Many knew that the former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly played the influential role to evolve Virender Sehwag as an opener. However, recently, the former Indian wicket-keeper Ajay Ratra equally credited the legendary Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar to introduce Sehwag as an opener in international cricket.
Like Sachin Tendulkar, the former Indian cricketer Virender Sehwag also started as a middle-order batsman. When Sehwag made his international debut in April 1999, Tendulkar was a renowned opening batsman.
At the beginning of his international career, Sehwag didn’t manage much success with the bat. But once the Indian captain Sourav Ganguly decided to test him as an opener, Sehwag slowly started to glow, and later, he set up his image as one of the greatest opening batsmen in international cricket history.
Recently, Ajay Ratra revealed the story of how Sehwag was promoted as an opener for the first time in ODI cricket. During the Sri Lanka tour for the ODI tri-series in July-August 2001, Sehwag first time came to bat as an opener during the fifth game of that tournament against New Zealand at Colombo, RPS (26th July 2001).
While the skipper Ganguly decided to open the innings to maintain the left-right combination, he wanted to test Sehwag as an opener instead of selecting his most successful ODI opening partner Tendulkar. So, Tendulkar was offered to bat at no.4 position and the legendary cricketer accepted that.
If Sachin Tendulkar hadn’t agreed then Virender Sehwag probably would have had to bat lower: Ajay Ratra
Ratra feels that Tendulkar also deserves credit like the captain Ganguly to introduce Sehwag as an opener. According to the former wicket-keeper, if Tendulkar denied that suggestion to bat at no.4, India might miss seeing one of their greatest opening batsmen.
Ratra told Hindustan Times, “Sachin was doing so well as an opener at that time but Sehwag had to open. So, Sachin offered to bat at No.4. Sehwag then opened with Dada (Sourav Ganguly) for that left and right combination. If Sachin hadn’t agreed then Viru probably would have had to bat lower. He wouldn’t have got the chance to open in ODIs and the story could have been a lot different.”
In that ODI, while India were chasing the 201 runs target, Sehwag fought well at the beginning with his 33 runs knock. Though Sehwag was the highest run-scorer in that innings, India were bundled out for just 133 runs.
Sehwag hit his first ODI century (100 runs) during his fourth ODI innings as an opener, which was the crucial game of that tournament against New Zealand at Colombo (SSC) on 2nd August 2001. It was just the beginning of Sehwag’s incredible batting as an opener.