January 17, 2008

Indian Cricket

Tendulkar's bid for immortality

Mukul Kesavan
Sachin Tendulkar plays the upper cut during his 71, Australia v India, 3rd Test, Perth, 1st day, January 16, 2008
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This explanation of late-period Tendulkar suggested a batsman using his formidable skills to adapt to circumstances instead of bending circumstances to his will as he had done in his first half of his career. Even his big innings this century seemed to bear witness to a once-great batsman adapting magnificently to the physical toll of a long career.

Take his double century at the SCG in the last Test of India's previous tour of Australia. It was a crucial innings, one that allowed the Indians to press for a victory that eventually eluded them, but that's not why we remember it. We remember it for its freakish aspect: Tendulkar scored 241 runs without once driving through the off-side. He had suffered a string of dismissals trying to drive through cover, so he just put away the shot and worked everything through the onside. His signature shot throughout his career had been that cover drive hit off the back foot standing on tip-toe and he was showing the world that he could limit his repertoire and thrive.

But the change in style was also accompanied by a secular decline in both his batting average and the frequency of his centuries. These things are relative: Tendulkar's 'decline' would constitute success for the merely very good. From the very high fifties, the average dipped to under fifty-five. At the same time the achievements of other batsmen eclipsed Tendulkar's efforts.

Brian Lara reversed a slump that saw his average plunge to into the forties and salvaged his reputation by dragging that figure up into the fifties as he ended his career in a blaze of brilliance and Ponting's career graph read like the opposite of Tendulkar's: he raised his game to such heights in the second half of his career that there were seasons when his results were Bradmanesque. A new generation of batsmen led by Michael Hussey and Kumar Sangakkara produced passages of such consistency and flair that they made Tendulkar look grizzled and tentative.

Then, in 2007, Tendulkar began his bid to rehabilitate himself. In South Africa, in Bangladesh, in England, in India and finally in this series in Australia, he emerged from the cocoon of conservative caution that had marked his batsmanship for more than five years and gave himself permission to play his whole repertoire of shots. The results were mixed: 2007 was a decent year, not an annus mirabilis: some seven hundred runs with a clutch of fifties and a couple of centuries against Bangladesh. Its real importance is only now becoming apparent: it was the necessary run up to his return to vintage form in Australia.

He has hit two fifties and a big, unbeaten 150 in five innings against the best team in the world, one that was aggressively seeking a record sequence of Test wins. This would be reassuring in itself for Tendulkar, when you consider that his last century against respectable opposition came in 2005. But the real significance of this brief Australian purple patch has been the manner in which he has scored his runs. For the first time in years he has played with intent and without inhibition. Every shot from the paddle sweep to the off-side force, to the pull and the improvised upper-cut has been taken out of storage and played. He has taken the fight to the opposition, on and off the field. I don't think it's a coincidence that after the ugly Sydney Test, it was Tendulkar who forced the Harbhajan issue and compelled Sharad Pawar to stand up for his team-mate.

Having put the mirage of captaincy firmly behind him, Tendulkar has stepped into the role he should have claimed years ago: not the senior pro of the Indian team (an NCO's role, meant for lesser men) but its grey eminence, its elder statesman. The way he is batting in Australia, that part will be his to play for years yet, at the end of which he might well stand on the pedestal that Bradman chose for him and which Cricket reserves for her most durable geniuses.

Mukul Kesavan is a writer based in New Delhi

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Posted by Ali on (April 20, 2008, 10:34 GMT)

GOD first created Brian Lara.

That was for practice. Then he created Sachin Tendulkar.

Posted by eddy on (March 25, 2008, 11:33 GMT)

Philip John Joseph!!!!To say Bradman was rubbish is tripe. 99 average rubbish? We may agree that Lara is the greatest greatest modern player but we couldnt be further apart when it comes to Bradman. Only one player even comes close to Bradman in my book and thats Sir Viv. No helmet!All of today's batsmen, and i mean ALL couldnt and wouldnt bat without a helmet. Thats why its Bradman, Viv, Lara/Tendulkar, in that order.

