TWIT­TER’S FUNNIEST SPORTS STAR

VIRENDRA SEHWAG IS SOCIAL MEDIA’S NEW FUNNY MAN. HERE’S HOW HIS EARTHY CHARM AND POINTED JIBES HAVE EARNED HIM A BRAND NEW SET OF FANS!

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - FRONT PAGE - Text by Pradeep Mag­a­zine Pho­to­graphs shot ex­clu­sively for HT Brunch by San­jeev Verma

S OME FAIRLY un­likely things have hap­pened to Virender Sehwag since he re­tired from pro­fes­sional cricket. For one, he’s the proud owner of a pub­lic school in the heart of his home state, Haryana: a school known for the ex­cel­lence of its sports fa­cil­i­ties, among other things.

The other thing – and this is so out of the park that it re­minds you of his cre­ative, rule-break­ing game – is that he’s be­come such a social media star, thanks to witty, pithy 140-char­ac­ter jokes on Twit­ter, that brands are now pay­ing him to tweet.

“I have, in the last six months, made around ~30 lakh through my tweets,” says Sehwag, very pleased with him­self.

He should be. Af­ter all, he signed up on Twit­ter the way most of us do, just for some social media fun. But un­like most of us, his tweets got fun­nier and fun­nier, and now, not only does he have eight mil­lion peo­ple fol­low­ing his mi­croblog­ging ac­count, but he’s also spread his wings and be­come a hu­morist on YouTube, with a show called Viru Ke Funde that cov­ers ev­ery­thing from how to ap­pease your mother-in-law to how to avoid pay­ing in­come tax and how to learn English as an adult. (His funda for the last was: “All cricketers who did not speak English, like Kapil, Harbhajan and I, mar­ried women who were fluent in it. In front of them, we were not shy of mak­ing mis­takes, which helped us learn to speak in that lan­guage with­out get­ting em­bar­rassed.”)

How did this hap­pen?

LINE MAAROING

“These are all jokes we used to crack with friends and in the dress­ing room,” says Sehwag about his rein­ven­tion as social

“ALL CRICKETERS WHO DID NOT SPEAK ENGLISH, LIKE KAPIL, HARBHAJAN AND I, MAR­RIED WOMEN WHO WERE FLUENT IN THE LAN­GUAGE. IN FRONT Of THEM, WE WERE NOT Shy Of MAK­ING MIS­TAKES.”

“ONCE I TOOK TO TWIT­TER AND SHARED THOSE JOKES, THEY BE­CAME A HUGE HIT... WITH SO MANY SHARES, MONEY FROM SPON­SORS FOL­LOWED.”

media roy­alty. “Once I took to Twit­ter and shared those jokes, they be­came a huge hit. My fol­low­ing grew and some of the posts got thou­sands of retweets. With so many shares, money from spon­sors fol­lowed.”

Sam­ple some of his tweets: “Haazme ki Goli, Ran­gon ki Holi, Gu­jarat me Gha­gra Choli Aur Bat­ting mein Vi­rat Kohli Poore In­dia

ko pasand hai #Hap­pyBirth­dayVi­rat @imVkohli.” And an­other tweet on the same day: “8 yrs ago we cud have ded­i­cated this day by eat­ing Chikoo. But tday, I think all auto/ taxis shud start their Me­ter frm100 #Hap­pyBirth­dayVi­rat.”

Sehwag may come across as a rus­tic sim­ple­ton, but he’s far from being naïve. Money is im­por­tant to him – not so much for him­self, but for the things it can help him ac­com­plish – so when brands be­gan ap­proach­ing him to slip in a word or two about them in his tweets, he saw the worth of the idea.

