April 9, 2010

Tendulkar transcends the format

To watch the master in Chennai was to be reminded of how he unites India, and also of how his batting has remained pure, even in Twenty20
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The moment the ball soared into the night sky in Chennai from Sachin Tendulkar's bat, nearly 40,000 people, most of them screaming, rose to their feet. The match had swung dramatically Chennai's way after dehydration had forced Tendulkar off the field. Till then, he had been majestic and had kept Mumbai in control but, from 66 for 1 in the ninth over, Mumbai had sunk to 89 for 7 in the 15th. Tendulkar was forced to drag himself back.

Mumbai now needed nearly three runs off every ball to win but for the Chennai fans, as long as Tendulkar remained, there remained the possibility of the win being snatched away.

It wasn't so simple. If that moment when the ball left Tendulkar's bat could have been frozen, a peculiar conflict might have been detected. The Chennai fan would have wanted the ball to land safely in the palms of the long-on fielder; the Indian fan would willed it to travel further.

In the event, Murali Vijay, Chennai's new poster boy, took the catch safely, and the crowd celebrated. Having spent the whole evening among them it was easy for me to sense they would have celebrated even if the ball had landed beyond the rope. In a perfect world, of course, Tendulkar would have taken the game to the last over and Chennai would have won by one run.

The crowd continued clapping as Tendulkar made his way back. It was hard to tell at what point cheering for his wicket merged with simply cheering for him. A man stood up with a poster that reflected the mood. It read: "XI Super Kings v one Superhuman."

They may not demonstrate their devotion as vociferously - or as quietly, as Virender Sehwag found out after scoring his half-century at Eden Gardens - as the Kolkata fans, but franchise loyalty has been strong in Chennai from the very first year of the IPL. Perhaps I chose the wrong match to experience it first-hand: Tendulkar loyalty is a huge counter-balance.

A few months ago Tendulkar antagonised regional chauvinists in Maharashtra by proclaiming that Mumbai belonged to all Indians. To watch him play Chennai in the IPL was to feel the true import of that statement: Tendulkar, Mumbai's proudest possession, belongs to all Indians. MS Dhoni got a big ovation to the crease, a spontaneous cheer broke out when Mike Hussey's image was flashed on the giant screen, and Doug Bollinger found his name chanted when his turn came to bowl. But inevitably Tendulkar received the loudest cheer. They cheered him when he strolled out before the toss, they cheered even louder when he was being interviewed on the square, they cheered when he stopped a ball, and they cheered his boundaries with nearly the same enthusiasm as they did those by their own.

A few months ago Tendulkar antagonised regional chauvinists in Maharashtra by proclaiming that Mumbai belonged to all Indians. To watch him play Chennai in the IPL was to feel the true import of that statement: Tendulkar, Mumbai's proudest possession, belongs to all Indians

And what boundaries those were. There has been zest in Tendulkar's batting in all forms of the game over the last 12 months, and the best thing about his batting in Twenty20 is that it does not lack purity. It has been pointed out how the two leading run-scorers in this year's IPL are orthodox players but Jacques Kallis has often had to go outside his zone - lofts over extra cover, swipes and heaves towards the leg side - whereas Tendulkar has batted almost serenely: the upper cut, the paddled sweep, the lofted drive against the spinners, are all part of his regular fare.

His first five fours against Chennai came off five different strokes. Sudeep Tyagi was driven through the covers off the back foot and pulled behind square, R Ashwin was cut to point, Bollinger was whipped to midwicket from off stump, and Ashwin again was lofted over mid-on. You can tell great players from the way they move into their strokes: Brian Lara, Tendulkar's great rival, was all flow and beautiful arcs; Tendulkar is about precision and balance, and not a muscle out of place.

It is a grossly unfair comparison, but what a contrast it was to watch Saurabh Tiwary, who has been one of the successes for the Mumbai Indians this season, bat with Tendulkar. Tiwari threw all of himself - shoulder, body, feet - into his strokes, often sending the ball in unintended directions. He can sometimes be savage, but he is unlikely to ever provide aesthetic pleasure. Twenty20 is a restricting form, but it takes only one stroke or one ball for great players to distinguish themselves.

Tendulkar couldn't carry Mumbai over the finish line that day. But while he shone, not only did he transcend the limitations of the format, but also the partisanship. While it lasted, it was a happy reminder of the things we adore about cricket.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • knowledge_eater on April 12, 2010, 17:41 GMT

    @Vinaykn and the reason why people are chanting Tendulkar, is because he has answer more question through his cricket compare to all. Because if you ask all the question to same intensity he have answered more question through his bat than all individuals. So, I say freedom of speech should be given to people, who have been less hypocritical and be fair in asking all type of questions. Should be given to people who learn how to respect and appreciate sportsman commitment than their own philosophical chanting. And guess what here is something is going to shock us all: He is still playing cricket. He is not done. I repeat he is not done. I am so glad that we don't have great philosopher and great analyst around like you, which would have killed cricket long time ago. And there wouldn't have been any cricinfo.

