x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Ruthless Sehwag gets his revenge

A swashbuckling 175 by Virender Sehwag propels India to a convincing 87-run victory over Bangladesh in Dhaka in the opening match of the 2011 Cricket World Cup

Virender Sehwag fends off a bouncer on his way to scoring 175 yesterday. Munir uz Zaman / AFP
Virender Sehwag fends off a bouncer on his way to scoring 175 yesterday. Munir uz Zaman / AFP

Four years ago, at the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad, Mashrafe Mortaza took four for 38 and Tamim Iqbal smashed 51 from 53 balls as Bangladesh ambushed India in their opening World Cup game. Virender Sehwag made just two and in the days leading up to yesterday's World Cup opener at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in Mirpur, he had spoken of his desire to exact revenge.

Unlike some of his more tactful teammates, Sehwag does not do diplomacy. He was as forthright with bat in hand, lashing 175 from just 140 balls on a treacle-slow pitch where shot-making was far from straightforward.

There was no Mortaza to offer a genuine new-ball threat and a distinctly modest attack had no answers once India began with 32 from the first three overs.

Sachin Tendulkar was as composed as ever while making 28. A running mix-up that would have embarrassed two schoolboys sent him on his way, while Gautam Gambhir also squandered a start after some deft touches in his 39. His two Delhi mates, Sehwag and Virat Kohli, were relentless though, adding 203 in just 145 balls to effectively bat Bangladesh out of the game.

There was a time when teams were content to dawdle between overs 16 and 40, nudging a single here and finding a gap there. This Indian side does not believe in such second-gear methods. Kohli and Sehwag ran smartly between wickets, but there were also plenty of big hits, some scorching the turf and others clearing the rope by a distance.

Shakib al Hasan rotated his bowlers as much as he could, but without a potent wicket-taking threat containment was as much as Bangladesh could hope for.

That, though, is not an option when Sehwag is at the crease. There was a time when he was the wastrel of India's one-day side, a batsman who could compile huge scores at breakneck speed in Test cricket but who faltered far too often in the 50-over format that seemed tailor-made for him.

Since Gary Kirsten took over as the India coach in December of 2007, though, Sehwag has been an opener transformed, scoring six centuries and 11 fifties while averaging 51.36. His strike-rate of 125 would be exceptional in Twenty20 cricket.

"At least once in my career, I've batted 47 overs," he said in usual droll fashion afterwards.

On another day, the headlines might have been about Kohli, who raced to his century even more quickly (83 balls). This was his fifth one-day hundred, and he averages 71.66 from 12 matches this season. The decision to play him instead of Suresh Raina certainly proved a clever one.

Bangladesh's decision to bowl first was predictably scrutinised after this 83-run defeat, but Sehwag admitted that India too might have chosen the same option had MS Dhoni won the toss.

"We were looking to field first," he said. "The dew factor could have made bowling difficult. So maybe it's good that we lost the toss."

India started their defence of 370 poorly, with Sreesanth carted for 36 in his first three overs. But Bangladeshi hopes of scaling the run-mountain ebbed away with Tamim being uncharacteristically subdued in the power play. It was left to Imrul Kayes to force the pace, and by the time Tamim started to open his shoulders, the required rate had climbed towards nine an over.

Munaf Patel, who attacked the stumps, and Zaheer Khan, who bowled with customary nous, were the pick of the bowlers, while Harbhajan Singh chipped in with a tidy spell. Each of the top five Bangladeshi batsmen got a start, but after the initial blitz against Sreesanth there was never the urgency needed to overhaul such a target.

Bangladesh, who will play all their group games on home turf, will need to bolster their bowling options in order to progress, while India will almost certainly look at Piyush Chawla and more spin in place of the erratic Sreesanth.

The opening day, though, was all about Sehwag, who announced his intentions and then carried them out.