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Sight Screen

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Tendulkar the team man?

Interesting piece by Rajaraman, in Outlook -- one that further extends the debate about Greg his comments re Sachin Tendulkar.
Rajaraman holds that some of the things Chappell said about Sachin sends the wrong signals. But what intrigues me more is his take on how Sachin is batting these days.
Injury and age has not, Rajaraman argues, dimmed Sachin's natural genius. 'It is not as if some of Tendulkar's skills have deserted him or his reflexes have slowed; he can still play the shots, but he has cut down the risks and prefers the percentage game. The little big man of Indian cricket choses to bat as he deems fit.'
This is where I find myself disagreeing -- firstly, IMHO, Sachin has been cutting shots out of his repertoire in the aftermath of various injuries (the short arm pull to the not-so-short ball, played off the front foot, and the straight loft over the fast bowler's head, primarily, after his back injury; the on-the-rise cover drive during the Indo-Pak home series following his tennis elbow being three examples of many).
In fact, Sachin himself made the point that injury has forced him to change his game -- and there is nothing wrong with that; in fact, it would be downright stupid for him to defy his body and its dictates.
What really made me sit up, though, is that line: 'The little big man of Indian cricket choses to bat as he deems fit.'
If that is true -- and before people start calling for Sachin's head, you need to remember that it is not he who is saying this; it is just an argument in a column -- then it is precisely what Chappell needs to resolve.
Rajaraman's column in fact provides my best argument. I quote: 'He assesses the game situation, assigns himself roles that he believes are best for the team, and tries his best to play those roles -- either attacking the opposition, or grinding it into te dust. It is another matter that he does not always succeed. The second innings of the Bangalore Test against Pakistan is a case in point. He sought to bat out and secure a draw -- something against the grain of his character.'
Chappell and
If you need an aide memoire, here's Ashish Magotra's report, on Rediff, of that day's play -- and this is the ball by ball commentary I was doing for the game.
Assume for argument's sake that Rajaraman was right; that Sachin had decided to shut the game down and bat out for a draw -- if yes, it was clearly the wrong move, the wrong call; it hampered, not helped, the team cause.
What would have helped the team, in that situation, was for Sachin to tame the bowling -- which, frankly, was no great shakes; nor was there any extra devil in the wicket -- and thus ease the pressure on the dressing room, and on his partner in the middle.
I remember Hansie Cronje once being asked who he thought the best captain in the world was, and he named Sachin. Our eyebrows went way up -- and Cronje explained: 'The thing is not that Sachin is a tactician; the thing with him is he can bat freely irrespective of the conditions and the bowling -- and when he does that, he pulls his team with him, he has them believing they can bat too.'
Exactly. That is what the team needs from Sachin. So when a player of his stature goes out there and starts poking at half-volleys, he has his colleagues believing there is a devil in the pitch they need to be wary about; he pulls the team onto the defensive with him; and each time he has done that, it has ended in disaster.
Maybe that is why it is the coach, not Tendulkar himself, who should be deciding what his role in the side -- and in any given situation -- should be.
Let's forget for the moment that we are talking of Sachin, the national icon, here. Would we be as tolerant of any player, say X, who figures he -- and not the team, or its coach -- will decide how he will play in any given situation?
No? Case, from my side, closed.

4 Comments:

  • Hi Prem,

    anything related to sachin is always close to my heart so I will share my opinion on this.
    to be very frank why is the struggle by all & sundry to get back sachin of the past ? even in his present form he is the best & his test record of 2004 proove it. 950+ runs @ around 90+ average is AWESOME if not great.
    in the ODI's he has struggled but even in the recent series against pak he played a match winning knock at Ahm'bad to be given away by our bowlers.
    I feel instead of everybody expecting a swashbuckling sachin lets hope to make most of the plethora of experience & talent that the guy possesses.he shud be given a role that suits his style the best which is in the middle order at # 4. together he & dravid (at #5) can look to play the role played by Aravinda De'silva & ranatunga played for SriLanka during 1996 WC i.e. control the middle order just by the sheer weight of their experience. just imagine a 700+ match experienced pair batting at #4 & #5.. top 3 & #6 & 7 will almost be sleeping before going to bat..

    IMO, it is best in everybody's interest to leave sachin as is & just utilise him to the maximum effect for the benefit of the team.
    there is no point in expecting him to be like he was in 1998 becoz it is just not possible.

