'It's time for me to be counted,

Published: Friday, February 28, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Centurion (South Africa): India's Virender Sehwag is determined to make up for his lack of runs in the World Cup by firing on all cylinders during Saturday's key game against Pakistan.

The 24-year-old, whose batting style resembles that of his idol Sachin Tendulkar, has his own scores to settle with the arch rivals. He made his international debut against Pakistan at Mohali four years ago, was trapped leg before by Shoaib Akhtar for one, gave away 35 runs in three overs of off spin, and was promptly dropped. He now returns to the SuperSport Park for only his second match against Pakistan and regarded as one of the most fearsome strikers of the ball in the game. He re-emerged on the scene with a bang, making a 70-ball hundred in a must-win game against New Zealand during the tri-nations series in Sri Lanka in August 2001.

He filled the slot of an opener by the forced absence of Tendulkar due to injury and formed a match-winning combination with skipper Saurav Ganguly during the NatWest series in England last summer. Tendulkar was reverted back as opener for the World Cup and responded by top-scoring in four of the five matches so far to emerge the tournament's leading run-getter with 371 runs. Sehwag now wants to give the master a break. "It's my turn to get a big one.

I feel bad when I let the team down. We can't expect Sachin to score all the time. I have to do my bit as well and want to do it against Pakistan," Sehwag said on Friday. An out-of-form Sehwag has the backing of his captain. "Veeru is too good a batsman to stay away from runs. It is only a matter of time before he returns to form. Then all will be well," Ganguly said. Sehwag proved he was not just a slogger when he scored two centuries on the recent New Zealand tour at a time when other batsmen from both teams struggled to put bat to ball on the treacherous wickets.

The confidence gained by five international hundreds under the belt makes Sehwag one of the players to watch during the high-voltage clash on Saturday. He has a simple formula for batting: smash the ball because it is there to be hit. "I have a natural instinct for shots. I see the ball not the bowler," he said recently.

Sehwag also remains an integral part of the Test team, a century on debut at Bloemfontein in November 2001 giving him that extra confidence of doing well in South Africa. But he will not tolerate being compared with Tendulkar. Last summer when an English journalist asked him what was common between him and Tendulkar, Sehwag shot back: "Nothing. Tendulkar's bank balance is much bigger." Copyright AFP 2001

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