England v India, 1st Test, Lord's July 20, 2011

The master gets ready for the big Test

Over the next five days Sachin Tendulkar can tick off one of the few milestones he hasn't reached: a place on the Lord's honours board
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Wednesday and Lord's is abuzz in anticipation of a week that will be high-profile even by its standards: the 2000th Test, the 100th Test between England and India, a gathering of cricket's top officials and the venerable members of the MCC. And then there is the Sachin Tendulkar question. Will he or won't he?

Assuming this is his last trip to England, millions of his fans will be praying, hoping, fasting, crossing fingers and doing anything they can to help Tendulkar get his name on the honours board at cricket's headquarters. Tendulkar might play it down but he knows its significance.

One reason athletes strive hard to excel is that they want to raise the bar. (Tendulkar has himself said that he wants to take his cricket to the 'next' level.) They like going places both dreamed of and not yet imagined. They like creating unimaginable stuff - take Magic Johnson's sky-hook.

Tendulkar has crossed almost every sporting milestone, won almost every prize and has created strokes that are breathtaking. Yet there is the small matter of the Lord's honours board, which records those who have scored centuries or taken five-fors in Test matches at the ground. At 38, cricket's own Father Time may be ticking but Tendulkar knows time is running out.

On the eve of the first Test Tendulkar walked out of the pavilion, dressed in the team navy-blue jacket, pads on, face encased in the helmet, one hand carrying two pairs of gloves, the other a pair of bats. He chatted briefly with the assistant groundsman about the nature of the pitch, then walked with a smile towards the Nursery, the training grounds.

There was only one more India player already padded up and marking his crease - Tendulkar's old ally, Rahul Dravid. Tendulkar did not waste any time getting ready to face the nets bowler, a fellow Mumbaikar who played at the MIG Club in the player's neighbourhood. This bowler (he would not like to reveal his name) has been Tendulkar's bowling machine at Lord's for a few years and one could sense the comfort and trust Tendulkar had in him as he openly confided his doubts and his thoughts.

Tendulkar first asked him to bowl normally with "a few deliveries outside off stump". He just wanted to get a feel. It took him a minute to hit the groove. The media and assembled fans gathered behind the nets. Michael Atherton, an old adversary, stood at backward square-leg for a few minutes, hands folded, studiously observing Tendulkar (and Dravid perhaps).

It is an experience to watch Tendulkar bat in the nets. He needs no cue to slip into the zone. Five minutes into the session he asked the bowler to bowl "cross seam with a ball that has the biggest seam". When the bowler pitched a straighter one just a couple of inches short of length and checked "do you want this (length)?" Tendulkar nodded and started doing shadow practice with his left shoulder. The permanent fuss to get the shoulder aligned in the right position was back like an incurable itch.

There was one delivery that jumped off short of a length, beating Tendulkar's defences. The bowler had no clue as he had never meant such at the point of delivery. But Tendulkar understood the reason: "The pitch is damp and the odd bounce is possible."

Just then Sreesanth walked in and told Tendulkar he would be bowling. Next moment Tendulkar noticed Arjun, his son, was about to enter the training ground along with a couple of friends. There was also Vidhu Vinod Chopra, a Bollywood director with his wife and child. Tendulkar swiftly asked the bowler to tell Arjun and the Chopra family to sit outside. He was preparing for a Test match and no one - not even his own kin - should bother him.

Back in the nets, the bowler made an interesting observation. "The bat seems to be coming from behind the legs. Don't you think so?" Tendulkar agreed, and said he was only trying to experiment with a new stance - stand in a position where his toes point slightly towards cover and his shoulders open up, too. "I am just trying as I feel I can sight the ball better this way."

Sreesanth was finding hard to get into rhythm meanwhile and bowled a ridiculous delivery down the leg side. Promptly he was implored. "Daal barabar (bowl properly). Come on," Tendulkar said. He did not want anyone to make him lose his focus. For the next half-hour he not only focussed on fine-tuning his own batting but also became the bowling coach for Sreesanth, who was having a sloppy afternoon.

It is fascinating to see Tendulkar's brain at work. He can compartmentalise things neatly. He asked the bowler to maintain a length but on a middle-and-leg-stump line. He also asked him to observe if he was opening his shoulders. His reasoning was simple; he wanted to be in the right position to play the shot especially on the Lord's slope, where right-handers face numerous problems as the ball comes in after pitching. When Sreesanth teased him with a couple of outswinging half-volleys, Tendulkar "thought about playing them, nearly played them, but I resisted."

