India v South Africa, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 2nd day February 15, 2010

A meeting of generations

S Aga
Despite cricket's following increasing manifold since Sachin Tendulkar made his debut, Virender Sehwag remains the only one of the generation that watched him avidly to mature into a truly world-class batsman

If Sachin Tendulkar was the face of Indian cricket in the liberalisation-satellite TV era, then no one epitomises the Internet-Twitter generation quite like Virender Sehwag. Tendulkar grew up idolising the 1983 World Cup heroes. Sehwag grew up wanting to be Tendulkar. And despite the following for the game increasingly manifold since Tendulkar made his debut as a 16-year-old, Sehwag remains the only one of the generation that watched him avidly to mature into a truly world-class batsman. Initially regarded as a Tendulkar clone, he has since gone on to traverse paths that no other player has. They said of Victor Trumper that he batted to his own tempo. So does Sehwag, with beats so accelerated that they can drive bowlers insane.

Despite both of them batting in the top four, there have been few significant partnerships between the role model and the maverick follower. Tendulkar has shared a remarkable 17 century stands with Rahul Dravid, and 12 with Sourav Ganguly. With Sehwag, this was only his fourth. Yet, on the rare occasions when they do bat together, the opposition usually has cause to regret it. Of the Indian pairs that have batted more than 10 innings together, Sehwag and Tendulkar have an average (75.22) behind Tendulkar and Navjot Singh Sidhu (77.81) and Pankaj Roy and Vijay Manjrekar (76.18).

When Tendulkar arrived at the crease on Monday morning, there was plenty to do. The pure adrenaline of the opening partnership had given way to serious concern after a needless run out and a fine delivery from Morne Morkel to Murali Vijay. The dressing-room mood would have been even worse at lunch had JP Duminy not put down a fairly straightforward chance at slip with Sehwag on 47.

Seeds of doubt seldom germinate in the Sehwag mind though. After lunch, it was as though he had started again with a clean slate. Kallis was clipped through square leg, while Dale Steyn - who claimed to have worked him out before the series began - was cut and then stroked through midwicket. Paul Harris was watched for a few deliveries before the slog sweep came out and deposited the ball over the rope at deep midwicket.

At the other end, Tendulkar was doing what he does so well these days, nudging the score along almost imperceptibly. A guide behind point and a superb square-drive off Steyn, and beautifully timed clips through midwicket off Morkel and Harris. As Corrie van Zyl, South Africa's coach admitted afterwards, it was all very unsettling, especially with the typically vocal Kolkata crowd roaring on their heroes.

Each time the South Africa looked like reining in a rampant run-rate, Sehwag would unleash a booming drive through cover, or infuriate Harris by reverse-sweeping from well outside leg stump. It took him just 87 balls to bring up a fourth consecutive hundred in home Tests, and further mock those that once wrote him off a flat-track bully and slogger.

This was no one-paced innings though. At several points during the afternoon, Sehwag took a step back, avoiding the overly ambitious and allowing Tendulkar to find the gaps in the field. When he did give Harris the charge after tea and AB de Villiers fluffed a simple stumping with his score on 129, it was the signal for a period of introspection. His first four after the interval, a cover-drive that burst through Hashim Amla's hands at cover, came only after he had faced 30 balls in the session.

Tendulkar has shared a remarkable 17 century stands with Rahul Dravid, and 12 with Sourav Ganguly. With Sehwag, this was only his fourth. Of the Indian pairs that have batted more than 10 innings together, Sehwag and Tendulkar have an average (75.22) second only to Tendulkar and Navjot Singh Sidhu (77.81)

Tendulkar, who now has five centuries in his last seven Tests, saw a few deliveries snake past the outside edge, but didn't so much as give a chance. Watching him bat these can be a demoralising experience for those on the other side. He knows his game so well, and seldom does anything more than is required. The Russian-roulette kind of strokes that are almost obligatory in a Sehwag innings are nowhere to be found once he gets set.

Yet, despite the overwhelming impression that his was a supporting act, Tendulkar scored only 13 runs fewer than Sehwag during the course of the 249-run partnership. It will irritate him hugely that Sehwag's exit was the precursor to his own, allowing South Africa a route back into a game that appeared to have slipped beyond outstretched fingers at 4pm.

When either of these two bat with Dravid, the clash of styles is easily apparent. Here, you could see some of the similarities, especially the stillness when the ball is bowled and the bat-flow when the ball is sent speeding through the covers, but the differences were also apparent. With Sehwag, every lull seems to precede a stroke-making storm. With Tendulkar these days, as opposed to the man who eviscerated Shane Warne at Chennai and Bangalore in 1998, patience is a weapon used to wear down bowlers.

Between them, they ensured that the bulk of the second day belonged to India. No one should trash Vijay or S Badrinath on the basis of one innings, but the manner in which they were sorted out by bowlers that Sehwag and Tendulkar had handled with some aplomb tells you all you need to know about the difference between the highest echelons and domestic cricket. It's difficult to flourish in the shadow of greatness and that's all the more reason to savour it while it's around, gracing venues like the Eden Gardens.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • alan mathew on February 17, 2010, 12:24 GMT

    sachin is without any doubt the best cricketer ever and sehwag a growing talent who is really a super star. and if they both join together india can climb up the skies easyily.

