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The Tony Greig Show
'Cricket needs leadership from India'
March 1, 2010
Tendulkar's achievement, premature retirements, and why India needs to step up and make big decisions
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Sachin Tendulkar savours reaching his double century, 2nd ODI, Gwalior, February 24, 2010
"His double hundred against South Africa was another milestone in the career of a man who has been a great example to cricketers young and old" © Associated Press

Sachin's ODI double
Like millions of others, I have been a Sachin Tendulkar fan for many years now. And while the real excitement was watching him emerge as the best player in the world, it has also been wonderful witnessing his endurance. There have been quite a few good judges who have tried to persuade Tendulkar to retire, but I am not one of those. The Indian cricket lovers simply can't get enough of him, and let's face it, he will be retired for a long time. His double-hundred against South Africa was another milestone in the career of a man who has been a great example to cricketers young and old. Despite making more runs than anyone else in cricket, Tendulkar remains true to the spirit of cricket - though he has to live a life that is very different from that of many of his team-mates.

He is so loved. He is mobbed wherever he goes in India, and many other cricket-loving countries. He and his family have to take holidays in remote places to experience things most of us take for granted - like shopping or going for a drive. Even a family meal at a restaurant is just not on. He has handled all this adoration with the same calm control he possesses when he has a bat in his hand. I don't think there can ever be another Don Bradman, but if there is, Sachin Tendulkar would be the man.

Brett Lee's retirement from Test cricket
Brett Lee's retirement from Test cricket shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. He has been through a tough time with injuries, and is now at an age when he needs to manage what he has left in his fast-bowling tank. This likeable fast bowler has also had to manage a recent marriage break-up, and [the retirement] goes with being a good dad to his young son Preston.

As much as Lee loves Test cricket, he, like many of his team-mates, is faced with a tougher decision than those who have gone before. The international calendar has changed dramatically with the advent of the lucrative Twenty20 tournaments around the world. It is no longer imperative to have a board contract to make a living and this is resulting in those close to retirement, and fast bowlers in particular, reassessing their plans. Brett Lee has decided that if he gives Test cricket away, he has a chance of making an impact in ODIs and Twenty20.

He retires as Australia's fourth-highest Test wicket-taker - he took 310 wickets in 76 Tests. His contribution while playing in the world's best cricket team for over a decade will give him immense satisfaction. While Australia don't have a super-fast replacement for Lee, there is no doubt that the very healthy first-class competition will continue to produce hardworking and effective replacements, like Mitchell Johnson, Doug Bollinger, Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle. The cupboard is certainly not bare. Brett Lee has brought to Australian cricket the excitement that goes with watching a seriously fast bowler. He falls into the same category as Shoaib Akhtar and Dale Steyn - super fast and aggressive. His Test career may be over but expect to see him bowling and hitting out in the limited-over formats.

Are fast bowlers a dying breed?
There are some experts who are worried that fast bowlers are a dying breed. They argue that too much cricket and not enough recovery time is killing them off and that the balance has shifted in favour of batsmen over the years. There is no doubt that this is partially true. The advent of the helmet has certainly reduced the test of courage and bats are far better than they were. It is up to those of us who know the game to come up with answers that address the problems that unsettle the balance between bat and ball. Fast bowlers flourish on fast, bouncy pitches, so all we have to do is see to it that pitches around the world are, in the main, hard and not devoid of surface grass. This past season in Australia groundsmen were instructed to prepare normal pitches but to leave more surface grass on the pitches. The pitches were wonderful, and we saw plenty of good cricket. Flat pitches, like many in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the West Indies, allow batsmen to dominate and the result is often boring. Again, we are in the hands of the administrators of the game. If they don't take action nothing will change.

Premature retirements
It amazes me that cricket lovers and some administrators are surprised that cricketers are announcing their retirement from Test cricket in order to prolong their ODI and Twenty20 careers. Let's try to get all this into perspective. Since World Series Cricket back in the late seventies, the financial position of cricketers has continued to improve. As a result top players are playing well into their thirties, and in some cases forties, to take full advantage of the wealth on offer. As they find it more difficult to handle the hectic programme, something has to give, so it's natural that the toughest and most time-consuming format of the game, Test cricket, is the victim. Giving away Tests gives top players more recovery time, while also allowing them to play in all the limited-overs internationals. It also gives them a better opportunity to play in the IPL and to cherry pick the other Twenty20 domestic competitions around the world, in an effort to ensure they have a team to play for in the lucrative Champions League. It's all about money, and the IPL is the biggest money spinner.

