In picking the Wisden Test team of the 2000s, one of the most debatable choices was up at the top, between Australia big-hitter Matthew Hayden and India legend Virender Sehwag.
In a special episode of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, two among the panel, comprising Wisden Cricket Monthly editor-in-chief Phil Walker, WCM editor-at-large John Stern, and wisden.com managing editor Ben Gardner, picked Sehwag over Hayden.
While Hayden’s sheer weight of numbers made it a difficult decision, in terms of a setting the standard in opening a Test innings, Sehwag had the edge.
“Matthew Hayden has the raw numbers in terms of the 100s and the runs. But for me, Sehwag’s best innings were as good, and I think slightly eclipse Hayden’s,” said Ben. “Just thinking about the 201* he got at Galle carrying the bat, he got about 60 per cent of India’s runs against Murali [Muttiah Muralitharan] and [Ajantha] Mendis, who no one could pick at that point. The 195 at the MCG… those are two innings would be up there with the best in anyone’s list, and I’d suggest better than anything Hayden put together.
“Partly I think Hayden suffers because he didn’t get the chance to play such great innings, because when you’re part of a great team, you just get that chance less to just rescue a team and be that one man – if Hayden fails, [Ricky] Ponting comes in and gets a hundred.”
Sehwag has often been credited with having sparked a revolution at the top of the order, but that perhaps wasn’t always the case, for the simple reason that the Indian was such an outlier that, for most mortals, trying to ape him would end in sure failure.
“The other thing is that Sehwag didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel with opening the batting, but he is that type when we talk about trying to find an attacking opener, you talk about trying to find your Sehwag,” he said. “What’s even more impressive is that he didn’t really change the game, because no one else has really been able to replicate it like him, with the exception of David Warner.
“Everyone’s looking for that player who is like Sehwag, who can come in and do that at the top of the order in Test cricket. With one exception [Warner], no one’s been able to since. Still that effect continues, and it influences esteemed cricket minds like Trevor Bayliss. It’s such a captivating idea, and he’s one of the few who’s been able to do it.”