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Sunil Gavaskar - Master's words

Sehwag's blitzkrieg on the fourth day set up the platform for a famous Indian win, writes Gavaskar

Tuesday, December 16, 2021
'Take a bow, Viru'

India registered a truly great win chasing nearly 400 runs in the fourth innings. They have to thank Virender Sehwag, who with his swashbuckling batting gave it the kind of start that put the opposition on the back-foot, and gave India the platform from where the other batsmen could bat in the conventional Test manner. If he hadn't given that start then England would have been able to apply more attacking fields and more men in catching positions.

However after that blitzkrieg, England had to have an in and out field looking to stop the boundaries, and thereby losing out on close fielders for possible half-chances being taken. 

Gautam Gambhir also was impressive as he gave more strike to his partner and ensured that he wasn't left languishing at the non-striker's end when in that destructive mood. Gambhir also held the innings together after Dravid, woefully out of form, poked tentatively at a delivery he should have left alone and perished. It allowed Tendulkar to settle down and though that partnership was not a big one, it was crucial at that stage of the match. Laxman then came in and played a brilliant cameo that gave the little champion the freedom to play his shots too.

This innings will give Tendulkar enormous satisfaction for his mind will have gone back to 1999 when he scored a magnificent century but India fell agonisingly short against arch rivals Pakistan. It will also silence the ignoramuses who question his contribution to India in crunch situations and second innings and what not.

It is only in India that a player with over 12000 runs and 40 centuries will be constantly under the hammer if he fails in one game. Those who query his contribution in the finals of a tournament forget that it is his batting in the earlier rounds that takes India to the finals, and if he doesn't always score in the last game it doesn't mean that he lets the team down. Tendulkar's brilliant batting in the tri-series finals in Australia won India the trophy for the first time earlier in the year, and with this knock no more questions should be entertained about his contribution in the fourth and final innings of a Test match.

It was good to see Yuvraj come good too for here is a rare talent which has not yet flowered fully in the Test arena. This innings will make him believe he belongs to this format just as he does in the shorter versions of the game. The way he applied himself and ignored all the chatting done by the English, showed how quickly he had learnt from the first innings where he allowed himself to get embroiled in a verbal encounter, and lost the battle by getting out tamely. His defence on a turning pitch was also pretty good and he now should be set for a long innings in this format for India.

There were some outstanding performances in the match. Strauss' century in each innings and Collingwood's gritty ton in the second innings, the technically superb innings from the little champion, and Yuvraj's mature innings are all highlights of a memorable Test match, but the man of the match has to be Virender Sehwag whose audacity and stroke-play gave India the belief that they could do it.

Take a bow Viru. You are a winner!