Being compared to the greats of the game can be a big shot in the arm for any young cricketer. In India, if that comparison is with legendary Sachin Tendulkar then the scrutiny is double. Nobody knows it better than current India captain Virat Kohli, who is always compared to Tendulkar on stats and records. 20-year-old Prithvi Shaw has been seen as the ‘next Tendulkar’ ever since he broke into the Indian side with his sheer audacity of hitting fast bowlers anywhere he wants at such a young age. But before them, there was one Indian batsman who was not only compared to Sachin Tendulkar but also mistook as the legend during his early days.
Former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif said he mistook Sehwag for Sachin during an India vs Sri Lanka ODI match. The Pakistan wicket-keeper batsman said he was watching the match on TV and Sehwag’s mannerisms, his batting style, his pads, everything reminded him of the great man when he was not even playing in that game.
“I remember an India-Sri Lanka game, Sachin was not playing in it and I was watching it on TV and I thought ‘who is this batting like Sachin?’ it was Sehwag batting at that time who was batting like Sachin. Similar pads, similar helmet. He was perhaps a bit bulky than Sachin,” Latif said in a YouTube show called caught behind.
Latif, who played 37 Tests and 166 ODIs for Pakistan, said Sehwag was one of the most impactful Indian batsmen he has ever seen.
“I don’t need stats to describe him. He was such an impactful player, an absolute match-winner.”
Sehwag made his India debut in an ODI against Pakistan in 1999 as a middle-order batsman. He was dropped after just one game only to make a strong comeback in ODIs the next year. But his real fame came when he smashed a century on Test debut in South Africa on a seaming track in Bloemfontein.
Coming in to bat at No.6, Sehwag scored 101 off 173 balls with 19 fours against a South Africa attack comprising Shaun Pollock, Nantie Hayward, Makhaya Ntini, Jacques Kallis and Lance Klusener.
Sehwag stitched a 220-run stand with Sachin Tendulkar, who top-scored for India with 155. India lost that match by 9 wickets but in Sehwag they found a player for the future.
Sehwag never looked back after that and he was reborn as a cricketer when former India captain Sourav Ganguly asked him to open the batting in both Tests and ODIs.
Sehwag, who is the only Indian to have two triple centuries in Test cricket retired with an average of 49.34. He scored 23 hundreds in 104 Tests accumulating 8586 runs.
In ODIs, the Delhi cricketer had 8273 runs 251 matches.
Lauding Sehwag’s fearless attitude in front of world’s best fast bowlers like Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar, Latif said the former India opener was an impactful player.
“He used to play to dominate. We are used to openers who were a bit circumspect at the beginning, gauging how the pitch is, who the bowler is whether McGrath, Lee, Wasim Akram or Shoaib Akhtar. But Sehwag was someone who feared none. He was an impactful player, had a great influence in his team and players like him succeed in world cricket,” Latif said.
Despite playing with an India team that had Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly, Sehwag made a name for himself and is now regarded one of the best openers in Test cricket – All this despite having an unconventional style of batting and ‘lack of footwork’.
Latif hailed Sehwag’s technique, which was often labelled as unorthodox.
“He had a beautiful balance. People say that he had limited feet movement but that was perhaps the reason why he was so successful. And coaches nowadays have started to say that keep your balance with minimum foot movement,” Latif said.