There was an instance where Sreesanth bowled one slightly fuller and quicker. Tendulkar hit the shot blindly. "I did not see the ball. I don't know where it went, but I know it went straight." It showed that Tendulkar, too, at times reacts instinctively.

He was not angry with himself then but there was one moment that annoyed him. It was an hour after he started batting. Sreesanth bowled one that climbed into the ribs. Tendulkar tried to fend it away, but was slow to react and the ball touched his glove. He reacted with disgust. "Chalo, bas ho gaya abhi (let's go, I am done)." Sreesanth pleaded him to face three more deliveries. The last of which, a short one outside off, Tendulkar upper-cut. The look in his eyes was one of confidence.

And then he walked back relaxed to the pavilion. Sometime over the next five days Lord's might witness something special. Or not. Either way Tendulkar will still say it does not matter.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on July 23, 2011, 14:54 GMT

    One more time sachin out under 50... So yours dream is still a dream..

  • veenviz on July 21, 2011, 18:06 GMT

    lovely article man...it was like a painting...cricinfo needs articles like these

  • on July 21, 2011, 17:25 GMT

    Hope Sachin scores 100 at Lord's and India wins.

  • adamgilly on July 21, 2011, 17:22 GMT

    Sachin Tendulkar=RESPECT!!!

  • on July 21, 2011, 16:38 GMT

    Sachin 'ton'dulkar will definitely score his 100th ton :) Sachin 'ton'dulkar will definitely score his 100th ton :)

  • on July 21, 2011, 12:17 GMT

    No one is putting pressure on you foryour100th ton: Sachin Take your own time. We will wait and watch.:)

  • gung-ho on July 21, 2011, 12:09 GMT

    Sad to see Sachin hater diss a great man -- hope they realize that if it's just the 100th ton he's looking for, he could have toured WI and gotten it by now. Looking forward to a great series -- I am predicting a drawn series 1:1.

  • on July 21, 2011, 9:40 GMT

    @Shantanu - Nayan DOshi is a LAS. Not a seamer.

  • on July 21, 2011, 9:31 GMT

    england might be boasting of having the advantage of "Lords"' but when the "Lord" is with india ,,,there will be no rain shelter for england..!!:PPP....!!!!:))

  • Tatsache on July 21, 2011, 8:29 GMT

    cricket is fashion for him....he love cricket so he is playing since long time...!and he can play still more years..!

  • on July 23, 2011, 14:54 GMT

    One more time sachin out under 50... So yours dream is still a dream..

  • veenviz on July 21, 2011, 18:06 GMT

    lovely article man...it was like a painting...cricinfo needs articles like these

  • on July 21, 2011, 17:25 GMT

    Hope Sachin scores 100 at Lord's and India wins.

  • adamgilly on July 21, 2011, 17:22 GMT

    Sachin Tendulkar=RESPECT!!!

  • on July 21, 2011, 16:38 GMT

    Sachin 'ton'dulkar will definitely score his 100th ton :) Sachin 'ton'dulkar will definitely score his 100th ton :)

  • on July 21, 2011, 12:17 GMT

    No one is putting pressure on you foryour100th ton: Sachin Take your own time. We will wait and watch.:)

  • gung-ho on July 21, 2011, 12:09 GMT

    Sad to see Sachin hater diss a great man -- hope they realize that if it's just the 100th ton he's looking for, he could have toured WI and gotten it by now. Looking forward to a great series -- I am predicting a drawn series 1:1.

  • on July 21, 2011, 9:40 GMT

    @Shantanu - Nayan DOshi is a LAS. Not a seamer.

  • on July 21, 2011, 9:31 GMT

    england might be boasting of having the advantage of "Lords"' but when the "Lord" is with india ,,,there will be no rain shelter for england..!!:PPP....!!!!:))

  • Tatsache on July 21, 2011, 8:29 GMT

    cricket is fashion for him....he love cricket so he is playing since long time...!and he can play still more years..!

  • Sankara on July 21, 2011, 7:52 GMT

    I think it is silly to start believing in the hype- forget SRT, cricket itself would not have a billion followers, Don Aifam and akhilhp; Please remember that all cricket nations (if you exclude pak) out together will count for less than Uttar Pradsh's population of 198 million. Include pakistan, all ICC member countries will be less than the population of UP and Maharashtra. Yet, if you want to believe the puff of admen and Indian news anchors, go ahead and believe the one bn fan number- it is a harmless belief. But let us not shove this numbers and greatness down others throat. Just enjoy!

