar and Kris Srikkanth or Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma. However, perhaps none of them was as destructive as the partnership between Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag. Two of the finest batsmen the country has produced, the duo ruled international cricket for years and made every team around the world fear the prospect of facing them. Former Australian pacer and one of the all-time fast bowling greats Brett Lee was no different.
The legend had some great battles with both during his career and while he has time and again labelled Sachin as his most difficult challenge, Lee has revealed Sehwag was not far behind. The flamboyant opener had subjected the pacer to many onslaughts during his time in the international arena, with his most memorable performance being a magical 195 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the first inning of the Boxing Day Test in 2003. Lee particularly pointed out Sehwag's unpredictability as his secret to success.
"You think of the word cruel. You think of the word swashbuckling. Think of the world unpredictable, I think of none other than Virender Sehwag. He played with a smile on his face, with intent… the type of guy that would quite likely want to hit the first ball of a Test match for six… and he has done it. He is a guy that is so hard to bowl to because as I mentioned, the unpredictability. You would bowl that beautiful line and length thinking I’ve got him… ball shaping away. And that big smile, Sehwag would go BANG, hit you over cover for six," Lee said on his YouTube channel 'Brett Lee TV' as reported by Hindustan Times.
Sehwag and Tendulkar accumulated nearly 4,000 runs while opening together in ODIs alone, their partnership averaging above 40. Sehwag initially started out as a mirror image of Tendulkar before eventually evolving a style and stance of his own. Lee recalled an incident of when he came to realize Sehwag's immense potential.
"The guy that looked a little bit like Sachin Tendulkar when he was batting. And I thought 'here we go again. Another Sachin Tendulkar. If one wasn't enough, we've got another one and he is opening the batting'. We in the Australian team had a ploy for Sehwag and even start the Test match with a third man, trying to suck him in to hit one down there. We tried that in an ODI match one day and he wacked it… absolutely nailed it out of the ground. I just thought ‘this guy is too good’. And he would give you that cheeky little wink. The best thing about Sehwag was that he was a character. He loved playing cricket and those little battle scars against the bowler. He got the ability to make people get hooked on to seats," Lee revealed.
Sehwag ended his international career with over 17,000 international runs, split almost equally between Tests and ODIs. While his strike rate of 100-plus in ODI suggests it must have been his most successful format given it suited his aggressive style, the truth is the 43-year-old averaged way higher against the red-ball, a remarkable 49.34. Lee offered his theory of why the batsman managed such success in the game's longest format.
"A lot of people asked, 'Is he more of a One-Day cricketer, or a T20 cricketer? I don't believe it. I think he was perfectly suited to Test cricket because the hardest thing as a bowler when bowling the first ball of a Test match, you are trying to look for rhythm. When do you that and your first ball goes for four, it can really much of a bowler's mind. I've had some great battles on the field, he's a terrific guy off it. Virender Sehwag, you are a superstar and I hope there are many more batters who emulate your batting style," pointed out Lee.