Posted by d p on (March 23, 2008, 0:34 GMT)

@ Joseph what you talking about? you need to go back in 90's and 2000's and start watching games most people remember how sachin got out on zero, how he got lbw by pace bowlers or how he got bowled human tendancy is to point out the faults do you remember Sachin playing some WELL BALANCE SHOTS? i bet you dont greatness is not measured by number of number of sixes or fours its all about playing some fantastic shots and long innings when others fall short of it

Posted by Philip John Joseph on (February 17, 2008, 2:45 GMT)

Well I would say that Lara is better than Tendulkar. I would also say that Don Bradman is rubbish because as Douglas Jardine said, Bradman was "yellow" with cowardice. The idea that a batsman who cowered in fear against the likes of Larwood, who doesn't even figure in the list of all-time great bowlers; that such a batsman could be considered the greatest batsman of all time, is the absolute defintion of sheer poppycock and balderdash.

Posted by Nagen on (February 15, 2008, 15:24 GMT)

There's no doubt that Sachin is the greatest among the contemporary cricketing idols. He's not just a cricketer for millions, but is a role model for the youngsters who are in pursuit of the greatness. Whether you begin it from the Titan cup or Sharjah cricket or cricket in Australia there isn't any part of the world Sachin hadn't left his momorabilia. I feel a bit unclear when the people raise the issue of comparing a man who set so many standards to be achieved by future generations with the ones who can't even reach his shadow.

Posted by Manoj on (February 11, 2008, 10:14 GMT)

TENDULKAR is undoubtedly the best. Someone earlier said Lara fans conveniently forget the countless failures and remember only the highlights.

With Lara even at his best there was always a lot of playing and missing, getting hit on the head,awkardness with the real fast short pitched stuff,getting rapped on the pads numerous times,etc.

With Tendulkar on,it reminds you of Gavaskar's defence,Richard's attack and Azhar's artistry.

TEndulkar has more shots too. With the ball say around off, Tendulkar can cut,off drive,straight drive,on drive ,whip it through midwicket,hit over infield..

With Lara it was almost always the cut.

With Tendulkar on it was like the ball always hit the middle of the bat or a perfect leave,whether outside off stump or the short pitched stuff. With all the time and in no trouble whatsoever. If the ball did beat the bat, it was considered an incredible achievement! At times the bowler would appeal just for that! and an equally stunned ump. give it

Posted by Salim Mian on (February 8, 2008, 10:55 GMT)

Ive been laughing myself silly over the past three weeks reading the dedate that has arisen from 'Eddy's' lone mission to prove Lara was the greater batsman against many, many Tendulkar and India fans. Cant you see guyz that you will never be able to say who was better, its like comparing apples and oranges. Both are/were too different to compare. Yes they were two great batsmen and both of their wonderful efforts hardly changed their teams results but there the simuilarties end. There can be no denying Lara's ability to construct huge ininngs like no other (Bradman included). No one can deny Tendulkars ability to score hundred after hundred in both Test and ODI arena's. Tendulkars dominance in both forms of the game make him close if not definately the greatest international batsmen ever. But then we look at Lara, he has played ininngs no one before or after him has.

The ability to aproach a new match or inning with the same vest and importance is what has kept Tendulkar scoring international tons for close to 20 years. All of the talent in the world cannot keep you at the top for that long without a love and joy and respect for the game. With Lara i think it was slightly different. He was distracted for a part of his career and sometimes threw his wicket away. But let me also say this, when Lara was in, and set no one could get him out. 9 double tons (includes a 300, 400) is testament to this fact. Tendulkar is more of a ton man, with 150+ quite often and a rare double ton (only two of his double tons came against grade A opposition).

