November 20, 2011

Forget the fans, Sachin

Tendulkar seems burdened by the expectations surrounding his latest milestone

It used to be a pleasure to watch Sachin Tendulkar bat; the shots that flowed as he took the attack to the bowlers, constantly challenging them to maintain line and length under fire. At the moment it's painful to see him prod and poke as he seeks to eke out his 100th century.

Whereas he took the attack to a top-class legspinner, Shane Warne, and won the battle of Chennai in 1998, he fiddled with a trundler like Marlon Samuels and the steady Devendra Bishoo at Eden Gardens, while Rahul Dravid comparatively burned along at the other end.

In his prime those two West Indies spinners wouldn't have been able to contain Tendulkar. He wouldn't have allowed either a minute's peace with his quick footwork, and more importantly, his attitude that said no bowler would shackle him.

It wasn't just Warne; he challenged all the best bowlers. He especially enjoyed antagonising the metronomic magician Glenn McGrath. On occasions he deliberately provoked him into bowling aggressively, a frame of mind from which McGrath derived the least success. So why is Tendulkar suddenly allowing a trundler to tie him down?

It was quite revealing to read the other day that Tendulkar felt he couldn't forego a practice session to rest because the adoring Indian public would blame any failure on indifference. He has always appealed as an attention-to-detail person when it came to batting, but I could never understand his desire to hit so many meaningless balls in the nets. Most of the class players I've seen practised diligently but never excessively.

This was always a major point of difference between the two top batsmen of their time - Brian Lara and Tendulkar. Lara cared about his batting and thought very deeply about the process of making big scores quickly but he wasn't obsessed with practising his skills. He was able to enjoy his life away from the field, whereas Tendulkar, again, probably not wanting to give a demanding public a reason to criticise him for letting them down, has lived the life of a monk.

It's difficult to say how much a demanding and clamouring public has affected Tendulkar's batting over the years. However, there's no doubt that on occasions he has sacrificed personal satisfaction for clinical success.

One of the more incredible aspects of Lara's successful career was the way he batted in the same manner throughout. This is quite remarkable, as even the best batsmen tend to become more conservative as they age. Lara, by living a relaxed lifestyle and employing a strong will, was able to almost defy Father Time.

Despite external and extraneous pressures there's no doubt the hunt for 100 hundreds has contributed to Tendulkar's recent conservative play. This isn't the first time statistics have got the better of him. Watching him bat in England in 2007, where he was dismissed four times as he neared a century, it was obvious the thought of accumulating another three-figure score had brought on a bout of caution. Tendulkar is not at his best when he's playing with extreme caution; his body language betrays him and this acts as a spur to opposition bowlers and captains.

He showed just recently that he could shed the conservative approach and return to being the plunderer of his youth. A blazing 175 against Australia, and scoring even faster to register the first-ever double-century in an ODI, turning back the clock and batting like a youthful Tendulkar. His scintillating strokeplay on those occasions indicates he can still dictate to any attack when the mood strikes him. Unfortunately this frame of mind hasn't surfaced recently in the Test arena.

It's hard to not wonder how much of the conservative approach is Tendulkar's desperation to record the milestone century for his own satisfaction, and what portion is to please his fans. Just for once Tendulkar should try forgetting his fans and play in his preferred style. That's not only his best chance of completing the celebrated century but also the way to please everyone.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 23, 2011, 19:15 GMT

    Not sure about Sachin being desperate about the 100th but Ian certainly seems desperate in this article. Its only 6 test matches and a few ODIs that he has gone without scoring a ton. And we're talking about scoring a 100 not a lean patch! It'd be nice if people put some perspective on things once in a while

  • Naveen on November 23, 2011, 15:43 GMT

    @ kathick raja my last post on dravid srt comparison was not published. dont knw y :/. anyways dravid is not jealous or anything. its just dat wenevr srt scored runs, things were too difficult for lesser mortals to perform and thus india lost. 92 perth, 93 johannesberg, 96 edbaston, 97 capetown, 99 melbourne, 99 wellington, 99 chennai, 2007 adelaide, 2010 durban. most of these were first or second matches of series against tough opponents in tough conditions. while others were still adjusting to conditions srt was scoring tons all alone. after this, in the remaining series wen things got a bit better, came the rest to pile up runs and boost their averages. only once (in recent england tour) dravid went through what srt went throughout his career and his supporters are out of their holes. dont worry, soon they'll be back there. :D

  • Paddy on November 23, 2011, 15:07 GMT

    Well written article by an astute analyzer Ian Chappell. Those who wish to argue that Sachin is better than Ponting are missing the point. This article is about Sachin, and Sachin getting way more cautious than he needs to be, and not playing his natural game.