  • on July 21, 2011, 7:43 GMT

    we are all eager to join you after yours 100th hundred in international arena. you have done a lot to make your countrymen proud. THAN YOU VERY MUCH SACHIN

  • ashu26 on July 21, 2011, 7:42 GMT

    Nice article,specially if you are a huge admirer of the man , he is truly an inspiration for everyone !!

  • TheUpperCut on July 21, 2011, 7:41 GMT

    Add Lords ground to the list praying for Sachin's century. It will be a shame for Lords if Sachin doesn't score a century there and then Lords will no more be Lords!

  • anurag4u10 on July 21, 2011, 7:34 GMT

    most of d times fairytale finishes doesnt happen. a few recent examples include wc semi vs pak where after 4 dropped chances sachin was edgin towards his 100th 100 nd it seemed that he will do the same that too in a wc semifinal against dier harsh rivals unfortunately afridi's stunner ctch ended d story. d very nxt mtch he was again on the verge of trailin d same record. the occassion was even biggr (d bigst) A WC final that too in his homeground and a century in chasin d eaning wud hav certainly increased d value of his ton. bt dis tym his teamamte from Mumbai Indians got him ct. behnd. in sa tour last year tendulkar was d lone warrior in test dat india lost by inning dere he compltd his 50th test ton. the only time which i remember hppnd like a movie script was in coca cola cup 1998 (apr) version where in one mtch he played one of his best innigs in d midst of d dust storm to qulify india for fnl, bt in d final that too on his bday he made nther ton nd wn d cup 4 us.

  • indianzen on July 21, 2011, 7:28 GMT

    It was Shrikanth's sky hook and not Kareem's, Once Clive lloyd agreed that he is unable to set field to contain shrikanth...

  • muski on July 21, 2011, 6:58 GMT

    For all you SRT haters- make a bow to the GOD who is still human. The very fact that he too prepares like a normal human being before the start of every match implies that talent alone is not enough. Life is hard and that of a sportsman is much harder. The moolah's, name and fame are the things that come by the wayside only if the person performs on the field. Are the Kambli's, Sivaramakrishan's, Sadanand Vishwanaths and Maninder Singh's listening????

  • ATG1207 on July 21, 2011, 6:57 GMT

    What a piece of article!!! While reading, one could feel that he is right there. I mean, the writer has written so observantly closely describing even the smallest of things about Tendulkar's preparation. To be honest, I feel even if any one not knowing about tendulkar at all, after reading this article about the way he prepares, could have easily concluded that he is the GOD of the game. Go Sachin, win over the LORDS..!!!

  • akhilhp on July 21, 2011, 6:46 GMT

    @moko58 great observation and calculation but I don't think Sachin has fans only in India... And you have not calculated that.

    @RD270 on behalf of Sachin I feel very sorry that he could not entertain you. I hope you watched the one day innings which were some entertaining I think.

  • onphel1 on July 21, 2011, 6:43 GMT

    A great fan of the Little Master in the southern hemisphere, but I'm not an Indian neither of Indian origin. Chill guys, just a comment. Cricket evolved dramatically.so much so that contemporary batsmen and bowlers are fantastically armoured with more skills than they ever did 50-100 years ago. As things continue to evolve, cricketers in 30 years time will usurp the currently worshipped International player of the most beautiful game on the face of this planet. Such is the nature of externalistic development that are attached to humanity.

  • on July 21, 2011, 6:29 GMT

    Funny how this article doesn't even talk of Dravid...who probably practised just as intently, probably for longer. Dravid has to be one of the most ignored underplayed legends of all time.

  • on July 21, 2011, 6:21 GMT

    @moko58...its justifiable to say 'a billion fans'.....coz the fans of Sachin are not only from India......fans are from all over the world.....and this is because of the way he has been playin for the past 22 years....

  • moko58 on July 21, 2011, 5:45 GMT

    It is good the writer has only mentioned 'millions of his fans'. Usually people say ' a billion fans in India' , which is incorrect because not all 1.2 billions Indians follow cricket. Some of them are so poor and fighting to live they don't even know what is cricket. Some are so old and uneducated they don't know cricket. Some are still infants who are still to know cricket. Some simply don't care. Millions is more like it.

  • vinay_jammy_fan on July 21, 2011, 5:29 GMT

    Nayan Doshi is a spinner...so I don't think it was him!

  • CaptainBarbossa on July 21, 2011, 5:00 GMT

    Even after so many years, he still practices diligently. It is incredible!

