Australia v India, 1st Test, Melbourne, 2nd day December 27, 2007

Tendulkar defends India's tactics

Sachin Tendulkar's assault against Brad Hogg remained one of the few positives India could take out of a disappointing day © Getty Images

Sachin Tendulkar refused to blame India's new opening combination for the poor start to the innings as they were facing a "brilliant" spell of bowling. India crawled to 31 for 2 by the 22nd over, a time during which Australia had assumed a strong grip on the match.

"You're not always going to strike the ball the way you want," Tendulkar, whose free-flowing 77-ball 62 kept India in the contest, said. "Sometimes the balls are not in the areas where you can put them away regularly. It was one of those days when both the openers had to fight it out.

"The way it got to five or six overs, there was not enough rotation of the strike," he said of Rahul Dravid and Wasim Jaffer at the top. "But it's not the first time it's happened in Test cricket. You have some brilliant spells and today was one of those cases. It's pretty normal and we have no complaints against the openers."

The choice of Dravid as an opener was one of the talking points of the tour so far. India decided to make way for Yuvraj Singh at No.6, a move that meant Dravid was promoted up the order. Did Tendulkar think the move had backfired?

"After first innings, I don't think we should be passing judgments," he said. "The end of the series would be the right time to judge. Rahul has done well at all positions. So let's wait for the series [to end]."

Tendulkar's comment suggested that Dravid would be persisted with as an opener for all four Tests. However, when prodded further, he chose to dead-bat the question: "We'll have to wait and see. I don't take decisions."

Stealing the show with an aggressive 62, Tendulkar showed the way forward on this surface, one which he termed as "slow". His assault on left-arm spinner Brad Hogg was a lesson in taking the initiative against a new bowler.

"I went in with a positive frame of mind," he said. "I had decided if the ball was there to put away, I would put it away. To my mind, I was pretty much normal. I was not thinking of what happened earlier or what is going to happen next. I was trying to live in the present. It's Test cricket and sometimes you have to play out those spells and not panic."

Tendulkar's approach was in sharp contrast to his recent innings, where he's preferred to grind out the opposition rather than take them on. "I picked the line and length early and thought I should play my shots. Sometimes I feel I should hang around and play out certain spells, can't go bang, bang, bang. If I get good balls in the right areas, I'll leave them alone. I'll be flexible."

I was not thinking of what happened earlier or what is going to happen next. I was trying to live in the present. It's Test cricket and sometimes you have to play out those spells and not panic

While admitting that he was done in by one that was slower than he had expected, playing on to a back-of-a-length delivery form Stuart Clark, he wasn't going to complain about the surface. "I don't think it's a bad track. I don't know why people round the world think a soft track is bad for cricket. Who said a fast track is good? You find different tracks. Test cricket is about adjustments. Sometimes it's hard and bouncy, and sometimes turning. I don't have anything against it."

However, he conceded that his wicket was the turning point in the innings, one where India collapsed from 120 for 3 to 196 all out. "If we [him and Ganguly] had converted that into a big partnership it can really make a huge difference to the later batting order. That was probably an important wicket.

"I was disappointed. I knew there were ten minutes for tea. The Idea was to play out a few balls. It came a bit slower than I expected."

There was some concern over the physio examining him but he later confirmed it was only a minor injury. "I had a minor strain in my quadriceps muscle," Tendulkar said. "But it was nothing serious."

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo