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Only the God of cricket could have made a daunting 200 look so effortless. The game of numbers isn’t one for Sachin; he has gone well past that. That evening on the 25th February, Tendulkar didn’t just break an overwhelming record, he narrated cricket’s lost story. The double ton, perhaps, brought back, the passé ‘technique’ into the game. My admiration of Tendulkar’s masterclass didn’t just stop at the record, but the manner in which he pulled it off.
You would assume that a certain amount of slogging is almost mandatory to score a double century in fifty overs. But Sachin proved that it can be done by playing good cricket and knocking some skillful cricketing shots. The reason why Sachin doesn’t need to slog his way to big runs is his impeccable technique.
Ironically though, talking technique has almost become blasphemous in modern day cricket. No longer is it only about the number of runs you score, the strike-rate at which those runs are scored is equally important if not more, especially in the shorter formats. Perhaps, there is seemingly nothing wrong about thinking in terms of strike-rate because that makes for entertaining cricket. Innovation is not an aberration anymore but a norm.
While most cricketers playing international cricket are capable of changing gears and adapting to the new demands of the game, a whole crop of youngsters trying to break into their respective state under-16, under-19 teams are not. To a young mind, the easiest way to score quickly is to take the aerial route and play adventurous shots. The impression a youngster carries is that technique restricts you from playing all the shots and hence slows you down. Little do they realize that in reality, technique empowers you to play almost every shot in the book or perhaps more. It’s the technical dexterity and not slogging which enabled Sachin to score a double century off merely 147 balls.
I see that the role of a cricket coach more important now than ever before. He ought to help a youngster find the right balance and ensure that he doesn’t sacrifice technique for adventure. But are these coaches well equipped to ensure that a youngster doesn’t go astray? The answer is an unfortunate No. Only a few cricket academies in the country are run by qualified coaches. Others are merely organized net practice facilities which would rarely produce good cricketers. We may not be able to organize the cricket-academy sector but we can always ensure that the coaches working with the state teams at all levels are qualified coaches. After all the BCCI organizes coaching clinics on a regular basis producing Level 1, 2 and 3 coaches. These coaches in turn should be absorbed by the state associations.
I watched a Ranji Trophy probable bowling big no-balls and all that the coaches around could possible tell him was a feeble ‘stop overstepping’. No one would tell him how to do it. Poor kid kept bowling for nearly an hour with no success. I felt sorry for the boy because it wasn’t his fault. It’s the duty of the coach to rectify mistakes, but sadly, they couldn’t. If this being the state of affairs at the First class level, pity how things would be at levels below Ranji. The way forward is most certainly a sound lesson in technique, for you can break a rule only when you know it.
Technique is perhaps one of the most important things that distinguish a good cricketer from a great cricketer. And the God of the Cricket told us just that.
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Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.