It all starts at home. And in this special series, we speak to the
people who matter to our cricketing heroes. People who nurtured
their aspirations, and gave shape to their dreams.

Basharat Peer meets with Virender Sehwag's family in Delhi

'Cricket was Virender's only passion'

Virender Sehwag's mother and his father
Virender Sehwag's mother and father
Farm seeds, wheat and rice. That is what his father Krishna Sehwag deals in. That is what Virender Sehwag aka Veeru was supposed to sell after finishing college.

"We have an established business. He would have joined me," says Krishna Sehwag. He did not have any other career plans for his eldest son. Nor was Veeru fascinated by the world of conventional careers.

The earthy Jat lad was raised in down-market Najafgarh locality on the outskirts of Delhi and spent his time playing cricket in the local alleyways, uneven playgrounds. "Even when he was in my lap, he would ask for a plastic bat," says his mother. Cricket was his only passion.

And that is why Veeru could not join his father's farm seed and wheat business. He was selected to play for India. Yeah! He opens the team's innings, plays those big shots and features in a dozen television commercials. He is Virender Sehwag -- the 'hard-hitter,' the 'swashbuckling batsman,' the young turk of Indian cricket. Fairy tale stuff! But true.

"We could not even dream he will be such a star!" Sehwag's mother says. "He was on the cricket ground all the time and I would ask him to study a bit," she adds. But Sehwag was no whiz kid in the classroom. He knew it. 'I am not getting a first division anyway, so at least let me play,' he would tell his mother.

Virender Sehwag Sehwag's saga began at the local Arora Vidya School. He spent his days on the field. Back home, he pestered his parents to get him the white uniform, cricket players wore in those days. School coach A N Sharma encouraged him. Come 1999, he was selected for India's under-19 team. "He had to go to South Africa to play. That day I felt he might have a career in cricket," Krishna says. Two years later, Sehwag was chosen for the Indian team. "That day Najafgarh came to our house. It was the celebration," he adds.

That day was a turning point for the Sehwags. Krishna had taken pride in being a successful merchant; the earning was handsome. He sounds nostalgic, when he talks of his youth. "I was the only one to have a motorcycle in Najafgarh in 1970. It was a Jawa, made in Czechoslovakia. People thronged to see it, they called it 'phit-phit.' "

He was known as Krishna Sehwag. "Now people call me Sehwag, the cricket player's father," he laughs. "It is a nice feeling. I am proud of my son. He plays for the country."

Pride is what you can see on the mother's face. She could not care less about cricket. Now she is glued to television, watching her son bowl and bat. Cricketers' names, match venues and scores roll off her tongue like daal, aaloo gobi and lassi.

Has stardom changed Sehwag?

"No. He is... ." The words freeze in mid sentence; a commercial featuring Sehwag is on television. "See! Veeru is there," she points out the obvious, with child-like earnestness. The commercial shows her as well. She smiles. "No. He has not changed at all. He is the same. When he is in town, he always comes home after practice."

'He asked a teammate to get some bananas. They got a dozen. Once he ate the bananas, he was hitting fours and sixes. You should have seen that.'
The father butts in. "He needs a good diet. What they get on tours is nothing like authentic home food. He needs to eat well. So he has to eat at home whenever he is here." He illustrates his point with a story.

India was playing against England in Kanpur. It was a one-dayer. Sehwag went to bat. His innings stretched for hours. And he was hungry. He asked a teammate to get some bananas. They got a dozen. "Once he ate the bananas, he was hitting fours and sixes. You should have seen that," Krishna says.

The father tells you that there are many ads, Sehwag is doing. Diplomatese is not his forte. He lifts a foot to show his new sports shoe. "Veeru has an ad with this shoe company too and many others. Now these companies call us and visit us; earlier they would have thrown us out of their office," he adds.

The Sehwags have butterflies in their stomachs when Veeru goes out to bat. His mother prays for a good score. His father would remain on the edge of his seat. It was worse when Sehwag had just joined the team.

Virender Sehwag's mother and his brother
Virender's mother and brother
"We were worried whether he would find a regular place in the team. But that fear is gone now," his mother adds.
What Krishna likes about his son's game is "the way he hits the ball -- hard!" And he believes Sehwag will improve, for he listens to Sachin Tendulkar.
The Sehwags were tempted to fly to South Africa for the World Cup. The sponsors offered to pick up the tab, but they prefer their drawing room television.

"It would distract him. I am a diabetic. If I have even a slight problem, he would have been disturbed. So we are not going there," the father says.

The fans' anger at the recent disastrous performances does not bother them. Nobody troubled them; there were no mobs surrounding their house, nobody throwing black paint like they did at Mohammed Kaif's windows. There are no security guards needed.

"Everyone here is concerned about his performance. None will trouble us. My friends do ask me to call him up, if he is not playing well," says Virender's younger brother Vinod.

The family hopes India wins the World Cup. "It is tough but India can win," Vinod says as he washes the brand new luxury car parked in the porch of their suburban bungalow-like house. Half-believing, he adds, "We might!"

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