June 3, 2002

On the shoulders of giants


Sachin Tendulkar against all bowlers - India innings at Trinidad
© CricInfo
An army may well win a battle with pop-guns and catapults, but how much less concerned the soldiers and their supporters would feel if their tank - even one with ailing treads - were rolled out to back up the infantry. Allegorically, Sachin Tendulkar put team interests before his shoulder bursitis - tendon inflammation - and slipped into one-day colours for the deciding one-day international at Port of Spain.

As it turned out, Tendulkar scooped his 44th Man of the Match award by hitting a crucial 65 off 70 balls and guiding India to a challenging total of 260. But the innings itself could hardly be termed vintage Tendulkar, and his sore shoulder takes prime responsibility for the nature of the knock.

Tendulkar's MRF-emblazoned bludgeon, treading the line between "bat" and "lethal weapon" ever so delicately, weighs almost three pounds, making it difficult to hoist into position with a painful shoulder. Accordingly, his innings was almost completely devoid of his pet horizontal-bat shots - the cut and the pull.

Six runs came in front of point and six in the square-leg region, both areas that would have been thicker in run-density if Tendulkar had the freedom to unleash the full flourish of his bat on his shots. Instead, Tendulkar adapted his game to move the bat as little as possible. He glided 14 runs to third man and as many as 18 to fine-leg. Eleven runs came in the mid-wicket region, mostly from effortless nudges off his legs.

At the post-match press conference, Tendulkar admitted that his shoulder hampered him. "There were some shots that I just couldn't play," he said. "My shoulder is still a little stiff, a little sore, but I've been told it's nothing serious. It should be okay in the next five-six days; it's just an inflammation." Under such circumstances, Tendulkar's knock was all the more priceless, as much for its contribution to the win as for the sheer effort and dedication it exemplified.