'Organise more Tests for Tests to survive' - Tendulkar
When I think batting, I think about smashing the ball
Sachin Tendulkar believes the ICC needs to organise more Tests, if it wants the format to survive. At the same time, he feels, no player can be forced to play a Test match, because it is the format that will always catch you out if you are not mentally and technically prepared.
Speaking at the seventh annual ESPNcricinfo awards night, in Mumbai, where he was named Cricketer of the Generation, Tendulkar also pointed out how the game has evolved in recent times, in large part due to the influence of limited-overs cricket. Twenty20 cricket, he said, complements Test cricket.
"The ICC should take notice of it and organise more Test matches if they want Test cricket to survive," Tendulkar said, while accepting his award. "[But] I still believe Test cricket is in good hands, players are producing unbelievable cricket. If you see around the world, most matches have results, very few are drawn, which is probably due to T20s, so the formats are complementing each other. If you want more guys to follow cricket, T20 is an ideal format to introduce people to cricket. Gradually they can progress to one-day cricket and Test cricket."
There's no point forcing Test cricket down throats, Tendulkar said, since that would only eat into the quality of the game. "When it comes to players though, you cannot force someone to like Test cricket. If you are passionate about Test cricket, it has to be from within. And if it doesn't exist in some cases, don't force him, leave him, let him play one-day and T20 cricket. Test cricket is the ultimate format and it's one format where the bowlers are always going to get you out. In Tests, you require planning, vision and execution. It doesn't happen that much in T20 cricket, where you can be a hero in three balls."
The game changed, especially in the second half of his 24-year career, Tendulkar said. He pointed out innovations in field placements, batting and bowling styles. Some of those changes, Tendulkar said, resulted in him curbing his aggression as his career progressed. "The field settings were different. Later on in my career when I walked in to bat and I looked towards point, I thought, 'Point is catching so there's a gap.' But later I realised, 'No, no there's deep point already too'. With time, your style of play too changes. Today the kinds of shots played by batsmen are incredible.
"I saw [Zimbabwe batsman] Andy Flower play the reverse sweep consistently in a Test, he was 10-12 years ahead of his time. Twelve years down the line, it has become quite a common shot: [England captain] Alastair Cook was [in the 200s] at Birmingham, and he, of all people, reverse-swept Amit Mishra. The game has changed.
"Now consistently you see 300-plus totals, which is because of the rule changes and also due to T20 cricket. Batsmen are prepared to take chances, bowlers have to develop more variations. In the 90s, I don't think anyone bowled the slower ball bouncer like [South Africa pacer] Shaun Pollock did in the latter stage of his career, now it's a regular variation. So maybe 20 years down the line, who knows how the game will be."
Tendulkar was one of three nominees for the award, presented to mark the first generation of the existence of ESPNcricinfo, which has been online since 1993. Tendulkar recalled facing up to the other two, South Africa allrounder Jacques Kallis and Australian legspinner Shane Warne.
Kallis, Tendulkar said, was an ace planner. "His strength has been his focus and concentration. Kallis used to walk to the wicket and he would be looking down, and I used to jokingly tell our bowlers once he has realised which way the blades of the grass are, he is going to make us field for a long time, so get him out before that.
"Kallis pretended that he was tired, just come in there to bowl six balls and go back to the slips and field, but I knew that his effort ball would soon come. I always knew that one special ball was always round the corner and this was all part of his planning and he was about to execute that."
Tendulkar remembered the early days against Warne, when the two became "good friends". "I first played against Warne in 1992 and you could make that Shane was talented, but he wasn't consistent I felt in the first game," he said. "The next encounter against Warne was in Sri Lanka and I was beaten by his flight. But I decided to go for the big one, I picked the length and fortunately that one went for a six. But Warne being a tricky character he walked up to me and try to instigate me, he said something. My habit was to play the shot and walk over towards the square-leg umpire, that was part of my preparation - not that I wanted to not hear what Warne had to say.
"But I caught him after the game, he came to our dressing room, and I asked him 'Warnie, what were you trying to say to me? Now you can tell me.' From then onwards, we became good friends."
Before Tendulkar was presented the award, his former India team-mate and captain Rahul Dravid and the former New Zealand captain Martin Crowe aired their views on his career. "He was the kind of cricketer whose respect you wanted to earn," Dravid said. Crowe said: "[West Indies'] Viv Richards was the greatest batsman I played against and his footwork lasted 15 years. Sachin's lasted a decade longer."