    Rgds,
    Sri

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 13:06  

  • There are two related questions that are being debated here-
    a) What is Sachin’s ‘natural’ game?
    b) Where should Sachin bat?
    It is fairly clear that Sachin’s natural game has changed over the years- given his injuries and the toll that 16 years of international cricket can take on the human body- that is inevitable. Unfortunately, for us fans, it will mean not being able to see the most spectacular hitting that Sachin did in his earlier years and that we have now come to associate with Sehwag. I think the sooner we come to terms with that fact, the better it is for all.
    Secondly, I don’t quite buy the argument that Sachin should bat lower in the order. He gives a solidity at the top of the order and I daresay, has guided Sehwag to become more consistent than just a loose cannon firing all the time that he used to be, a la Afridi. Coming at the top of the order also allows him time to build the innings which would not be possible if he came in only in over 25 or 30. We know for a fact that if he comes at the top of the order and hangs on till over 35-40, India inevitably reach a good score. He is perfect person to build the launch pad for the slog overs, not a slogger himself. He should not be made a scapegoat for the inconsistency of our middle order which, barring Dravid, is high on talent and short on performance at the moment.
    Mohit.

    By Anonymous Mohit, at 13:42  

  • The question about whether Sachin has changed his style, voluntarily or involuntarily, is irrelevant.

    In 2003, he smashed the Pakistanis in the World Cup in an innings that was like any he has played.

    In 2004, he made a brilliant hundred (in a losing cause) in the second ODI in Pak.

    If anything, the Tendulkar being seen now is a mix of both attack and judicious play, as compared to the all - out belligerence one saw in the early part of his career.

    If this change has happened, it is as Prem points out, in part due to the ravages of time (mental and physical), but in Sachin's case, also because the batting order has changed considerably, with Dravid, Laxman and Sehwag playing key roles, thus forcing him to change accordingly.

    About the question regarding whether he should determine his role, or the coach, and whether the fans should be "tolerant", I dont know if I agree with that assessment. When a player plays for 16 years,scores everywhere and is hailed as being the best ever (or one of them), there might be a tendency to trust his or her judgement over others. For sure, it would be stupid to apply the same level of tolerance to Sachin Tendulkar as compared to Andrew Strauss.

    By Blogger Arjun Swarup, at 14:58  

  • Date: Mon, 28 Mar 2005 05:43:00 -0500

    Dear Shri Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly:

    How does a team that was playing to save the first match (save it) and was being beaten by 195 in the second, end up in a situation where the last of the recognized opposition batsmen of a "famed" batting lineup, one Mr. Tendulkar, gets out with India still being 219 short of a victory?

    Statistics do not mean a thing. They are something that a player looks at after they retire. And even fans look at only when picking a fantasy team.

    What matters is who believes in their head that nothing can beat them and they really are the best.

    And if this is the criteria then the #s 9, 10 and 11 batting positions of the Zimbabwe team should be manned by you 3 gentlemen respectively.

    Speaking strictly professionally, if I was running a one man show, I would certainly compete to hire one of you boys. However, outside of lawn tennis, golf and a few others, there isn't a show worth its salt that needs folks who can't work for the better of a team.

    Australia is #1 and Timbuktoo #2 and so on and so forth not because they are better than everyone else. They are #1 because they believe that they are worth #1 and there is no one who can beat them - each member believes that they have it in them and in their team-mates to pull it off from the jaws of death. Case in point being the last World Cup final. Had India batted first and scored the runs Australia did and Australia scoring second the way the Indians were, India would have thrown in the towel because the Aussies were scoring at the same rate as they had. But reality was different. Even though India were going great guns the Aussies believed that they could not be touched and India believed that they could not win.

    Sehwag and Pathan may not be as technically sound or any other retarded metric that you "connoisseurs" use at your private parties to inflate your egos. But they, including Kumble, Harbhajan and Dravid are 10 times the men that you will ever be - they are the heroes that the lay man will cry for - because they stand a post and say that no one is going to get by them, not on their watch.

    Today, you again repeated what you have over your entire careers. You let the moment get to you and forgot to believe.

    How pathetic. Especially for you three because when you arrived at the international arena you were men - today you have become boys.

    Have a Happy Holi!

    Worst Regards,
    Saurabh Shukla

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 23:32  

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