November 9, 2012

Look out for KP and Sachin

Their particular circumstances and their manner of playing make two cricketers especially worth watching in the India-England series

A character at the height of his powers and a legend winding down his career will be the ones to watch out for over the next six weeks. Kevin Pietersen and Sachin Tendulkar have more in common as batsmen than is immediately apparent, but it is the manner in which they have chosen to live that they tread different paths.

Tendulkar admitted recently that he doesn't have a lot of cricket left in him. We know that and so do his ardent fans; they speak as if they are in denial, but even they know. For him to admit it just draws it closer.

Watching Tendulkar has been the one constant in our lives over the last 23 years. Much has changed. Nations have been created, the world economy has gone boom and bust and boom and bust again, music has evolved, young people drawn to him when he started might have children who are now married. He has been a wonderful habit, spreading cheer when gloom is the market leader.

And we don't know how much longer we will see that walk down the ground, the push through cover, the flick through square leg, the straight drive, the quirky problem with sightscreens, the boyish smile, the occasional legbreak... we don't know. It could be this series, it could be another, it could be longer; but suddenly Tendulkar the cricketer feels finite. And so I am going to go to the next four Tests and just enjoy watching him bat. I hope he is nimble on his feet and chooses to play shots rather than drop anchor, though who's to say he isn't the best judge of his own cricket? But his best batting in recent years has been when he has sought to dominate, whether it was the tussle with Dale Steyn in South Africa or against the Australians in Melbourne and in Sydney.

You can tell the fire burns bright, as it always has done. He batted against Railways with food poisoning, and the Mumbai coach says he faced 300 balls an hour in the nets. That second fact is quite something. In a match situation you get at best 90 balls an hour, of which you might face 50. It will always be quicker in the nets because every bowler is at the top of his mark waiting for the one before him to deliver, but to play five balls a minute for 60 minutes means Tendulkar is on to something. He won't want to go quietly; that's not him.

It will not be like Pietersen to grind out a hundred. He will attack, he will seek to dominate, and it is the thrill of that contest that could well define how England go in this series

It will be fun. And if after four Tests he has made enough, the next four will be fun too. The thespian will be delivering his lines and you won't know which will be the last. Isn't that enough to grab your attention?

Meanwhile a slightly younger man with a much more stormy existence will also seek to dominate this series. I was in an airport lounge recently, grabbing a quick breakfast, when the highlights of Pietersen's 149 against South Africa came on. The idli stayed in my spoon for two minutes. It was breathtaking batting and it reminded me of two Tendulkar hundreds: one at Edgbaston, when he was but 23, and another three years later, in Melbourne. Remember, there are at least ten inches separating the two; the stride therefore is different and the bounce affects them differently. But in both instances the batsmen were looking to attack, cutting and pulling, not afraid to go down the ground or to hit in the air. It was gladiatorial. If you wanted an innings from the last 12 months to showcase cricket, it would be this one from Pietersen; and maybe Michael Clarke's in South Africa.

But India will be very different for Pietersen. He cannot camp on the back foot and get on top of the bounce. He will have to crouch, he might have to advance towards the ball rather than watch it come quiveringly towards him. The ball will snake its way around, and those darn left-arm spinners will be swarming around him. I've never understood that: a batsman so astonishingly gifted, so brutal, and yet so transfixed by little fellows who toss a ball up to him left-handed.

It will not be like Pietersen to grind out a hundred against them; a Gongura chutney might more likely find its way onto a delicate pasta. He will attack, he will seek to dominate, and it is the thrill of that contest that could well define how England go in this series. On the last four occasions they have toured India, only once, back in 1993, when Graeme Hick was playing, has a player scored more than 300 runs in a series. If Pietersen can be the player to erase that sorry number, we will have seen some thrilling cricket.

There will be other stars, and they will demand our attention too, but I can already feel the thrill of the little giant and the massive dueller walking out with bat in hand.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 12, 2012, 11:33 GMT

    tendulkar is the best and no 1 cn take that away from him. we all know the inevitably retirement is due. lets just let him go with a bang...long live sachin

  • Dummy4 on November 12, 2012, 10:52 GMT

    Indian test cricket batting has all about Sehwag at top and laxman in the middle order for the past 5 years. Both these guys have helped India to win matches. Sachin and Dravid have helped to draw or save test matches with the rate in which they play. How can Mr. Bhogle compare Sachin with KP. Sachin has been boring us for a long time now. And Mr. Dhoni without adding value in test side is bent on removing Sehwag and Laxman. Laxman is out and he has taken 4 openers to put extra pressure on Sehwag. Opening in test cricket against new balls and fresh wicket is the most difficult skill in cricket. We have had many middle order great batsman. How many good openers we had Gavaskar, Sehwag ...... May be Sidhu and Gambhir.The last 8-0 has been because Sehwag and Gambhi have not fired. Once openers get out middle order gets exposed to new ball earlier than expected and then it becomes tough for everyone. Its a chain reaction. Openers do well and you will also see huge scores in middle order.

  • pradipto on November 12, 2012, 10:43 GMT

    Absolutely, with Tendulkar we lose 8-0 outside subcontinent and he plays poorly too. By playing well against England in India, what he proves is best known to him only. Nice to see Dravid and Laxman having that sensitivity towards Indian cricket which quite clearly Tendulkar does not have.

  • Dummy4 on November 12, 2012, 9:38 GMT

    Has Harsha played any cricket?

  • Clean on November 11, 2012, 20:25 GMT

    I used to be a HUGE fan of Sachin while growing up as he is my age. Now, I think he is just a selfish person who is holding up a spot for younger folks and in the process destroying a few careers.

    He should have quit all forms of cricket after winning the World Cup and leave the game with his Head held up high.

  • g on November 11, 2012, 18:53 GMT

    KP yes, but Sachin? not sure...

  • Dummy4 on November 11, 2012, 15:44 GMT

    Udayakumar Aravamudhan Sir, that is very very true.... I don't know y these guys are posting worthless comments about our Cricket GOD...

  • beverly on November 11, 2012, 14:16 GMT

    Cont'd: Without any disrespect for the great man, all those who are encouraging him to carry on should instead graciously tell him, "Sachin, please take up your bat and go home".

  • Dummy4 on November 11, 2012, 4:42 GMT

    Sachin should have retired 2 years ago. Can't understand why he keeps playing. Sometimes he looks so useless at the crease that it's embarrassing. Occasionally he scores some runs, even Ashwin is more constant than him.

    Can't help but feel he's playing for the record books.

  • Rajesh on November 11, 2012, 1:35 GMT

    RANDYOZ is famous for his cakewalk comment...mate i am a big fan of your jokes..i expect many more from you please..

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