England in India 2008-09 November 22, 2008

Whom will Tendulkar replace?

Cricinfo staff

Blue hue: The Virender Sehwag-Sachin Tendulkar combo will be reunited for the first time since February © Getty Images

Nearly nine months out of the one-day game, and into his 20th year of international cricket, the Sachin Tendulkar caravan just rumbles on and, on Sunday, it will give England something different to think about as they seek to stay alive in this seven-match series. After playing a significant role in India's 2-0 Test series win over Australia, Tendulkar opted for some rest, but Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium will see his return to non-IPL coloured clothes.

A man with 42 centuries and 16,361 runs, and who redefined the opener's role in limited-overs cricket, should never have to prove anything but it'll be interesting to see how India re-jig their batting order to accommodate him. Great one-day batsmen have been either relentless accumulators or others impetuous destroyers. Tendulkar has combined both qualities to devastating effect ever since that Auckland morning when India decided to take a punt on him at the top of the order.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni gave every indication on Saturday afternoon that Tendulkar will open with Virender Sehwag, with Gautam Gambhir moving down to the No.3 slot that he made his own during the CB Series in Australia earlier this year.

"I'd prefer it if Sachin opens with Sehwag. We have tried that and you can say that is an option," said Dhoni. "Yes, tampering with a successful line-up is something you have to think twice before doing, but you also have to see the quality of the player coming in.

"Sachin needed a bit of rest and he is the person who knows his body the best. We want him to play as long as possible and whenever he is available he should play. He has played his part in Indian cricket and it's up to the emerging players to get the most out of him. The more he plays, the more it benefits the youngsters."

While some murmurs will be raised about the wisdom behind breaking up a pair - Sehwag and Gambhir - that has had so much success in recent times in both forms of the game, there's no denying that Tendulkar and Sehwag have quite a history. In 83 games together, they have combined for 10 century partnerships and 11 in excess of 50 while averaging 37.93. The only reason the duo didn't attract more attention was because Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly were such an institution - 26 three-figure partnerships in 176 games.

Where does this leave a squad that's won three games on the bounce though? Most captains are loathe to change a winning formula, except for reasons of fatigue, and it'll be illuminating to see whether Dhoni accommodates both Tendulkar and Irfan Pathan - one of the subjects of an alleged selection skirmish after the Kanpur game - in the XI. It's hard to see how Pathan can come in unless Zaheer Khan is given a rest after his recent labours. Munaf Patel has just struck a nice rhythm after being an onlooker for the Australia Tests, and Ishant Sharma will be eying some overs in the middle with a Test series to come next month.

Whose place does Tendulkar take though? Gambhir is comfortable batting anywhere in the top three, while Tendulkar's preference for opening has been well-documented. The man almost certain to miss out is Rohit Sharma, whose recent form has been indifferent at best. In 14 games dating back to the Asia Cup, Rohit averages 20.90, with just one half-century. Suresh Raina has averaged 44.38 in the same period and played some crucial knocks. His effervescence in the field - not that Rohit is a slouch - should also help him keep his place.

The last time Tendulkar and Sehwag opened together, at Sydney against Australia, they aggregated 19. Sehwag took no further in that series [he had made just 81 from five innings] while Tendulkar finished it in spectacular fashion, with innings of 117 not out and 92 sealing a famous Indian triumph. Robin Uthappa, who will no doubt be watching keenly on Sunday, opened with him then, as India decided not to go for a left-right combination.

The behind-the-scenes shenanigans, described as "disgusting" by Dhoni, are a distraction this India team could have done without. There certainly won't be any complacency on England's part though Kevin Pietersen and his bowlers won't be overly dismayed to see Tendulkar. Though Andy Caddick and a couple of others might have the odd nightmare about bowling to him, he hasn't been as prolific against England as he has against others. Though he averages 42.46 over 34 games, only one of those 42 centuries has come against them.

Bangalore hasn't been a happy hunting ground of late either, with his last two outings fetching 2 and a blob. Provided the rain stays away, all that could just be ancient history for a man who has spent his entire career breaking new ground.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sachin on November 23, 2008, 7:00 GMT

    I must congratulate media on doing a tremendous job of brainwashing/hardselling about the future of "seniors"!! Why are people talking that "seniors" should retire? Remember, Its not one player; it's a bunch of great players with their unique talents, class, performance and experience. I believe each one of them MUST be judged INDEPENDENTLY and based on the performance solely. Gilchrist played his probably best ODI knocks in 2007 (at the age of 37) in the final of the world cup.. Jayasuriya was deadly in T20 IPL series..He was 38 then. Fellow fans, please don't get carried away by the "branding" as "seniors". Sachin has been an awesome player and still is. Rohit has failed in approx. 9/10 chances. Let's give him a break. He needs to understand, learn and master the game ALL round like Sachin has. He must EARN his spot. So for now, the performer Sachin is the right choice. I am sure Rohit will mature in the due course... Let's enjoy vintage Sachin for now...Cheers!!

