In the last few months Sehwag has lived a little. For that he had to die a little first, what with his emergency exit from the Twenty20 World Cup.
But after that, Sehwag found his voice, his calling, his self. From a maverick taking on the DDCA, to shooting from the hip in one interview after another. Prior to this I do not recall ever reading a Sehwag interview; there might have been the odd sound byte, but nothing on such a scale.
It was as if Sehwag was the funky new cerebral side of cricket. Humour and commonsense, honesty and straight talk, that was Sehwag’s cricketing grammar.
Till last year, I wondered ‘how do you solve a brand like Viru’ – and did he have any PR people, or for that matter any people working on brand Sehwag. It’s obvious most Indian cricketers do, and these brand managers work overtime keeping their stars shinning even on starless nights.
With Sehwag it was the opposite. No matter what he did it was never enough. He needed to score twice as fast, twice as many to be a blip on the radar.
Then what changed? I think the IPL was a huge factor, it showed Sehwag on a very marketable stage – top boss, all batsman, and pitted him against MSD, Yuvraj, Sachin, not just as a player, but as a brand. From an invisible brand, Sehwag at least registered. If not across India, definitely in Delhi.
Good for him, the kids like him, at least at the adidas store. Then there was the emergence of Gambhir, suddenly it was 1 + 1 deal, Sehwag + Gambhir.
The two get on like Bonny and Clyde, there’s a similar frantic-rush from raiding bowlers. I think by 2009 both Gambhir and Sehwag realised that, and in that realisation came the need to communicate – vital, if you learn one thing from Sachin, it is important to say it. You could be great, and all that, but it needs to be known, repeatedly.
So Sehwag went on overdrive talking about his triples, his favourite innings in Galle – all this needed to be said. Top that Sehwag spoke about his favourite player Gambhir, their vibe, ditto from Gambhir.
After missing a World Cup and a Champions Trophy, where India failed to make the semis, Sehwag returns in the Irani trophy – he opens in the first innings, not so in the second. Before this, the last innings he played was in IPL 2.
From that innings to now, I think Sehwag’s travelled a fair bit. While in the IPL he was content to make Warner open, play mentor, captain, senior Delhi player, he will now play purely as an opening batsman.
While the mind will be clearer, he still returns from a lay off. What Sehwag accomplishes in the next few months will decide where both the player and the brand go. Get Delhi beyond the semis for once, win a 7 ODI series against Australia, it can happen. If Sehwag happens. If MSD makes him happen.