Monday, March 01, 2010

Viru the analytical sage

Virender Sehwag's interview after the Cricinfo awards is quite remarkable (especially when you consider the inanities we are spoon-fed by the rest of the sportsman class). He is simple and uncomplicated, and I mean those terms to apply not in pejorative fashion, but as a form of a compliment. For in the course of making a series of unadorned statements about his batting philosophy, he manages to be informative and insightful both.

The highlights, for me, were threefold.

First, Sehwag's analysis of risk. He points out, quite correctly, that risk assessment is a subjective business; that for a batsman possessed of not-great defensive technique (a 'weakness' he disarmingly confesses to being afflicted by), a 'risky' shot might be a defensive one'; that he does possess a notion of 'risky shot', it just happens to be different from that espoused by other players.

Secondly, his insulation from the buzz, the chatter, if you will, about pitches, conditions, net practice strategies, pre-match preparation exercises. This aspect of Sehwag has been talked about a great deal, so I won't say more here, expect to note that while it sounds counter-intuitive at times (you really don't bother finding out what the pitch is like?), a method to the madness emerges. For I don't think this has been a completely unthinking attitude; more likely, I suspect this is a strategy that he has retained because it works better for him. And what more can you ask from a plan of action that that it work for you?

Secondly, Sehwag's selective strategy against the opposition bowlers. (Indeed, I'd say this was my favorite). There are bowlers who might get him out; those he will be cautious against. There are bowlers he will score heavily off; their arrival he will wait for. What is noteworthy about this is that it comprehensively debunks a statistic that is almost every unthinking cricket fan's favorite: how did X do against Y (where both X and Y are masters of their domain). In cricket, as in some other walks of life, the strong prey on the weak. It is utterly unsurprising, to me at least, to find out that batsmen and bowlers do better against weak opposition (it is when they only do well against them that we should worry). And within an innings, it makes perfect sense for the batsman to save himself against a better bowler and to attack the weaker ones (yes, his strike rate against a champion might drop, but the runs go up anyway). Sehwag notes, quite coldbloodedly, how he will wait for the difficult bowlers to leave the field of battle, and will then turn his attention to the weak.

There are other bits in there that are worth checking out, for instance, the Tendulkar advice on how to pick Murali's doosra. All in all, a rare instance of a good sports interview.



Blogger Jaunty Quicksand said...

Aaarrghh! I hate you. You beat me to it. Damn early morning classes! We had similar things to say about Viru's thought process.

Maybe I should still write it up...never know what else may strike me.

Nice post, though. :-)

11:21 AM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

JQ: Thanks. I have a noon class, hence the additional time in the morning :)

11:40 AM  

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