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Sight Screen

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Sachin syndrome

About two weeks ago – this was during that idyllic phase when discussion, as differentiated from abuse and vulgarity, was still possible on this blog – Worma asked a question about Sachin Tendulkar.
I had said then that there was a clipping I needed to reference; that I would respond once I hunted it down. Since then, Worma, and a few others, have reminded me of the pending post – I now have the clipping I was looking for, and this post, I believe, is best done now, irrespective of whatever Tendulkar may or may not do in this chase.
In the issue of the Times of India dated October 24, Greg Chappell talks at length to Vinay Nayudu; one of the questions, naturally enough, is about Tendulkar’s role in this side. This is what Chappell had to say:
The danger for any player is that as you grow older, you think older. If we can create the excitement and enthusiasm for Sachin, give him challenges that he enjoys, he can be a fine player for some time to come. Once the enthusiasm is gone, once the youthful exuberance is gone, it is very hard to play at this level consistently.
I can still see that youthful exuberance in Sachin. I saw it in the camp in Bangalore. When you give him something he enjoys, when he is engaged, you can see that youthful exuberance, that the boy within him is still in there, and we need to see more of it.

Elsewhere in the interview, again, Chappell on Sachin:
Statistics don’t tell the whole story. Just becomes somebody makes runs or takes wickets doesn’t mean he is the most important member of the team. You have to look at what else people bring to the group. Some people add to it, some people take away from it. Sachin is one of those guys who adds to the group. Whatever he does with the bat or the ball or in the field is multiplied by the factor X, because of the sort of player, the personality that he is; he commands respect not just because he has made a lot of runs, but because he is a quality individual. As long as he can stand up, and as long as he can make runs, Sachin will be worth his place in the team because he is a quality human being.

Thus much from Chappell. IMHO, that exuberance, that enthusiasm spoken off here has been visible (in the batting crease, that is – there is no means of quantifying what he brings to the table in the field and off the pitch) only in the first two games against Sri Lanka this season; since then, he appears to have slipped inexplicably into a more tentative avatar.
And that really answers Worma’s question of the other day – Tendulkar is a pivotal player in this ODI team if, and only if, he can recapture that fine exuberance; if he can revert to the role he is best suited for, which is to dominate the bowling early on, to put the opposition on the back foot straightaway and lift, from off his mates, the initial burden whether batting first or chasing.
Failing that (and SRT’s fondest fans will have to admit that he has failed that in the games since those first two versus Lanka), he reduces himself to an ordinary member of the side, one who has to take his chances alongside the likes of not just Ganguly and Laxman, but even alongside some of the young tykes now clamoring for a place. And in that case, the best advice anyone could possibly give him is to opt out of ODIs, and Lara-like, conserve his energies for the Test arena.
If, though, he can revert to the buccaneering batting that is his real forte, IMHO his place in the side becomes unquestioned – even accepting that such a style of batting is high risk, and will (especially as a player gets older and the hand-eye co-ordination, bat speed and other factors begin to wane) produce a fair share of failures.
PS: All that said, Sachin could end up playing a winning hand here -- but IMHO, the above still stands, from a long range perspective. In this ODI side, it really has to be the free-flowing Sachin; no tame substitutes will do.


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