India’s Best Hits: From Sachin’s Mighty Six to Gavaskar’s Nudge
Here’s a look at some of the best strokeplay carried out in Indian cricket history.
Batsmen, even the more adventurous ones, tend to get cautious as they approach personal landmarks. It just seems the sensible thing to do after one has worked hard to build an innings and finds oneself within sniffing distance of a record.
However, no such consideration appeared to weigh on Virender Sehwag’s mind when he smote a six to register the first triple century by an Indian in Tests in 2004.
MS Dhoni’s six off Sri Lanka’s Nuwan Kulasekara to wrap up the 2011 World Cup final will also be etched in the memory of all cricket fans.
There have been so many instances when some of the Indian batsmen have taken charge in high pressure situations and have come on top through some amazing strokeplay.
Sehwag’s Three Centuries
The achievement would not have lost any of its sheen had Sehwag crossed the 300 mark with a single, but Sehwag, being Sehwag, took the aerial route. The ball delivered by Pakistan’s Saqlain Mushtaq was asking to be hit and he had to oblige. The moment’s enormity did not merit a change in tack.
Srikkanth’s Aggressive Batting in the 1983 World Cup Final
A similar philosophy must have guided Krishnamachari Srikkanth when he first hit Andy Roberts’ delivery for a boundary through a square drive and then hooked him for a six in the 1983 World Cup final.
Roberts may have been among the most respected fast bowlers on the planet, India may have been the underdogs looking for a steady start, and the champion’s tag may have been at stake, but none of it mattered to Srikkanth because he felt, those deliveries were begging the treatment.
Whether it was Sehwag at Multan or Srikkanth at Lord’s, the choice of strokes was emblematic of the batsman’s buccaneering spirit, and not driven – at least not consciously – by the desire to make a point. A contrast to two other celebrated sixes hit by Indians, both coincidentally in World Cups.
The Famous World Cup Sixes
Sachin Tendulkar’s upper cut off Shoaib Akhtar at the Centurion in the 2003 World Cup was calculated to take the wind out of the Pakistan attack, and it did. MS Dhoni’s tournament-closing stroke off Nuwan Kulasekara at the Wankhede in 2011 was meant to be the equivalent of a knock-out punch.
With it, Dhoni ensured that that the April night is remembered not for the occasionally floundering Indian chipaway at the Lankan edifice but for its thunderous take-down.
When Kapil Dev Helped India Avoid Follow-On
A sequence of boundaries can only be part of a calculated assault, but nevertheless testifies to the executor’s class and, more importantly, mental make-up. Not everyone has the guts to string together four consecutive sixes with exactly twenty-four needed to avoid a follow-on and one wicket in hand as Kapil Dev did off Eddie Hemmings’ bowling at Lord’s in 1990.
It takes beyond normal self-belief to strike six sixes in an over like Yuvraj Singh in the 2007 World T20 against England as well.
Mohammad Azharuddin Hits 5 Fours in a Row
Mohammad Azharuddin’s five consecutive boundaries off a single over off the then rather pacy Lance Klusener in the Kolkata Test of 1996 signaled a level of steel the batsman has perhaps not been credited enough for.
For it came against a backdrop no cricketer would envy. Loss of captaincy, place in the side under fire, the looming threat of a follow-on, and a high class attack, including Allan Donald at his quickest, dishing out the short stuff.
Sunil Gavaskar’s Nudge
There is something to be said about Sunil Gavaskar’s nudge off Pakistan's Ijaz Fakih's bowling through the slips in Motera in 1987. The resulting single took Gavaskar’s Test career aggregate to 10,000 Test runs, making him the first ever to scale the batsman’s equivalent of Mount Everest. It was a studied choice of stroke, like almost every stroke that had preceded it in the man’s fifteen year career. The ball merited to be played that way and Gavaskar would play it in no other.
The run machine felt no need for a flourish, no temptation to top the moment with a boundary. The weight of his achievement, he knew, was enough for posterity. And there it remains, despite Doordarshan having lost the footage.
However, batsmanship is not only about boundaries and over-boundaries but also what happens in between them. In fact, more often than not, batsmen are remembered for their vocabulary and trademark shots, not that one exceptional strike.
Rahul Dravid’s defensive prods and neat cover drives spoke of diligent skill-polishing. And so did VVS Laxman’s and Sourav Ganguly’s touch play of gifts nature had bestowed them with.
Virat Kohli, the modern master, stands out for the growth in the power and range of his strokes and his ability to calibrate his game and innovate across formats. That kind of learning curve can only be a product of hunger and hard work.
(Manish Dubey is a policy analyst and political columnist. His second work of fiction, a novella titled 'A Murderous Family' has recently been released by Juggernaut Books. He can be reached at @ManishDubey1972. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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