Let's face it, cricket administrators don't know how to handle the new cricket landscape. India have already managed to wrestle from the world game a window of two months in which to play the IPL, but more importantly they have set up a franchise system which is able to offer overseas players financial incentives to play. The whole model is based on television revenue, and every cricket nation is now faced with the prospect of losing their best players to India's IPL for no financial return whatever. It's only a question of time before all this will come to a head, and when it does India will be asked to make concessions, but it may well be too late. Ultimately the players will decide what is best. Do they want to continue to be contracted to their respective boards, and in so doing do as they say or will they choose the freelance option? Some will stay and others will go as they are now, but there can be no doubt that the game as we know it will change unless the all powerful Indian board decides or is forced to adopt a different approach.

"Let's face it, cricket administrators don't know how to handle the new cricket landscape"

The IPL and security issues
The security for foreign players during the IPL has again become a talking point, and there are many players who are apprehensive about taking part in this year's tournament. Regrettably, we live in an age where no government or cricket board is in a position to give meaningful guarantees to players. They do, however, have to listen to the concerns of the players and do their best to implement their requirements. The attack on the Sri Lankan players in Lahore has ensured that it is no longer acceptable to put in place minimal security arrangements. Hotel and ground security has to be top-class and appropriate convoy procedures have to be in place when teams are moved between airports, hotels and grounds. Another player-related incident in India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka will have a shattering effect on cricket in the region.

It's far too easy to accept that the security threat is a modern reality. As far as I am concerned it's an individual thing and I can see a time when cricket authorities the world over will be left with no option other than to allow players to make their own decisions without there being any repercussions. We could even see a situation arise where players who agree to go to places that are dangerous will receive more of a financial incentive for doing so. If, for example, Pakistan wanted to play a World XI in Pakistan in an effort to get some decent home games, they would, I am sure, succeed in putting a team together but it would be expensive. It's also worth noting that the more the cricketers rely on the IPL for a living, the more likely it is that these players will go to India regardless of the threat.

Saving Test cricket in India
Recently Rahul Dravid bought into the cricket-calendar debate and what he had to say was interesting and will raise a few hackles in India. Dravid wants India to adopt a similar approach to their scheduling to that of Australia, South Africa and England. He actually went a step further and suggested that India should use their clout to lead the debate. Great idea, but I am not going to hold my breath because it seems to me that while India holds the financial trumps they will continue to adopt a divide-and-separate philosophy. There are so many issues that need to be resolved before cricket settles down to a period of peace and prosperity. For this to happen the game needs leadership, which has to come from India or it will simply not happen. A rolling programme has to be devised which takes into consideration the requirements of everyone in the cricket family. Such changes don't usually come about until a disaster occurs. It's rather like an alcoholic - there is usually the downhill slide, and then comes the call for help, and the recognition that there is a problem; thereafter it's usually plain sailing.

Comments: 24 
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Posted by Nitin on (March 4, 2010, 11:19 GMT)

Why do people keep comparing Bradman & Tendulkar!?! Bradman played mainly against 1-2 opposition, in very few countries (thereby not in varying conditions) and the fielding standards were low at best. He however played without any protective gear, on uncovered pitches, with much less sophisiticated equipment (bats, gloves etc.) and with rules not favouring the batsmen so much. Tendulkar has played in very very different circumstances (11 test playing nations, more than 11 countries, great fielding standards, amazing protective gear and equipment and rules favouring the batsmen majorly). Any comparison in this situation is futile - can you guys understand!?! Even Tendulkar's 200 shouldn't be compared with Anwar's (Anwar had a runner for a large part of the innings and had no batting powerplay - all these factors make a huge difference please!).