  • Pankaj_INDIA on July 21, 2011, 4:23 GMT

    @Mitul Gogri: can't put it in more proper words, very very very well said bro. GOD not getting century at Lord's is Lord's bad luck, not Sachin's.

  • on July 21, 2011, 3:17 GMT

    Shantanu - perfectly said!

  • on July 21, 2011, 3:08 GMT

    mailtoala , Nagraj Gollapudi is right when he said it was Magic's skyhook.Kareem was the expert and he taught it to Magic who used it to won the a game in the finals in 87.Magic called it the junior junior skyhook.

    Nagraj was alluding to the fact that Sachin like Magic learns new tricks to stay ahead of the opponents.

  • akshaydon93 on July 21, 2011, 3:00 GMT

    It's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar that invented the sky hook.

  • RD270 on July 21, 2011, 2:50 GMT

    There is no doubting SRT's genius. I am yet to see a more correct, balanced copybook and technically accomplished batsmen. Everything seems to be in exactly the place it should be when he is at the crease. That is is awe-inspiring and boring at the same time. It is like his batting lacks his personal stamp, it is like an MCC batting manual come to life!

    Go on SRT fans jump on this, but do take a pause and think about it...

    I would take a good Lara innings any day over a good SRT innings. Yeah, yeah, SRT is a better team man, a better role model and all that, but sport is not about being correct all the time. It is about personality and performance. SRT scores 100/100 on performance, but not very high on personality - in my book.

  • on July 21, 2011, 2:48 GMT

    Century at LORD's...Well..it doesn't matter for Sachin..if he doesn't get one there..it matters for LORD's...ppl like vengsarkar..and agarkar have scored centuries/y there...so jst imagine..who'll feature there...and who won't (the all time greats Lara and Sachin).. Jst get over the english hype...LORD's is the best..but then ...there are always players...who are better then the BEST.

  • on July 21, 2011, 2:37 GMT

    master at work is always a previleage to witness.

    sachin is geared up and so dravid.. i want to see sachin at his thrilling best in lords

    sachin has seen it everything in his career. anderson vs sachin....will be the mother of all battles. indian batsmen have to pull their socks......its showtime

    goodness me..we are in for a sensational cricket match in lords.

  • sri1ram on July 21, 2011, 2:00 GMT

    Damn, Sehwag should be certified ok and suddenly play now.. The Poms would be busy quivering in their boots planning for the hurricane while the others could calmly go about accumulating.

  • Rahulbose on July 21, 2011, 1:43 GMT

    A century at Lords is not the major achievement lacking from Tedulkar's career. The only thing left for Sachin is a test match triple hundred and a series win in Australia/ SA.

  • Shantanu01 on July 21, 2011, 1:14 GMT

    The name of the seemer is Nayan Doshi who also plays for Surrey. Please note Tendulkar has been practicing at lords since July 4 and even Monty panesar has bowling to Tendulkar. Tendulkar is leaving no stone untouched. Amazing cricker and the greatest sportsman India will ever produce.

  • One_from_blue_billion on July 21, 2011, 1:13 GMT

    Quality Test series like this are very rare. Just enjoy the Criket and save the talk for the end. Both teams are capable of winning. Eng may find it tough to dislodge Indian batting greats but they have the attack to achieve that. May the best team wins.

  • pneogy on July 21, 2011, 1:06 GMT

    Enough already. There will be enough opportunity for hagiography if and when Sachin gets his hundredth hundred. Meanwhile, let the man focus on the job that he is supposed to do.

  • SachisKing on July 21, 2011, 1:00 GMT

    Go for it Sachin, the cricket world is behind you. Nice article. After 20 years the master is a student, mastering his art, always.

  • anObserver on July 21, 2011, 0:47 GMT

    "Genius", does not need introduction but testing "master" on his ethics and hardwork coupled with determination to falsify his very character would be "tough", whoever is watching or whoever is involved in it. Some "players" have risen above the game, and rightly he is one of them. Britishers can mimic everything with there "technology" and "strategy", but one man stands between them and the much unexpected win they are trying to target and proclaim before the match. "Wall" and "master" with "captain cool" will come victorious, building pressure through media and saying things which don't have any basis and existence, just point to level of "fear" they have in their minds, "gimmickry" won't work and sooner it will be evident within days who will "supersede" and creating undue pressure with false believes will only add to the much hyped "controversies" which don't hold any significance in the field. Hoping India will strengthen its position as the leader in Test nations as no. 1.