  • Ravi on February 16, 2010, 6:56 GMT

    @Markvosk... dude u need to look at Sehwag's record once again..FYI he has scored 3 centuries in 5 tests in Australia, as well as centuries in SA & Eng.. he has scored against all top teams in tough conditions.... as for the batting of the master and his maverick follower.. it was just beautiful llike a symphony.. Sachin casts such an assuring figure dese days.. We feel honored that Sachin made his debut in Pakistan... he z the sole reason for me watching n playing cricket.. dont know how it will be wen he retires... n Sehwag is well on his way in becoming the all time greats.. India still needs a lead of over 200. Amla is in great form and u cant expect Kallis to play a rash shot again.. still it will be tough for SA.. all the best India.. n a salute to the two Masters!!

  • Dave on February 16, 2010, 5:57 GMT

    Forgot about Kapil Dev, Harbajhan...the whole `Tendulkar has been the only thing between India and oblivion` is as much rot as the argument you sometimes hear from Aussies about Bradman`s contribution. It`s not only untrue, it`s a great disservice to the slightly less great players they`ve played with.

  • Dummy4 on February 16, 2010, 5:51 GMT

    Well. I think now South Africans understand our batsman. And all other will be expressed in One day match.. lets see..

  • Kaushal on February 16, 2010, 5:50 GMT

    Hi Ronald, there always an on-going debate about Lara, Ponting and Sachin..... Success of Ponting is supported by two facts...1) he is talented 2) he had luxury of some great aussie players in the team, are you suggesting that if in the last 10 years, Ponting was playing for W.I, Bangla. , Eng. or any other team than australia, he would have had the same success ? or you replace Ponting with Tendulkar in aussie team, and surely they would have had the same success..remember Ponting is also one of the few captains who lost Ashes twice, inspite of hit best efforts as captain and batsman..their excuse was they had a young team or missing great players...there's one deniable fact that Australia have been gifted by great players in one team...but it's shaky now..also one fact that people ignore the debate is the 200+ int. wickets taken by Sachin..unfortunately for Sachin, he brings India so close single-handedly in matches that any failure is attributed to him, what about the other 10?

  • Dave on February 16, 2010, 5:48 GMT

    Once again guys(Gk16), no need to exaggerate Sachin`s importance to the team (95%??) to reveal his greatness.For most of his career he has batted with some of the greats of the modern era; Azha, Dravid, Laxman, Ganguly,Sehwag and more recently Gambhir. Anil Kumble (619 test wickets) might also be disappointed to hear that he had no bowling support.He has hardly been a Lara-like lonerider.

  • Goundla on February 16, 2010, 5:21 GMT

    Very True Ronald.....

    Ponting the Player of the Decade..... and Sachin is the Player of the Century. Who else played so consistently, for so long? Remeber, Ponting has Machines like great McGrath and Shane Warne to lift those world cups and test wins.... while Sachin had play with so many dummies around him. And for the sake of captaincy of our times....Ranatunga and Steve Waugh are better then Ponting.

  • raza on February 16, 2010, 5:19 GMT

    "It's difficult to flourish in the shadow of greatness and that's all the more reason to savour it while it's around, gracing venues like the Eden Gardens." What a great finish to a great article about a great of cricket! Many years from now, I'd wish to boast to my kids and grandkids that Sachin endulkar made his ODI debut in my city, Gujranwala; that he hit three sixes in one over of the best legspinner of my country, Abdul Qadir; and that I watched the whole career of Sachin Tendulkar. I cannot imagine watching cricket without Sachin Tedulkar; so, "all the more reason to savour it while it's around". What a great cricketer, and what a great human being.

  • Dave on February 16, 2010, 5:15 GMT

    That being said, you only have to see him walk to the wicket at the SCG and the ovation he receives there, to understand the appreciation Australian cricket fans have for him. Everyone recognises his greatness.

  • Dave on February 16, 2010, 5:10 GMT

    Uchistha, I certainly don`t want to start joining the list of Sachin bashers. Since I started watching cricket as a young lad in the late seventies, he has been one of the true greats - Lara,Viv and maybe Ponting at their best could pip him for brilliance and dominance, if not always consistency. That being said, his record (in terms of average, strike rate, centuries) has not set him apart from other greats of his generation as Bradman`s did and continues to do. Furthermore,in terms of competitiveness, it could be argued that Bradman played more often than Tendulkar did against top-line teams - no Bangladesh, no Zimbabwe, no very weak Sri Lanka in the early years. Finally, with regards Tendulkar`s `mastery` of those fast bowlers you mentioned - he didn`t face the great Windies team of the 80s, his average against Waqar/Wasim Pakistan was 32, as was his average in tests against Aus when McGrath was playing. Nothing to be ashamed of, but far short of mastery.

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