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Joy cannot come in a form purer than Virender Sehwag batting at his best – simple, effortless. All present at Wankhede Stadium for Qualifier 2 of Pepsi IPL 2014 between KXIP and CSK will vouch for it. For they saw one of Sehwag’s most marauding innings – he pummeled the CSK bowling attack to the tune of 122 off 58 balls. The ball sailed over the boundary rope eight times for six runs and a dozen times for fours. For those few minutes, Sachin Tendulkar’s kingdom was ruled by Virender Sehwag.
On the back of Sehwag’s second IPL century, KXIP romped to their first ever IPL Final, where they take on Kolkata Knight Riders, in Bangalore. The man of the moment, in a chat with IPLT20.com, hoped his best will come out in the grand finale.
Here are excerpts from Sehwag’s exclusive interview:
Today, it was your turn to play book cricket?
Yes, it was. It’s been a long time; I played 14 games and got the starts. I knew that a big innings was around the corner. But I’d like to believe that the best is yet to come and hopefully it will come in Bangalore in the next game. Let’s hope we play the same quality of cricket in the Final that we have throughout the tournament.
Some players get a feeling when they’re walking out to bat that it’s going to be their day. Did you feel that today?
A couple of people actually called me. One of them was the BCCI Treasurer, Mr. Anirudh Chaudhary. He called me in the morning and said, ‘Boss, I have a feeling that today is going to be your day’. It was nice of him to make me realise that. When I walked in to bat today, I told myself, ‘If today is indeed my day, the Chennai Super Kings have to pay’!
Was there anything you did differently in this innings?
Nothing, I just played the way I have been playing for the last 15 years. It was just one of those days when the no matter where I hit the ball, it went for a four or a six. I am really thankful to our coach, Sanjay Bangar, who told me that I have to stay there for 15-16 overs. He has been backing me all the time and has motivated me throughout, telling me, ‘You have a lot of cricket left in you, so just believe in yourself and your abilities’.
Which of your IPL centuries do you like better – this one or the 119 in 2011 for DD?
I cannot choose between the two. Both are equally special because they came in winning causes.
You played some breathtaking shots today. Any particular one you enjoyed the most?
That six that I hit off Ashish Nehra off a back-of-a-length delivery that went over his head – I was actually shocked when it went for a six!
What is the mid-pitch conversation like when you and Maxwell are batting together? Do you even talk?
Not really. I was just focusing on my game today and I had told myself to concentrate on my batting rather than my partner’s. But yes, we did enjoy each other’s company in the middle and applauded each other’s shots.
Your son must be feeling right now that his dad is a superhero!
Absolutely! He has finally seen one of my good innings.
Arjun Tendulkar was here wearing a KXIP jersey cheering for you too.
Was he? I didn’t see him, but if he was here, it was very nice of him to come and support us. I thank him and Sachin, both.
During IPL 2013, Mitchell Johnson sat in the Wankhede Stadium players’ balcony and spoke to IPLT20.com about his scintillating debut season. After Qualifier 2 of Pepsi IPL 2014, we sat with him at the same spot for another chat. The difference was, this time the blue was replaced by red.
The Australian fast bowler, who experienced the joy of winning the IPL in his very first season, with Mumbai Indians, has once again made the Final this year, for Kings XI Punjab. After KXIP beat CSK to book a spot in the Final against KKR, Johnson reflected back on this season and KXIP’s journey to the title clash.
Here are excerpts from his interview:
Getting to the Final in your first two IPL seasons – pretty cool that?
It’s amazing. It seems I have got my timing joining the IPL right! This is the same as last year, for a different team. Hopefully, my team can once again get over the line this time. Everyone was pretty disappointed after the first Qualifier against KKR. But throughout the tournament every time we have lost a game, we’ve bounced back really well. And we did it again today. A lot of young guys in the team have done exceptionally well. One of the old boys did the same today as well – Virender Sehwag coming and scoring an unbelievable hundred.
Was Sehwag a volcano waiting to erupt?
Yes, actually a couple of times before, we thought he was about to take off. And he finally did today. He waited till the Final to show his best and that’s very good for us. He even ran a couple of quick twos and singles today. That’s pretty good to see. Hopefully, he can recover in time for the Final and we can see him at his best again. The turning point was George’s run-out of Raina. The way he was batting, you couldn’t bowl anywhere to him at that point. They were 100 after six overs and they were flying.
As a bowler, what is the most challenging aspect of bowling to him?
More than anything, it’s the mental side; not getting frustrated. Especially in a tournament like this – for instance, we have come up against CSK thrice this year and all the time there have been scores of more than 200. As a bowler, things are not on your side. You go out there and you’re probably going to get tapped off a little bit. It can be really frustrating and it is hard to maintain your cool with the heat and the crowd against you. You have to make an extra effort to enjoy yourself, bowl your best ball and let everything else go – that’s something we have stuck by throughout the tournament.
You were MI’s hero last year in the Final against CSK. What was your input to the bowlers today?
I actually didn’t say anything before the match and just let the boys do their thing. I had spoken a little in the team meeting today and just said, ‘Let’s not get carried away with this being a big game, and treat it like any other game we have played. Let’s do our thing and let them do theirs’.
Did you have a chat Awana after that over to Raina where he went for 33?
I just kept saying to him, ‘Just keep bowling your best ball’. It’s fine. The young guys felt a bit of pressure, but like it happened in our batting innings as well, a lot of good balls were put away to the boundary; it was just that kind of a wicket. We’ve experienced those kinds of wickets throughout this tournament. One big plus for us in bowling has been the fact that we have always started aggressively – we look for wickets straightaway.
How has the experience of playing under an Indian coach been for you?
I spoke to Sanjay (Bangar) before the tournament and he was pumped up to take on this new role. He spoke to Darren Lehmann before the IPL as well. He’s been amazing – calm and very switched on all the time. He knows the game so well and he’s really good with all the tactical stuff like sending different guys out to bat at different times. He has been on the point with everything – he’s upfront and honest. He’s probably blown me away a bit as I wasn’t completely sure of what to expect when I came to KXIP. But I developed a liking for him straightaway. He is a very good person off the field as well, which is always good in a coach. Hopefully, I was able to give him some useful insight from my understanding of the game as well.
The big Final now!
Yes, all the boys are pretty chuffed right now and they should be. But we still have one more game left to win. The Bangalore ground is a small one, but the wicket can sometimes be good for fast bowlers. We’ll just give our best, and whatever the result, we’ll walk off proud as a team.