Words Chased :
Pigeon-holing, Visceral, Monumental, Pillage, Tour de force, Outrageous, Bunkum, Improvisation, Contempt, Bedlam, Carnage, Halcyon, Bushel, Insouciant.
Arguments about Muttiah Muralitharan’s declining effectiveness can wait for another time. This was a day instead to marvel at the magnificence of a man who defies any sort of categorisation or pigeon-holing. Cricket is a non-contact sport, but watching Virender Sehwag bat is as visceral an experience as watching Muhammad Ali dominate the ring in his prime. On Thursday afternoon, Sehwag toyed with the greatest off spinner to play the game as though he were some glorified net bowler. He might as well have been, as India overhauled Sri Lanka’s total of 393 in 67.5 overs. But for back spasms that restricted him to a more mortal scoring-rate in the last half hour, Sehwag might have become only the second batsman after Sir Donald Bradman to score 300 runs in a day.
Each monumental Sehwag innings has left a trail of destruction in its wake. At the MCG in 2003, it was Stuart MacGill’s turn to look like a pie-thrower as he galloped to 195 in just five hours. In Multan, Shoaib Akhtar was reduced to feeble sledges. Sehwag’s response was just to compare him to a beggar. In Chennai against the best Australian side ever, he careered to 155 on a pitch where few others had managed any sort of fluency. In front of the imposing Galle Fort last year, he dictated the course of a Test with an innings that combined absolute control and appetite for destruction with admirable restraint.
Has there ever been another like him? Matthew Hayden could pillage bowlers too, but his strike-rate looks pedestrian next to Sehwag’s. Adam Gilchrist scored marginally quicker but how often did he have to face the new ball? Even the King, Sir Vivian Richards, never went after bowlers with such menacing intent, day in, day out.
Traditionally, bowlers have been the game-breakers, setting up victories with inspired spells that reduce sides from positions of comfort to misery. Sehwag scores at such a clip that he can transform a game in the same way. India batted only 79 overs on the second day. Yet they already lead by 50. Even if they feel like batting right through day three, the bowlers have all the time in the world to force a result.
Thursday’s tour de force brought to mind a remarkable night in Kingston when Richards’ hero, Smokin’ Joe Frazier, was knocked down five times in the space of two rounds by the giant-fisted George Foreman. Boxing had never seen a puncher like Foreman, just as cricket has never seen a destroyer like Sehwag.
In cricketing terms, the only apt comparison would be with Gordon Greenidge at Lord’s in 1984. On the final day of that Test, England thought they were in with a more than decent chance of victory. Today, Sri Lanka must have taken the new ball feeling fairly secure. On both occasions, the illusions were rudely shattered. Greenidge cut and drove with awesome power as 342 was reeled in from just 66.1 overs. His contribution was 214 from 241 balls. Quick by any standard, but nothing outrageous for someone who is batting’s answer to Usain Bolt.
And to think that India started the day with survival on their minds. Sri Lanka’s 393 looked decent enough on a pitch where the ball had turned from the first session. Surely, Murali and Rangana Herath would pose serious questions and be far more of a threat than they had been in Ahmedabad and Kanpur. That was conventional wisdom. When Sehwag’s batting though, such logic is just bunkum.
At Multan just over five years ago, he pretty much ended the career of one very special offspinner, Saqlain Mushtaq. Saqlain had gone into that series speaking of a surprise ball, the teesra [the third one]. After much discussion in the media box, it was decided that it was the delivery that Sehwag kept whacking over midwicket for fours and sixes.
Murali tried plenty of variations at the CCI, perhaps too many. One moment summed up the uneven nature of the contest. Sehwag was on 248 when Murali pitched one on middle stump. The response was a reverse paddle-sweep, a stroke that few could have imagined leave alone seen. As the ball sped to the rope, past where conventional slip might have stood, Murali just half-flinched and looked away.
Even as fatigue took over, the level of improvisation didn’t drop. Spotting a slower one from Angelo Mathews, Sehwag quickly decided that a booming drive wasn’t the answer. A deftly angled bat and the ball raced away past the vacant first-slip position. For Kumar Sangakkara, the man entrusted with the task of stopping a deluge with a teacup, that was the quintessential dilemma. When remotely attacking fields were set, Sehwag just shifted his feet and cleared the infield with an ease that bordered on contempt. When the fielders then fanned out, he was free to pick gaps at will.
Each time he went aerial, the crowd in the stands appeared to jump as high. It wasn’t just bedlam though. Time after time, people turned to those standing next to them, looking bemused. Each expression said the same thing: ‘Did you see THAT?’
Murali Vijay and Rahul Dravid deserve immense praise for the manner in which they managed the situation. When a man’s in such prime form, you need to give him as much of the strike as possible, while making sure that you don’t leave the entire run-making burden on his shoulders. Vijay played a superb innings till his little brain fade, and the manner in which he was prepared to take on even Murali said much about his state of mind.