  • Ajanthan on November 23, 2008, 6:43 GMT

    It does not make sense to break a partnership (Shewag & Gambir) that has been doing so well and thats the future of Indian cricket. "The best player must bat maximum overs" thats correct but that should be in the best interest of the game and the team, not the individual. Looking from this point of view, its important that the opening pair is not changed and a great player like Sachin should be able to bat in the middle order. If at all India has problem in the middle order with the form of Rohit Sharma, I don't see the effectiveness of Sachin replacing someone in the middle-order but opening the innigs.

  • Sankara on November 23, 2008, 6:38 GMT

    Unfotunately, it is our habit to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Whats the difference between a gambhir opening the innings or Sachin. For ages we have been worshipping individuals and not the team and it has got us to make gods out of humans. From a statistical point of view - an average of 37.22 vs. 44.33, from a behavior point of view, atleast it has got us to a point where every mortal is trying to reach thve greatness of the immortal, then why at this stage go back to the same stage as it was before it even dreamed of winning an overseas test/ODI. Dhoni is right, Sachin should make the choices on when he wants to play or not. People might say, you are wasting young talent (I saw a comparison to the out of form Kapil Dev who was in the team for reasons unknown) I dont think the same is true for Sachin, On any day I would pick Sachin over any other person, 3-0lead or no lead. The spirit of the man towards cricket is worthy of respect, lets hope it infects as much as possible

  • Avinash on November 23, 2008, 6:37 GMT

    It's no doubt that Tendulkar is getting older. But c'mon guys he is still contributing and he is doing it in style. Gambhir has proved himself at No. 3 also. So why not let the trio handle the top order. Who knew that India were going to win the first 3 matches?? Mr Truth, it was cheap to say that he purposely opted out initially and then decide later whether he will comeback or not... If that was the case then he would have opted out in the CBSERIES finals!!! Of course youngsters should be given a chance but I think it's the bowlers who need to be tested more rather than batsmen. We still do not have consistent pace bowlers. Don't forget Zaheer was too good(like now) before WC2003 finals but it was his first over that cost us the cup. So stop going against Sachin.

  • Ajay on November 23, 2008, 6:33 GMT

    Indian cricket captain and coach messed with IRFAN PATHAN's career when they decided him to promote in batting order when specialist batsmen did not want risk their position in team. This effected Pathan's bowling and the person who once match winner for India has to sit out.

  • Gaurav on November 23, 2008, 6:31 GMT

    All what you guyz are saying is correct but I dont see sachin retiring before World Cup 2011. It is his biggest unfulfilled dream to get the cup back to india and if his fitness permits he will not hear anybody else and do what he wishes to do. and I totally support him on this.

  • Nilangsu on November 23, 2008, 6:03 GMT

    Theoretically, every player should win his place in the team, whoever he is. When the going got tough in Australia, we saw who saved the team with two match-winning innings in consecutive matches. His name is Sachin, Sachin Tendulkar. Not the young guns like Sharma, Raina or Gambhir.

    Gambhir, for all his attacking attitude, can't score runs nearly as fast as Sachin. The reason is talent. Period.

    Also, Sachin should open, because the best player should open. You don't need solidity in the middle when you have solidity at the top !

    Those who talk about age, should look at ability. They should look at Hayden, Jayasuriya and Lara. Or even, to go back a little, Gavaskar. He svored his first 100 at 37.

    The Master scores more runs faster than others when it matters. That's why he should stay. Till he brings the 2011 World Cup home. He has been trying for a long time, but hasn't because of lack of support. This time around, the support seems to be there, We'll see.

  • Milind on November 23, 2008, 5:49 GMT

    MrTRuth says - "Why was Tendulkar out when England had strong bowling lineup of Harmison and Flintoff. Now they are not successful in this series it seems like he is aching to come back to cash on it, just to push his records. My two cents!!!"

    Those two cents are mostly likely Zimbabwe cents - a country whose current inflation rate is 200 million %, i.e., not worth anything at all. Only someone living in alternate reality would argue that Sachin is aching to come back to "cash in" on Flintoff and Harmison's poor form. Where have you been for the past two decades, dude?

  • paul on November 23, 2008, 4:44 GMT

    I think we should not change the winning side.of course,tendlukar is a awesome player but he should give chance to the younger side to explore them.he should think of the future how the these youngmen compete with others.i sugest bcci to trust,listen to dhoni.he is making his tracks to the sucess.ghambir should open the innings.noone should disturb him.he is onroll.

  • Shashank on November 23, 2008, 4:40 GMT

    To people like "Radical Thought". Look up the ODI series in the last couple of years. Sachin has been among the top two Indian scorers in every single one of them--even when we had these "youngsters". He belongs in the team because he earned it. Raina and Rohit are both extremely talented but they still have to make their mark in terms of consistency. At his "age", Sachin still takes their behinds in terms of scoring, and at their age, he was a monolith. Please stop making arguments based on emotional banter. The facts suggest that Sachin should be in the team, the shuffling should happen elsewhere. Period.

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