ICC: A letter to Virender Sehwag, from Sourav Ganguly

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Photo Credit: ICC

Following the ICC Hall of Fame announcement on 13 November 2023, open letters have been written to the inductees by those close to them, with their reactions to the news. Here, Sourav Ganguly writes to inductee #112, Virender Sehwag.

Dear Virender, 

The ICC has absolutely chosen the right person to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. To me, and millions of others, you are a cricketing great. 

What made you such a special player is the way you batted. You changed the dynamics of batting at the top in Test cricket. 

Your talent was special. You scored runs at such a fast pace, you were just exceptionally good, and you are probably the best opening batsman after Sunil Gavaskar. 

What set you apart was the way you played and the way you approached the game. You went about the job in a completely different and fresh manner. You played without any fear. 

We’ve known each other for such a long time. I remember there was a lot of talk when you first played first-class cricket around how good you were, how hard you hit the ball and how you cleared the boundary ropes. 

That is how I first heard of you. The India selectors kept updating us that you were very good, and you came into the international set-up early on. 

At that stage, you didn’t score enough runs, but you went back to first-class cricket and when you came back again a year and a half later, you were a completely different player. 

When you came back into the side you were a middle-order batsman, you had never been an opener, but that soon changed. 

We gave you that responsibility because although we couldn’t find a place for you in the middle order, we knew a player of your ability could not sit and warm the benches. 

I remember when I told you that you should try opening, you were unsure because you had never done it. I believe no-one is born to bat in any particular position and that you could do it because of the talent you possessed.

You were initially tentative but once you got going for the first time in a Test match at Lord’s in 2002, you got an 80 in no time. From there, your confidence continued to grow.

The first time you opened in ODI cricket, in Colombo in 2001, it was when Sachin was injured. The two of us put on a huge partnership against New Zealand and you got a hundred in 69 balls, which in those days was unheard of. 

Another special game was in the 2002 Champions Trophy against England, coincidentally also in Colombo. You blasted a hundred in 20 or 25 overs and I was at the other end rotating the strike. Then once you got out, I kept hitting and got a hundred too. That was a special match.

It was a different era back then. In the early 2000s, Test cricket was so strong with quality players all around the world, but you just completely changed the art of batting in Test matches. 

An innings that proves that is your 293 against Sri Lanka in 2009. To score that many in a day of a Test against an attack including Muttiah Muralitharan just showed what you were capable of. 

You enjoyed playing all the different formats and while you were good at one-day cricket, I think you were even better in Tests. 

You could do it in all conditions and your triple hundred in Multan remains one of my favourite innings. You hit a six to get to 200 and then did the same to get to 300 – and you had told us you were going to do it too! 

Having you opening the batting made life easy for the batters that came after you.  

It was the same batting alongside you, you got after the players in the opposition with the skills you had, both with bat and ball.

You could be called on to give 20 overs of off-spin if required and that’s part of what made you an exceptionally gifted and talented cricketer, not just your batting but overall.

I have so many fond memories of playing with you, from your hundred in Australia to your century in England on a green wicket early on in your career as an opener in Nottingham. 

Your ability as a batsman is what always stood out about you, and the way you went about your job. There was a sheer quality there. 

You had natural ability but that alone would not survive at the international level. You put in a lot of work and a lot of effort to become the player you did and you just kept getting better. Even as you faced some of the best fast bowlers of the era, you scored runs all around the world.

When you first came into the Indian team, you were very quiet but as you spent more time with us you became a lot friendlier and a lot more open. 

As a teammate, you were very honest and straightforward and a fantastic gentleman. You were and are a very easy and happy-go-lucky person. 

I am so happy to keep in touch with you and regard you as one of my closest friends. Congratulations once again on this fully deserved honour.

Best wishes,

Sourav

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