    I agree completely with Ian.

  • Surj on November 23, 2011, 14:17 GMT

    Ian is always right....a great analyst. After Peter R, he has the best analytical mind in cricket.

  • Dummy4 on November 23, 2011, 11:25 GMT

    @nav84. U echoed my thoughts.. Esp on Dravid-SRT comparison.. Thats exactly i was thinking.. Dravid always had support frm either Sachin/Laxman whenever he helped Team India to win.. Bt, he seldom offered support to Sachin.. The reverse happened in recent Eng series and we all knw the result.. And his centuries in losing cause got quadrupled.. Based on this I could say Dravid is too jealous of Sachin, so whenever SRT scores in bulk in saving cause, he "more often than not" never lend a helping hand. Coz, he is very much afraid that SRT will (again) come in limelight.. Well, its high time, we need 2 ignore SRT bashers esp Dravid_G.. He seems to hv gr8 respect towards all cricketers except SRT.. Seems like he has some personal pblm with him.. As I already told(that comment is yet to appear here) these guys r making me to look 4 negatives of Dravid and to my surprise I am getting too many.. I am afraid, I might lose my respect towards Dravid(my another fav cricketer)..

  • Jay on November 23, 2011, 10:20 GMT

    (Cont) There's more, Ian! Sachin's 99 tons surpasses the next guy Ricky's 69 by 30. Wait, there's still more: Sachin's 33,197 score outstrips Ricky's 26,243 runs by 6,954. You do the math: These huge gaps between Sachin & Ricky are mind-boggling! Just how dominant is Sachin's performance? Actually, the gaps exceed (29 tons) or almost equal (6,996 runs) what the great Don achieved in his entire Test career! Shock & Awe! Still, Sachin lets his bat do the talking, while Ian blabbers about the "wait"! And takes a shot for living "like a monk" just because Sachin keeps things close to his chest? Don't humility & ethics count for anything? If anything, Tendulkar should be held high as an ideal role model for all cricketers to emulate, especially in today's world of scandals & crooks! Man up, Ian: You're dead wrong again!!

  • Naveen on November 23, 2011, 7:57 GMT

    @ dravid gravitas : my dad's loyal servant ramu kaka is ready to bat nywhere in the batting order, in ny condition against ny attack. he is ready to keep wickets, stand up to tear away fast bowlers, field all five days even in a dead drawn match and is also ready to bowl 20 overs on trot so that the front line bowlers can get enough rest. he is literally ready to run through a wall for his captain and team. that still does not make him a better cricketer than srt. if u dont have nything on skill and talent, then better stay away and dont come up with silly logic. at least not now, when dravid has finally started to score runs after an eternity. at least now u can boast about how good he is in foreign conditions against great attacks. once he gets back to his normal self scoring 15 of 100 balls and then finally poking at a ball way outside off stump to get out, u can get back to selflessness.

    @ cricinfo : y was not the last comment in my srt-dravid comparison series published? :|

  • Dummy4 on November 23, 2011, 7:07 GMT

    The pitch; purrfectly made for Sachin's hundred :))) it would be a shame of he can't get it this ime...

  • Srinivas on November 23, 2011, 0:16 GMT

    Dear fellow bloggers, Can we stop dragging The Great Wall down into these pathologically obsessed useless topics about sachin? The Great Wall is a class apart. Cut above these mortal records. He is all skill, ability, sacrifice and is a humble workhorse for the team's cause in the face of adversity - will keep wickets (at the age of 38), will open, will come at 3, 5, 6, 7 and whatnot; whereas this man sachin is all about no.4 in tests and opening in ODIs no matter what the team needs are. Anybody remember how Dravid had to open, even after carrying his bat through the inning and how VVS had to come in at no.3 and sachin didn't move from the no.4 position during the recent England tour? Talk of selfishness, look no further than Sachin. I, for one, couldn't care any less if he scores another 100 ducks or another 100 centuries.

  • sachin on November 22, 2011, 23:52 GMT

    To me bradman could never be the best batsman or cricketer that played the game. Because cricket changes back then you occupy the crease and make runs the game was not technical and strategic now. Where before you tour bowlers know your strengths and weakness. At the beginning of the cricketing era people wanted a hero and bradman was there to be that hero. Never saw bradman play cricket but it will be interesting to see him play ODI and T20 cricket. To be a cricket fan one has to ask there self if i had a chance to see a batsman or bowler play at there prime who will that person be. This person will be the best objectively of course.

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