As for Dravid, is there a more calming sight in the game than him taking guard? When not defending with the straightest of bats or watching the carnage from the other end, he played some beautiful strokes, especially in the cover-point region. No one’s likely to remember them though, blinded as they were by Sehwag’s dazzle.
There were a couple of near escapes at the end, with a tired heave off Murali flying to third man, and a thick outside edge off Tillakaratne Dilshan evading both Jayawardenes, Prasanna and Mahela. Those were mere dust motes on a pretty perfect picture though. By the close Sehwag had struck 40 fours and seven sixes, and taken an astonishing 78 from the 70 balls that Murali bowled to him. Only Brian Lara, back in that halcyon series of 2001, treated him with such disdain. But at least then Murali was picking up wickets by the bushel at the other end.
Sehwag’s energy levels are remarkable for a man who’s hardly the most svelte figure in the game. This was his 12th knock in excess of 150, and the way he paces himself is exceptional. On Thursday, he didn’t just have to contend with the sun beating down, but also with extreme humidity. The Arabian Sea is just a six-hit away, but instead of losing focus he only made sure that Sri Lanka lost theirs. “It’s not fat,” said a friend later. “It’s batting muscle.”
Sri Lanka were so demoralised by the end of the day that it was hard to fathom a route back into the match. When Chanaka Welegedara went off injured with Sehwag in sight of his double-century, the ball was thrown to Nuwan Kulasekara. A cut, flick, glance and midwicket-thump later, he looked ready to cry. As he walked back to his fielding position, he looked every inch the man who’d been asked to take his mate’s place in solitary confinement.
Sehwag now has five of the 10 fastest double-centuries in history, including three of the first four. This though is a man utterly insouciant when it comes to such landmarks. He could well go on to obliterate Lara’s record tomorrow. He certainly has a great chance to put even Bradman in the shade and score a third triple. None of those possibilities is likely to make him lose sleep though. For someone who has reduced batting to its most elemental, only the next ball matters. If it’s there to be hit, regardless of whether he’s on 299 or 399, he’ll go for it. Which is precisely why it’s such a bloody privilege to watch him play. Those that passed up a chance to come to Churchgate on Thursday would be best off reading the Mishima guide to seppuku.
Words usage and their meanings Analysed :
- Pigeon-hole Verb)(Dictionary): To classify mentally; categorize; To place or file in a small compartment or recess.
This word can also be used as a noun which means “The small hole or holes in a pigeon loft for nesting” or A small compartment or recess, as in a desk, for holding papers ; A specific, often oversimplified category.
Writer uses this word to explain that many batsmen can be classified in different categories. For e.g, Rahul Dravid is a solid defensive player with elegance; Sachin Tendulkar is a epitome of technical correctness and flair. But it is very difficult to pigeonhole Sehwag as he can’t be fitted into any one of these categories. He belongs to an altogether different and unique class.
2. Visceral: (Adjective) (Dictionary meaning): characterized by intuition or instinct rather than intellect; obtained through intuition rather than from reasoning or observation.
Synonyms of Visceral can be Instinctive, Nonrational, and Illogical.
There are many meanings of this word, but this word has been used by the writer to explain the magnitude of experience when watching Sehwag bat in full-flow. Here in this context, the word Visceral means profound or great. And to further compare this experience of his swashbuckling batting. Writer has given the example of Muhammad Ali crushing opponents in his prime days.
3. Monumental: (Adjective)(Dictionary meaning): Of outstanding significance; Astounding; Of, resembling, or serving as a monument; Impressively large.
Again an adjective used by the writer to glorify the batsman ship of Sehwag. Most of his centuries are scored are scored at such fast rate that it deflates the opposition. Also he has scored centuries all over the world against the top bowlers and set up India victory or helped draw a game. That’s why writer says that all his brilliant innings are of outstanding significance or monumental.
4. Pillage: (Verb)(Dictionary meaning): To rob of goods by force, especially in time of war; to plunder.
This word can also be used as a noun which means “The act of pillaging”.
Pillage is generally used for dacoits or marauders who rob goods. But this word has been used by writer to convey the degree of destruction or mayhem caused by Sehwag’s batting in opposition’s ranks.
5. Tour de force: (Noun)(Dictionary meaning): A feat requiring great virtuosity or strength, often deliberately undertaken for its difficulty;
A masterly or brilliant stroke, creation, effect, or accomplishment; a notable achievement.
Sehwag played an innings which required great mental and physical strength. Chasing 400 on a pitch which had something for all the bowlers, he not only overcame them but also the hot and humid conditions of Mumbai. That’s why it was a masterly achievement.
