'Sachin a better captain than his results showed' - Ganguly
Former India captain Sourav Ganguly has said that Sachin Tendulkar was a better leader than people made him out to be, considering the circumstances under which he captained.
In an article featured in ESPNcricinfo's new anthology, Sachin Tendulkar: The Man Cricket Loved Back, Ganguly writes: "He led on some very tough tours - South Africa, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Australia - and it must be said he didn't lose eight in a row. This when he didn't have a very good team around him. The older players were fading and the newcomers were too raw."
Ganguly, who captained Tendulkar in 143 of the 341 international matches in which the two played together, also writes of the necessity of making allowances for exceptional players like Tendulkar.
"When it came to being Sachin's captain, it was about giving him due respect: treating him like a team-mate but also as the special player he was. He was central to the side doing well. He had to feel relaxed and comfortable."
Tendulkar was unhappy, Ganguly writes, about having to bat at No. 4 in ODIs in 2002-03. "You say, please, do it for a short while; of course you'll be back up, let's see how long it goes. Once he settled down to the idea and saw it work, it was fine. When things went a bit wobbly at the 2003 World Cup, he was back up straight away."
The book contains tributes from other team-mates and coaches who played and worked with Tendulkar, among them Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, John Wright and Greg Chappell.
Dravid, who made a record 6920 Test runs with Tendulkar, writes of how the two had an inauspicious start, when, in their first time batting together in an international, in Singapore in 1996, Dravid was run out. "It wasn't a sign of things to come, though," he continues. "Only three of our 143 partnerships in Test cricket would end as run-outs."
The two played 391 internationals together and developed an almost intuitive understanding of each other's game. "One sure indicator that [Tendulkar] was in good touch was when he played the flick to the leg side," Dravid writes. "Cricket is a game where you naturally have more fielders on the off side, and especially in limited-overs cricket, bowlers like to bowl tight lines… [Tendulkar] would be on his toes, on top of the bounce, and would often beat midwicket to the fielder's right. Sometimes he even beat square leg to his right with that flick, not to the full ball but the ones pitched short of a length. That made you marvel from the other end."
John Wright, who coached India from 2000 to 2005, and also worked with Tendulkar at Mumbai Indians, speaks in the book of Tendulkar's respect for the game and the intensity he brought to his preparation. "A net practice to Sachin was a learning, part of his development as a batsman, which extended to what happened at the game that followed. He was his own coach and his own trainer.
"The time he spent with cricket, he spent with utter focus. [He was] never late - whether for the bus, meetings or nets. It was like going to church or to school; there's no negotiating those timetables. So it was with Sachin's training. The nets were his laboratory, his studio, and once there, he immersed himself."
The book contains analyses of Tendulkar's technique by Aakash Chopra, VVS Laxman, Sanjay Manjrekar, Allan Donald, Mukul Kesavan and Greg Chappell among others.
"What characterised a Tendulkar innings for me was balance and efficiency," Chappell, who coached India in the mid-2000s, writes. "He was rarely rushed, and even the best bowlers found it difficult to keep him quiet for long.
"The cut was my favourite [Tendulkar] shot because he always took the ball at the top of the bounce and struck it with a slightly downward blow, with his weight coming back into the ball. He rarely mistimed the stroke, which says that his reading of length was impeccable."
The book features interviews with Tendulkar down the years (including a joint one with Brian Lara), and articles by a number of leading cricket writers, among them Gideon Haigh, Suresh Menon, Harsha Bhogle, Sharda Ugra, Sidharth Monga, Rahul Bhattacharya, Jon Hotten and Ayaz Memon. The fourth book from ESPNcricinfo, it is published by Penguin Books India, and is available in hard cover and as an ebook.