November 8, 2009

Sachin's mind is still strong

More than a decade after his exploits in Sharjah, Tendulkar has proved he still has the spirit of old

On a couple of balmy nights in Sharjah in 1998, Sachin Tendulkar carved out successive scintillating centuries against Australia to convince those of the men in gold who weren't believers that he was the best batsman in the world.

More than a decade later Tendulkar has converted a whole new set of Australian non-believers with a mercurial ODI century in Hyderabad. Well, that's actually not quite true. Ricky Ponting was in attendance in Sharjah, and for him Tendulkar just reconfirmed his great skill and tenacity.

As the opposing captain, Ponting was constantly plotting Tendulkar's downfall in Hyderabad, and it came in the nick of time to seal an Australian victory that for a time looked like it would be snatched away by one man. As the third, along with West Indies' champion Brian Lara, in what was a three-way battle for the batting crown, Ponting would've appreciated, if not welcomed, Tendulkar's mastery.

One of the more amazing things about Lara was his remarkable feat in recapturing the world record 10 years after he first established the high-water mark. Longevity isn't the hallmark of greatness but it's a requirement.

Not that Tendulkar needed another century to convince anyone of his prowess, but a masterful knock like the Hyderabad one was a timely reminder that he still has a few great innings left. That's the main difference between the Tendulkar of today and a decade ago.

In Sharjah he belted the Australian bowlers all over the park to get his team into the final, and then followed it up two days later with an equally dynamic showing to win the big prize. Now the hard part will be reprising his starring role in Guwahati when his body is still recovering from Hyderabad.

Tendulkar did prove one thing in Hyderabad: the mind is still willing. He displayed the same fighting spirit that was evident in Sharjah, the same desire to trump the opposition, and amazingly, his strike rate was better than in both of those 1998 gems. "I can't concentrate like I used to," I recall Greg Chappell saying near the end of his illustrious career. "I can still apply myself occasionally, but other days it's just a battle." And he was a strong-minded batsman.

Tendulkar is a strong-minded person but that isn't what defines his batting. His is more a mercurial attitude that allows him to sense the moment when to let loose his full array of shots and leave the bowlers clutching at straws. Straws that in his pomp were whisked away by a whirlwind of shots.

Tendulkar's is a mercurial attitude that allows him to sense the moment when to let loose his full array of shots and leave the bowlers clutching at straws caption:

In recent times Tendulkar's batting has gained a mortal quality. He often has to battle and graft for runs, like a 40-average batsman. The fact that even in that mode he still churns out centuries, like a press printing 10-rupee notes, is a testament to his greatness. However, occasionally all the magic returns and on that day he can light up a cricket ground, the way he did in Hyderabad. The cover drive flows, the flick off the pads races to the boundary and the short-of-a-length delivery is punched off the back foot, while fieldsmen are left grasping at fresh air.

In batting maturity Tendulkar resorts to more deft deflections and little glides to third man but they are as much about resting tiring muscles at the non-striker's end as any concession to the bowlers' ability. He's also moved with the times and is now more likely to upper-cut a short-pitched delivery rather than employ the hook shot. He even indulges in the premeditated shovel shot over the short fine-leg fielder's head. It was one of those that ended his epic innings in Hyderabad, just short of him achieving deity and a thrilling Indian victory.

There will be nit-pickers who say, "There he goes again. Tendulkar succeeds but India fails to claim victory. That's the difference between him and Lara." The difference appears to be that Lara had a ruthless streak when it came to winning the match, while for Tendulkar one more risk is never too many.

To me the only disappointment is that 11 years after Sharjah, the Indian batting is still so heavily dependent on Tendulkar. After all his magical displays you'd think some of the next-generation batsmen would be clamouring to imitate Tendulkar's starring roles rather than being content to play the bit part in the shadow of the little master.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nikhil on November 10, 2009, 21:38 GMT

    What a player! Tony Greig's voice still rings in my ears every single time I watch, or as is the case these days, follow the exploits of the great man Sachin Tendulkar online, ever since those two blinders he played in Sharjah . Not even a single game was let gone before his captain's salvo at a misfiring top order was answered in a magical innings that only a player of Tendulkar's class can conjure. To do that while chasing 350 under lights, against the mighty, though depleted oz, speaks volumes about how the greatest player to play for India these past two decades is in a league of his own and how far the next crop of players have to go before they reach the same levels of greatness.

  • Valavan on November 10, 2009, 20:24 GMT

    Mr.Akhil Joey.

    Keep in mind, openers have no pressure :). Then i must say Sanath jayasuriya is the greatest batsman for the reason that he always win games for Sri Lanka. A Batsman becomes great when he plays according to situation with his head above his neck and win matches for his home. Micheal Bevan has won match from 36 /6 to 181 / 9, Did Mr.Sachin have even done that?? Of course in Pepsi Cup 1998, Bevan always made at No:4, Thats same with Sir Viv Richards, he comes immediately at pressure and be there till the final hurdle, Lara have always played 2 down. Where did SRT go on Guwahati ODI, on early moisture pitch, with some assistance to bowler, why didnt he grind innings to win for INDIA, his most ODI centuries came in belters, I think u never forgot 2002/03 ODI series between IND Vs WI, we witnessed GAYLE singlehandedly won the series, LARA is always a step ahead of SACHIN.