6. Outrageous: (Adjective)(Dictionary meaning): Extremely unusual or unconventional; extraordinary.
This word also means “Being well beyond the bounds of good taste” or “Being beyond all reason; extravagant or immoderate”.
We can use this word in a sentence like “ he spends an outrageous amount on food” or we can also use the word in a sentence like “ The yellow dress which she wore was outrageous”. Just check the usage of outrageous in different contexts.
Similarly the writer has used the word outrageous in the context of Sehwag’s bating which is completely different from previous two contexts. According to the writer, he has got so much talent that he can play such shots which other mortal players can’t even think of trying in net-practice. He has got outrageous talent.
7. Bunkum: (Noun)(Dictionary meaning): Empty or insincere talk or nonsense.
Synonyms for Bunkum can be Claptrap, Hogwash or Balderdash.
This word can be used as “Logic related to the fact that your wishes are fulfilled when you see a shooting star is bunkum”.
8. Improvisation: (Noun)(Dictionary meaning): The act or art of improvising; Something improvised, especially a musical passage or a dramatic skit.
This word is generally used when we do any activity in a new or better way. For e.g., “The actor improvised the scene brilliantly”.
In the context, improvisation used when Sehwag in spite of getting tired kept innovating and improvising shots which frustrated the Sri Lankans further. He played reverse sweeps or lap sweeps where there were no fielders.
9. Contempt: (Noun)(Dictionary meaning): The feeling or attitude of regarding someone or something as inferior, base, or worthless; Open disrespect or wilful disobedience of the authority of a court of law or legislative body.
Synonyms for Contempt: Disdain, Scorn, Disobedience. Mainly used in negative or disapproving sense.
This word is generally used when we show disrespect towards someone or treat them as if they are inferior to us. For e.g., “He was sentenced to three months of prison for contempt of court”.
In the article also, Sehwag treated all the bowlers with disdain, contempt as if they were net bowlers.
10. Bedlam: (Noun)(Dictionary meaning): a noisy confused place or situation; a lunatic asylum; madhouse.
This word can be used like “Minister’s speech caused bedlam in the Parliament”.
Synonyms of Bedlam: Chaos, Pandemonium, Balagan (Word of Hebrew origin meaning chaos).
The aggressive batting of Sehwag created panic and chaos among Sri Lankan bowlers and the crowd was also involved in this bedlam. Indian fans are very passionate and when Indian team is on top, they try to cheer the Indian team more & more to frustrate the opposition.
11. Carnage: (Noun)(Dictionary meaning): Massive slaughter, as in war; a massacre; Corpses (dead bodies), especially of those killed in battle.
Synonyms of Carnage: Slaughter, Massacre, Holocaust, Bloodshed.
This word has been used in the context of the article that the partners of Sehwag i.e. Murali Vijay and Dravid also played a part in this massacre or carnage of Sri Lankan bowlers by providing support and rotating strike to Sehwag.
12. Halcyon: (Noun) (Dictionary meaning): A fabled bird, identified with the kingfisher that was supposed to have had the power to calm the wind and the waves while it nested on the sea during the winter solstice.
However, the word Halcyon has been used as an adjective in the context. And most of the times, it is used as an adjective. It means Prosperous time or golden time. It also means calm and peaceful time.
This word has been used to refer to the prosperous or golden time of Muralitharan’s in 2001 when he used to pick up wickets at regular intervals. At that time of his career, he was at his peak and Brian Lara treated him with disdain and now Sehwag has done the same thing.
13. Bushel: (Noun)(Dictionary meaning): A large amount; a great deal. A unit of volume or capacity in the U.S. Customary System, used in dry measure and equal to 4 pecks, 2,150.42 cubic inches, or 35.24 liters.
This word is generally used informally. For e.g., “Don’t be in a hurry, we have bushels of time”.
In the article also, this word means the same thing. Even when Brian Lara was smacking Murali all round the park, Murali used to pick up wickets from the other end in large numbers. But, this did not happen at Brabourne Stadium. When Sehwag was causing mayhem at one end, Murali was not able to dismiss Murali Vijay and Dravid.
14. Insouciant: (Adjective)(Dictionary meaning): Carefree or unconcerned.
Synonyms for Insouciant: Nonchalant, Casual.
The word has been used in the article to further highlight carefree nature of Virender Sehwag. Most of the batsman when they are approaching a milestone or a century, they become extra careful, But Sehwag is not one of them. Any milestone or century does not perturb or affect him. If the ball is there to be hit, he will give it a solid thump whether it’s the first ball of the match or last ball of the day. He does not get bothered about anything. And the best part about Sehwag is that he is very casual and nonchalant about his records. He does not believe in playing for records.
Words discussed today:
Pigeon-holing, Visceral, Monumental, Pillage, Tour de force, Outrageous, Bunkum, Improvisation, Contempt, Bedlam, Carnage, Halcyon, Bushel, Insouciant.