So when i look back at the careers these two greats have played i come to this conclusion... Tendulkar has been the greatest international batsmen we have ever seen, more hundreds in both forms of the game than anyone. Although a certain R Ponting is only 5 test match tons behind him having played 44 less innings!!!! Pontings ton per inning ratio is better than Tendulkars but the reverse can be said for ODIs. Will Ponting be regarded the greatest when/if he overhalls Tendulkars test ton record?, many Aussie fans and ex pros think he's the best already! Thats what i THINK 'Eddys' point is. Does scoring the most tons make you the greatest player? I do slightly agree with him there, Lara scored more tons than Richards and Sobers but many WI fans dont think he's as good.

Now Lara. Both Tendulkar and Lara played in average to poor teams for most of their careers. they share this fact. The difference is Lara didnt have a Dravid or Ganguly or Laxman. He had Chanderpaul. Lara's thirst for runs kicked in when he moved past 100, thats when Tendulkar's was nearing it's end. Scoring huge, massive tons is much much harder than scoring single 100's, although you may think it would get easier the longer you batted. There have only been a handful of players that have scored 300 in a test. Viv didnt, Sunny didnt, Waugh didnt, Ponting hasnt Chappell didnt, miandad didnt, Abbas didnt, Boycott didnt, Border didnt, Dravid hasnt, Kallis hasnt, vengsarkar didnt, azza didnt, compton didnt, hobbs didnt....get the point? Only Bradman and Lara did it twice. Lara the only one in 131 years of test cricket to score 400. Add on top the 153* (regarded the finest innings ever by many), 375 and the maiden 277 v Aus and you make quite a picture of Lara.

My verdict????

Tendulkar - the greatest overall international batsmen ever. Lara - the greatest modern test batsmen.

Salim

Posted by Roman on (February 8, 2008, 7:46 GMT)

TENDULKAR is undoubtedly the best. Someone earlier said Lara fans conveniently forget the countless failures and remember only the highlights.

With Lara even at his best there was always a lot of playing and missing, getting hit on the head,awkardness with the real fast short pitched stuff,getting rapped on the pads many times,etc.

With Tendulkar on, it reminded you of Gavaskar's defence ,Richard's attack and Azhar's artistry.

TEndulkar has more shots too. With the ball say around off, Tendulkar can cut,off drive,straight drive,on drive and Azhar like whip it through midwicket.

With Lara it was almost always the cut.

With Tendulkar on it was like the ball always hit the middle of the bat or a perfect leave,whether outside off stump or the short pitched stuff. With all the time and in no trouble whatsoever. If the ball did beat the bat, it was considered an incredible achievement! At times the bowler would appeal just for that! and an equally stunned ump. give it!!

Posted by Vikram on (February 8, 2008, 2:24 GMT)

Some guys like "eddy" in here sound more like accountants than fans of the art of batting.

Posted by Akash on (February 7, 2008, 23:07 GMT)

Mr:Eddy...all the way through you are tryinmg to show Lara is better than Sachin... I am fan of Sachin but respect Lara too. Both have their own quality.

But there is bug diffrence that is call pressure from fans. 1 bn people watch when sachin is playing , if Sachin do not make ruyns there are programms all over TV, but in case of Lara if he got out on zero no one care and you will spot him some night club on same night.

Second thing Sir Don Bradman include just Sachin in his team it shows again Sachin have slight upper hand.

Third thing..We have to consider number of ODI Sachin played when you compare record.

One more thing Sachin played for country not for himself...When Lara made 400 it was for him not for country , if he want that time he should declared and try to win match vs Eng.

When Sachin was on 192 vs Pak Indian declared..Sachin did not said anything against Dravid...How many people think Lara can do such thing....well not that many.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mukul Kesavan
Mukul Kesavan teaches social history for a living and writes fiction when he can - he is the author of a novel, Looking Through Glass. He's keen on the game but in a non-playing way. With a top score of 14 in neighbourhood cricket and a lively distaste for fast bowling, his credentials for writing about the game are founded on a spectatorial axiom: distance brings perspective. Kesavan's book of cricket - Men in Whitewas published in 2007.

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