Posted by Harish on (March 3, 2010, 11:58 GMT)

Sachin's not better than Bradman! I've been a fan of Sachin since I was 7 and I'll probably lose interest in the game post his retirement (the emergence of T20 - that abomination to the game- has helped that decision). Let's make one thing clear: All discussions of greatness when it comes to Test Batsmen, everyone vies for 2nd place. The Don is the greatest. Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards, Garry Sobers, Sunil Gavaskar, Viv Richards, Wally Hammond and even Haydos and Punter all fight for 2nd place. I'd probably rate Sachin 3rd. Pollock is 2nd, Richards is 4th, Gavaskar 5th, Viv 6th and Hammond 7th. These rankings are open for debate and depend on personal choice. But for cricket's sake, stop saying ANYONE is better than Bradman. That's absurd.

Posted by Nathan on (March 3, 2010, 2:35 GMT)

To all the 'experts' stating that Tendulkar is better than the Don (much better than even 4 Dons according to FanCric ...), could they please explain why Bradman's Test average is about 44 runs greater than Tendulkar's?? FORTY FOUR RUNS GREATER!!! Some comments here are statistically comparable to saying Mcgrath is a better batsman than Ponting. And the usual suspects will chime in with 'Bradman only played a few opponents, different pitches, etc etc etc', but if ANY of those factors that the Tendulkar worshippers like to cite made such a difference, why did no one else from Bradman's era score so highly? If people want to deify a mortal cricketer, go ahead, but please base your analysis on facts and reality, so that hopefully I won't have to read so many laughable, ignorant comparisons in the future.

Posted by Siva on (March 2, 2010, 16:51 GMT)

No comments about the Kolkata test! An excellent test match between two top ranking teams, played with competitive spirit on a good test pitch with several commendable individual performances. A valiant effort from the Indian team coming from behind after losing the first test and winning the match to retain their no.1 spot in the test ranking. Alas, no mention at all; yet there is mention of one day match performance, 20/20 issues by the very person who worries about the death of test cricket because of too many 20/20 matches. I don't understand the logic behind these inconsistent, often contradicting expert comments. God save us from expert commentators!

Posted by Satyajit on (March 2, 2010, 16:30 GMT)

I think the comparison of Don with Sachin in quite unnecessary as they are from very different eras. This is nice coming from Sachin, "It is unfair to make comparisons. I have never believed in comparisons, because I respect every individual. That is how I looked at life, not only in cricket but off the field as well. Every individual has his own identity and I am not only talking about Sir Don but all the other players who have played for a long time at the international level. They all have made huge sacrifices, and along with them their families have also made sacrifices; we need to respect that. We need to value rather than compare them with someone or the other".

Posted by Madhusudhan on (March 2, 2010, 15:38 GMT)

Never ever compare Sachin with Bradman. Even Four Bradman's cannot come close to Sachin!

Posted by eddy on (March 2, 2010, 13:16 GMT)

@ neil247.excuse me sir but are you seriously saying that because SRT scored 200 in a ODI he now overtakes the DON?????????? There is the DON then....(tendulkar, lara, richards) in no particular order. When VIV retired in 1990 people said he was the greatest, over time the genius of the DON was again realised and it became the Don then VIV. Then when Lara retired in 2006 he was the record holder of most runs in test cricket, biggest score and highest 1st class score. Many thought he was the greatest. Now im hearing the same nonsense about Tendulkar. A 99 avg says it all. case closed.

Posted by Neil on (March 2, 2010, 6:46 GMT)

Move over Don Bradman. Sachin Tendulkar is now the Greatest batsman of all time.

Posted by Cric on (March 2, 2010, 4:15 GMT)

Really nice one on Sachin, worth reading

Posted by Kannan on (March 2, 2010, 4:02 GMT)

Individuals win matches, teams win championships! India and Pakistan are still under-developed in cricket in that they still rely on individual performances rather than cohesive team performance as a unit to bring about consistency. Without doubt Australia plays as a team not only in cricket but even in hockey. Playing as a team involves leveraging the strengths of all individuals in a given situation so as to bring about the best results. Creating a team involves therefore involves development of all activities that the team do, to the acceptable benchmarked levels of competence. Coaching and training become critical to do this and to consciously iron out weak chinks! When India moves in this direction, a lot of countries will follow suit and cricket will really blossom. Else it'll be the story of hockey, when you suddenly wake up 20 years later and find that you aren't even in the top-10. Indian audiences aren't dumb. They'll appreciate performance when they see it!

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