Sourav Ganguly had to convince Virender Sehwag to take up the opening role after the latter failed to carve out a place for himself in the Indian middle order, which was stacked with world-class players.
During a tri-series involving India, New Zealand and hosts Sri Lanka in 2001, Sehwag was struggling to slot into the Indian middle order, even batting at No.8 in a match.
Ganguly then suggested Sehwag open the innings for the team, and as it turned out, in only his fourth match as an opener, he scored his first ODI hundred, which came off just 70 deliveries. The knock gave a glimpse of what was to come as Sehwag reinvented the role of an opener, and finished with 8,273 ODI runs, 7,518 of which came as an opener.
#OnThisDay in 2001, Yuvraj Singh opened the innings for 🇮🇳 in a failed chase v 🇱🇰.
Harbhajan Singh walked in at four, Ganguly at five, Dravid at six and Sehwag at eight!
Can you think of a weirder batting line-up? pic.twitter.com/hVooRJc5fq
— Wisden India (@WisdenIndia) July 22, 2020
Joy Bhattacharjya, the former Kolkata Knight Riders Team Director, while in conversation with Gaurav Kapur on the 22 Yarns podcast, revealed how Ganguly convinced Sehwag to bat up top.
“Look at Yuvraj, look at Sehwag,” Bhattacharjya said. “You know what does he [Ganguly] do to Sehwag. He turns around and tells Sehwag, ‘Look the middle order is too crowded. If you want to play for India, you have to open. There is myself, Tendulkar, Laxman, Dravid … where are you going to get a chance? Yuvraj Singh did not get a chance for so many years because the middle order is crowded. Go and open.’ And what happened was that Sehwag opened, and the history was made after that.”
Kapur added to the anecdote, stating Sehwag was reluctant to take up the role at once, but the then-India captain assured him of “a specific number of games” as an opener, even if he fails in the first few.
“Sehwag told Ganguly, ‘No, no, what if I fail? Then you’ll drop me,’” Kapur revealed. “He [Ganguly] said, ‘But you’re not getting a chance to play anyway, so what’s the worst that can happen? And he told him, ‘I’ll give you a specific number of games, so go and express yourself and don’t worry about me dropping you because these are the number of games that you will get to play.’”