  • Umair on November 10, 2009, 20:19 GMT

    Talking about the best batsman we all are forgetting about the greatest of all time: Sir Viv Richards. Just checked out the stats and I was shocked to see that even in those times he maintained an average of 47 and strike rate of 90 (in ODIs). Playing on those uncovered pitches against better bowlers (Lillie, Thomson, Imran, Kapil) with lighter bats and bigger boundaries and then possessing such a record is a great great feat. We bow down in praise Sir Vivian Richards

    Long live the greatest legend of BATTING!!

  • Umair on November 10, 2009, 20:11 GMT

    @akhil_joey It is important to keep an isentical frame of reference when talking on comparisons. Lara cannot have billion people having expectations from him so it is no wrong doing from him in this case. When we compare greatness we compare batsmen and their innings! Sachin performs well not because billion people are expecting from him but because he is a great player with high skill levels. As far as that theory goes and skill levels being compared the crowd factor gets left out. In that perspective class of Lara and hundreds he made had more impact than those of Sachins.

  • Ashraf on November 10, 2009, 18:54 GMT

    @akhil_joey : what u said was correct.. I agree tendulkar has imnse pressure to perform everytime for the spectators... But to me Lara was just a more special batsman, he played counter-attacking innings that u can whatch again and again...The shots he played were just too amazing... and that too against every bowling attack... He has punished australians, but also south african, pakistanis, sri lankans... That was just wonderfoul how he played murli, warne and more recently how he hit kaneria...

  • K. on November 10, 2009, 16:07 GMT

    Some other great articles I just read recently about the one and only Sachin Tendulkar- The Best and Greatest Batsman EVER : 1)Sachin Tendulkar: End is nigh but he's not done just yet - by Paul Moon 2)Tendulkar is top of my bat pack- Nasser Hussain 3)Born to bat - Peter Roebuck. All great articles on the Greatest batsman of all time.

  • Akhil on November 10, 2009, 15:14 GMT

    @vansan - ithink the whole topic of discussion was who is a greatest batsman an not who is the greatest finisher.Ofcourse Bevan was the greatest finisher but if you understand the game of cricket the openers have a lot less chance of finishing a game as compared to batsman coming down on 3rd of 4th wicket thats how the game is..i wish to prove your stats wrong sachin plays at 5th wicket to finish matches...(in case you dont is played in a team of 11 players, so its a team game..not about openers or finishers..duh!)

  • Akhil on November 10, 2009, 15:09 GMT

    @afridi - when it comes to sachin vs lara, I agree both are this generations master batsmen. But when it comes down to comparing both, the sheer pressure and expectation sachin plays under is huge compared to any other sportsman in the world. He carries a a billion expectations from a cricket crazy country. Lara or pointing never had to wear this burden neither in their early career nor now.That responsibility makes a huge difference..and for sachin to play for two decades wearing that burden is huge ask itself. Infact if sachin has a one bad series today, he is most likely to be chopped off from the team or 'given rest'. So playing for India is a big task and that too for two decades is unbelievable.

  • Tshepo on November 10, 2009, 11:29 GMT

    I think if you look at the 3 batsman you would have to say that the criteria you use to judge them will ultimately decide who you perceive as the greatest among greats. Lara was the most prolific accumulator of runs. Scores of 400, 375 and even 500 can atest to a man who on his day was simply unstopable. Sachin the most prolific of them when it comes to mass of runs, longevity and concentration, he for me will probably end up being the greatest all time scorer of all time cos I dnt see him retiring before he's sure that pointing won't beat his mark. Then pointing if ever there was a batsman who could boast such success not only personally but also team wise id have to say in my era if there was eva a batsman id want at the crease when everything was on the line then pointing would always b top of my list ive witnessed him seamingly control games and ensure aus remain the team to beat even now. But really there is very little that can seperate 3 batsman of such high quality

  • Ashraf on November 10, 2009, 9:11 GMT

    This is a debate that comes on everytime... But i really do think there should not be any comparaisons between lara, tendulkar and ponting... simply because they re uncomparable... Lara is way better than tendulkar, and tendulkar is so far way better than ponting... If someone has any doubt over my statment that lara is way better than tendulkar, i just want you to sit and compare everyyyy century by these two and you will have your awnser. (don't look records vs bangladesh and zimbabwe and they will have nearly as many centuries, so the comparaison will be easier). Most of the time brian lara was the only century scorer for his team, he scores about half of his teams run when he scores hundred, he always comes in with 2 qucik wickets down and the rest of the line up also not scoring anything. Whereas tendulkar always have great support by other batsmen, that be before him or after him in the line up. But just check the way in which they both scores their centuries... should be enough

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