  • One_from_blue_billion on July 21, 2011, 0:15 GMT

    Hi friends. I found this information on one of the online newspaper from India. SRT faced Raveena Lakhtaria, an A-level student and a young cricketer, who plays for Middlesex and the England women's academy. Lakhtaria is on an MCC young cricketer's scholarship and her ambition is to play for England

  • on July 21, 2011, 0:03 GMT

    It's crazy...the article is seemingly routine, and yet I get goose bumps :-D

  • on July 20, 2011, 22:44 GMT

    Once upon a time, there was a spin legend called Shane warn who had devised some plans to get the wicket of our little master. But when he executed his plans, what he got in return was the sixes sailing over his head. same thing will happen to the English too. Sachin is prepared.. beware kiddies.. he is going to demonstrate another fine class on tackling swing-pace-spin attack.

  • Aerofight on July 20, 2011, 22:41 GMT

    best article on Sir/Master/God Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar in recent times. He was preparing for a Test match and no one - even his own blood - should bother him. :) Felt a goose bump.

  • 5wombats on July 20, 2011, 21:48 GMT

    None of this matters; England will already have worked out how to get him out - just like they did with Sri Lanka, SA. Aussie batsmen mostly got themselves out, so they don't count.

  • mailtoala on July 20, 2011, 21:37 GMT

    It's Kareem's sky hook.. not Magic Johnson's - though he was pretty good at it.

  • on July 20, 2011, 21:33 GMT

    what an occasion it would be for the little master to go and get a century ...his 1st at Lords - his 100th International hundred in the 2000th Test match which is also the 100th Test between England and India .... can't get more exciting!!

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  • on July 20, 2011, 21:33 GMT

    what an occasion it would be for the little master to go and get a century ...his 1st at Lords - his 100th International hundred in the 2000th Test match which is also the 100th Test between England and India .... can't get more exciting!!

  • mailtoala on July 20, 2011, 21:37 GMT

    It's Kareem's sky hook.. not Magic Johnson's - though he was pretty good at it.

  • 5wombats on July 20, 2011, 21:48 GMT

    None of this matters; England will already have worked out how to get him out - just like they did with Sri Lanka, SA. Aussie batsmen mostly got themselves out, so they don't count.

  • Aerofight on July 20, 2011, 22:41 GMT

    best article on Sir/Master/God Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar in recent times. He was preparing for a Test match and no one - even his own blood - should bother him. :) Felt a goose bump.

  • on July 20, 2011, 22:44 GMT

    Once upon a time, there was a spin legend called Shane warn who had devised some plans to get the wicket of our little master. But when he executed his plans, what he got in return was the sixes sailing over his head. same thing will happen to the English too. Sachin is prepared.. beware kiddies.. he is going to demonstrate another fine class on tackling swing-pace-spin attack.

  • on July 21, 2011, 0:03 GMT

    It's crazy...the article is seemingly routine, and yet I get goose bumps :-D

  • One_from_blue_billion on July 21, 2011, 0:15 GMT

    Hi friends. I found this information on one of the online newspaper from India. SRT faced Raveena Lakhtaria, an A-level student and a young cricketer, who plays for Middlesex and the England women's academy. Lakhtaria is on an MCC young cricketer's scholarship and her ambition is to play for England

  • anObserver on July 21, 2011, 0:47 GMT

    "Genius", does not need introduction but testing "master" on his ethics and hardwork coupled with determination to falsify his very character would be "tough", whoever is watching or whoever is involved in it. Some "players" have risen above the game, and rightly he is one of them. Britishers can mimic everything with there "technology" and "strategy", but one man stands between them and the much unexpected win they are trying to target and proclaim before the match. "Wall" and "master" with "captain cool" will come victorious, building pressure through media and saying things which don't have any basis and existence, just point to level of "fear" they have in their minds, "gimmickry" won't work and sooner it will be evident within days who will "supersede" and creating undue pressure with false believes will only add to the much hyped "controversies" which don't hold any significance in the field. Hoping India will strengthen its position as the leader in Test nations as no. 1.

  • SachisKing on July 21, 2011, 1:00 GMT

    Go for it Sachin, the cricket world is behind you. Nice article. After 20 years the master is a student, mastering his art, always.

  • pneogy on July 21, 2011, 1:06 GMT

    Enough already. There will be enough opportunity for hagiography if and when Sachin gets his hundredth hundred. Meanwhile, let the man focus on the job that he is supposed to do.