To this day, Virender Sehwag is regarded as one of the most destructive Indian openers. The right-handed batsman paired up at the top with both Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar at different stages of his career, and managed to find success with both. Sehwag’s ability to offset the bowlers from the first ball, and play counter-attacking cricket, made him a dangerous customer at the top, even for the best bowling units in the world. Sehwag was the 2nd Indian to score a double ton in the ODIs, only after Tendulkar. He was also the first Indian to score a triple ton in Test cricket, a landmark he reached twice in his career.
But things could have been different if Sehwag had remained in the middle-order, where he used to play early in his career. The Indian team’s middle-order was quite packed at the time with Sachin, Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, and Sehwag could face stiff competition in the middle, especially in the longest format.
Former Kolkata Knight Riders Team Director Joy Bhattacharya, in an interaction with host Gaurav Kapur on an episode of 22 Yarns podcast presented by Oaktree Sports uploaded on Spotify and Youtube, revealed the advice that the then, captain, Ganguly gave to Sehwag that turned his career.
“Look at Yuvraj, look at Sehwag. You know what he does to Sehwag. He turns around and says to him ‘look the middle order is too crowded. If you want to play for India, you have to open. There is me, Tendulkar, Laxman, Dravid… where are you going to get a chance? Yuvraj Singh did not get a chance for so many years because the middle order is crowded. Go and open’,” Bhattacharya said.
“And what happened was that Sehwag opened and the history was made,” Bhattacharya added.
Sehwag first opened for India in an ODI game against Sri Lanka in Colombo in 2001. He was dismissed for a duck on the first ball. But Ganguly stuck with Sehwag in the same position and in the very next game, the batsman scored his maiden ODI ton.
In his career, Sehwag scored 8,586 Test runs with 23 centuries to his name in 104 Tests. He also played 251 ODIs for Indai in which he scored 8,273 runs with 15 centuries in his career.