  • knowledge_eater on April 12, 2010, 17:30 GMT

    @vinaykn You just made me say this. Its time to answer some question now. Because according to your philosophy and your cricket taste, if I take a look at analysis and ask question all around the whole cricket history, then no cricketer is great cricketer. Right? Because if you care to ask all kind of question that one raises then cricketer will never be call great. Because what one have achieved, others haven't. SO they will stay right there where they are despite they score 10000000 runs or 1 run. I am so glad that we don't have great cricket analyst like you, otherwise no one would have watched cricket and no one would have gone to stadium. Everyone would sit back and point. Hey, Dravid is batting, but mehh i am not going to watch him, because he never batted against WI greats. Ohh look Tendulkar is batting, but mehh I don't think he is great because he didn't hit 6 against Andy Flower. Ohh look Ponting is batting but whocares he doesn't play T20. I hope you don't ask do they fly !!

  • joyontosaha on April 12, 2010, 16:46 GMT

    I just wanna ask the so called knowledgeble people about cricket if cricket is team sport why do you think sachin looks selfish all the time? oops, because he can score more than anyone and he is still scoring more than anyone and everyone else is just growing beneath him. Dude if someone can score for 21 years and still manage to keep good average with great striking rate you just have to show him respect. i don't love him but how can I not respect him? Ganguly is my fav but I would never claim he is better than sachin because he lacks consistency. I think people like criticize him because they love him and get mesmerised by him everyday every innings. Sorry that he is great and I am just lucky that he is there. I know one thing he deserve all the praise and a world cup , but I think India deserves it more than him. I just hope he could be one of the key along with all the other 10 players/

  • prashant1 on April 12, 2010, 16:43 GMT

    The ppl who claim to have watched cricket before Tendulkar's debut have only proved that they know absolutely nothing about cricket.Or batting. I can understand mediocrity.Not everyone can be concerned with the pursuit of excellence. But why are these mediocre couch potatoes, with no sporting knowledge so jealous of excellence? mystery.

  • joyontosaha on April 12, 2010, 16:39 GMT

    I think everyone is attacking vinay because he is trying to show his knowledge about indian cricket but he is right about few things but not all the things. when he say that India was minnows in cricket that would be a wrong statement as India already won the world cup and the world seriies cup before 89 but India did became a medicore team in those near future. Sachin was only sole survior who came around that time and he was never got affected by anything. i don't know why people question his ability to perform in pressure. Don't you guys realize when he plays the innings, he makes the situation favorable for his team. Is it his fault that he is dominating? is it his fault he is amazing agaist Australia? Is is his fault that rest of the can not pull 18 runs when he is out at 175 and there are three wickets left or is it his fault that he scores 130+ with back injury, take his team to doorstep of win but rest of the impotenet enough to score measly 15?

  • EverythingsEventual on April 12, 2010, 14:24 GMT

    @Vinaykn : Alright...so he doesnt like coming down the order...so what??Its not that he is failing at the top..Murali doesnt like bowling during the powerplay overs....I am sure if he wasnt performing as an opener he would have readliy given up the spot or he would have been sent down forcefully because remember, when he started opening in ODI's ,he was still not star ,so the management would have pushed him down if required.So he said he was disappointed that the innings was declared when he was 194*...alright so it was a mistake by him...it was his frustration at having missed out on a dobule (you know..."frustration"...its a human trait ..happens to the best).C'mon...people like Ganguly,Yuvraj behaved much worse than this when they were ousted as captains of their respective teams...

  • thepacer on April 12, 2010, 13:28 GMT

    You should be ashamed to call yourself gr8_sachin_fan .. and the likes of vinay and others who buy into the definition of greatness given to try and steal the glory that Sachin truly deserves. Cricket is a team sport and one man cannot carry the burden of the entire team. Compare an average Australian player to an Indian player and then say if Steve Waugh's innings stand apart as much as every big inning played by Sachin. You talk about stats, but don't forget that stats can be read either way. Just because someone was lucky to have scored big when a team won does not make them the greatest player ever born. Don't ignore the other ten players who made it possible for that one person to shine.

  • vinaykn on April 12, 2010, 13:10 GMT

    @CricFan24: Really interesting.great words by you--...do u even know the status of india when tendulkar made his debut? india were the absolute minnows of cricket.--- I am really wondering why i didnt realized this one. You are asking about my cricketing knowledge...Friends,You know I didnt like Sachin by this time and you dont like my this disliking. But,Please tell me,really you agree, by the time Sachin debut, india were 'absolute minnows of cricket".If really yes from who ever argueing with me so far,I will sure give up my arguement whatever.Really belittling India for Sachin,really not good man.I will sure give up my argument.Please comment :-).Also please tell me whether really Indian condition is changed during 1989-2000? and how. I am really having lots of fun here.Recently I am coming to this discussion.Thanks to cricinfo.I missed a lot in the past,by not coming here.

  • vinaykn on April 12, 2010, 10:21 GMT

    @EverythingsEventua:-) headache?why?just dont talk to me.I dont mean to belittle any.I am not interested at all. I didn't start any.I am disputing over hyping only.They talked about Chennai Test etc.,so I replied.Liking some depends on individual choice.It is not forced or by using some harsh words on others who is not doing.I dont like him and his batting.It is not a sin.I dont see best individual score in tests.His top 5 personal bests are not so standard.He never played long innings even in saving situations.I don't see any individual record breaking records within match,which others didn't do.I am not interested in accumulated stats.I don't like his open dislike being sent down order.i dont like his displeasure on calling back on 194* in media.Like so many for me.So I don't like. what is your problem?I dont buy arguments "others don't shine,you shine so you are great","others let him down" etc.I don't dispute his batting technique,shot selection,not losing wicket cheaply etc.

  • RakeshKumarNoida on April 12, 2010, 10:18 GMT

    What About Cricket Samrat, Mr. Bal :)

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