But he pro­motes brands clev­erly, mix­ing the ad­ver­tis­ing into his earthy sense of hu­mour. For in­stance, when Ravin­dra Jadeja won the Man of the Match award when In­dia played Eng­land, Sehwag tweeted that while peo­ple are fac­ing prob­lems in these days of de­mon­eti­sa­tion, Jadeja is likely to get his money trans­ferred straight into his ac­count through Paytm. “Wah Jaddu Bhai! Ha­mare paas toh 2000 ke chhutte nahi hai aur aap @Paytm mein 1 Lakh le gaye. Thoda ha­mare Paytm mein bhi trans­fer ki­jiye.” Paytm had spon­sored the In­dia-Eng­land se­ries.

JOKES ASIDE

“When I be­gan my life jour­ney, we’d sur­vive on ~500 a month as a fam­ily,” says Sehwag. “As time passed and I started play­ing for the coun­try, this ~500 mul­ti­plied man­i­fold, but it was not the money that mat­tered, it was the fact that I was ful­fill­ing my am­bi­tion of play­ing cricket on the high­est plat­form, rep­re­sent­ing my coun­try. That was more sat­is­fy­ing than any­thing else.”

He did not play for records: hit­ting a six gave him far more plea­sure than scor­ing a hun­dred. “I never thought of break­ing a record. The only am­bi­tion I had was to be­come the fastest cen­tury maker for In­dia, which I did when I broke Azharud­din’s record. If I had planned to score dou­ble and triple hun­dreds, I would prob­a­bly not have made them ever,” he says.

To­day, he is scor­ing sixes and fours on social media, and this is help­ing him run his school.

The crick­eter had set up the 40-acre Sehwag In­ter­na­tional School ( www.sisj.in) on the Gu­ru­gramJha­j­jar high­way in 2011, af­ter then Haryana Chief Min­is­ter Bhupin­der Singh Hooda pre­sented him with the lease of the land in recog­ni­tion of his sec­ond triple hun­dred.

Sehwag had grown up in Na­jaf­garh, a small town near Delhi where his fam­ily lived, and find­ing a good school nearby had been a real strug­gle. Sehwag re­mem­bered his fa­ther’s words: “If pos­si­ble, you should one day set up a school in the vil­lage, so that fu­ture Se­hwags are not lost due to lack of fa­cil­i­ties.”

The school is now fully set up and run­ning, sit­u­ated very close to his vil­lage. This is Sehwag’s way of giv­ing back to so­ci­ety what he achieved through play­ing cricket, so he does not see the school as a profit-mak­ing ven­ture.

“I lose around a cou­ple of crores ev­ery year on the school, but even if I was to make profit from it, I would never use it for my­self,” he says. “I’d plough ev­ery penny back into im­prov­ing fa­cil­i­ties for the school. Just as I do with the cricket acad­e­mies I run around the coun­try. These are not for mak­ing money; for that I have other av­enues.”

THIS IS THE MAN

This is typ­i­cal be­hav­iour for the man who rewrote the rules of the game, twist­ing its gram­mar to cre­ate a new id­iom that re­de­fined the very

foun­da­tions of bat­ting.

Ir­rev­er­ent to the core, with no care in the world, he ex­ploded on to the crick­et­ing hori­zon to hit sixes and fours, with a tech­nique of his own which ev­ery­one would love to em­u­late, but few can fol­low.

The Sehwag school of bat­ting is now a trade­mark that evokes awe. His crick­et­ing legacy is un­match­able and even Sachin Ten­dulkar, speak­ing at the Hindustan Times

Lead­er­ship Sum­mit, ac­knowl­edged that he had the best seat on the ground (watch­ing him bat at the other end) to ad­mire and ap­pre­ci­ate the ge­nius of the man.

“If you wanted him to de­fend, you had to tell him to hit a six and if you wanted him to hit a six, you had to tell him to be care­ful,” Ten­dulkar had said, de­scrib­ing how it was al­most im­pos­si­ble to make Sehwag fall in line.

But ge­niuses don’t fall in line. They just make new lines. In Sehwag’s case, many of those lines are now com­posed of 140 char­ac­ters on social media.

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