Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Questionable Tribute

It took me quite some time to convince myself that I actually didn’t think Sachin was even close to being the best batsman in the world like a lot of his peers claimed, a lot of journalists wrote about and a lot of cricket fans debated on. In my books, over the last couple of years that mantle should clearly belong to Ponting and prior to that it was Lara’s. Barring the summer of 1998, Sachin never came close to claiming the mantle of the best batsman in the world. He would hang around and remind us of what he was capable of but never delivered.

While I do think, that as a cricketer ( and otherwise) he is a gentleman and a complete one at that, a lot of journalists, cricketers and commentators have allowed the nice boy image of Sachin to make up for his lack of supremacy to win matches for India.

In the same context, posted below is a piece written by V. Gangadhar for Hindustan Times today. Sometimes, there are things that you want to write and then you read something that describes exactly, what you think, in the exact diction and tone and sarcasm that you would have penned it in. And if it comes from one of your favorite writers, isn’t that a nice beginning to a day! : -)

Posted below the article:

AS THE third test match between India and South Africa was in progress, the Sachin Chamcha Group (SCG) in the television commentary box was frantic with excitement. Here is the chatter that went on:

Know-All Bhogle: And there is, Sachin, at 34, chasing the ball like a fly, diving full length and stopping it, saving one run. What commitment, what dedication. This one run could be decisive in the match. Why talk of Jonty Rhodes when we have Sachin. I am sure our Little Master Sunny Gavaskar would agree.

Little Expert Master Gavaskar: A great dive, a great save. In fact, you would have noted that Sachin dived at an angle of 63 degrees facing East, which is the most difficult of the dives. While doing so, he braved the wind from the North-east which was blowing across the pitch and he must have hit the ground with a velocity of 34 kmph. Simply remarkable for someone his age. The neck, the arms and the legs were perfectly positioned. A bit like watching Burt Lancaster in the movie Trapeze.

Bhogle: Leave it to Sunny to come up with such wonderful pieces of information. And Ravi?

Deadpan Ravi Shastri: Remarkable commitment, but then this commitment was always there, whether he was playing at Bandra MIG Club, Shivaji Park or a packed Lord’s. If there is a Nobel Prize for commitment, it should go to Sachin.

(Later, when Sachin is batting)
Bhogle: Yet, one more perfectly defensive shot played with the middle of the bat. Everything in position. Of course, though India should score enough runs to force a victory, Sachin had scored one run in 88 balls. Why bother about runs, when you can watch such perfect technique. Sunny, did you play like this when you scored 36-not-out in 60 overs in the 1975 World Cup match against England? That was the most monumental innings in one-day cricket.

Gavaskar: Thank you, Harsha, for your fantastic memory which is as perfect as Sachin’s defence. See the left shoulder thrust at right angles to the right wrist and the right shoulder pointing exactly at the vacant spot between mid-off and cover. This is the mother of all defensive shots, I would say even father. I think there is a deep strategy behind Sachin’s approach. By batting like this, he would induce sleep among the South Africans, and when they come to bat, they would just rub their eyes and get out one after the other. There is always planning in Sachin’s approach.

Shastri: I agree entirely. This again reflects his commitment — combined with wisdom, a rare combination. By remaining still like this, and keeping the score-board still, Sachin would make the clouds over the ground still, so that it will not rain and we can win the match.

Bhogle: Look, the South Africans are already lethargic which is what India wants.

(The match is over and India is beaten by South Africa)
Bhogle: That is all from the SCG. Please stay tuned in for ‘Cricket Tamasha’ special.

Viewers: What the hell we were watching till now?


Jason said...

Harsha, Shastri and Gavaskar! They are good in moderation. Too much leads to detrioration of the cricketing senses within the mind :)

If you listen to Gavaskar descibing a cover drive, you know its harder than Salsa.

Gavaskar learnt all his cricketing strokes in the classroom, on textbooks, and he practiced buy writing their descriptions down. Why else would would he speak about the head leaning into the shot, the weight transferred forward, the toes pointing towards mid-on, the left elbow pointing up and the right wrist rotating, when he can just substitute all the intricacies with a simple "keep the ball on the ground"!! Beats me!! Does he expect the batsman to think where his left elbow is pointing when he has 0.3 seconds to offer a stroke to a pacer?

spiderman! said...

I feel like giving u a kiss for this post !! (Dont worry, I am straight!)

Exactly my point. Sachin always gets out to brilliant deliveries, he is not to be held reponsible if India cannot chase 120 in the 4th innings, the 4th innings scores are no indication of how great a batsman is and so on...i think this is bound to happen if 180 crores are on your shoulders.

From a statistical point of view, tremendous achiever. No doubt. But from the perspective of being great - not even close to Steven and Brian. It would not be too unfair to put Rahul and Azhar ahead of him in terms of the significant innings that he has played in India's most memorable victories. Try convincing that to those SCGs !

IssacMJ said...

@Jason: Interesting observation. To my mind, you're right. Sunny , even by his batting style used to treat and still treats it like more science than art. :-)

@Spidey: No two opinions about the fact that Rahul, innings for innings,has played more relevant and match winning knocks than Sachin.
As regards Azhar, I'd place him on par with Sachin not ahead of him...

spiderman! said...

Yep...agreed...though reluctantly... but yes...on par :)

Anonymous said...

I loved the article man.Every word and every phrase.I recall one shot played by sachin which was an unintended and bizzarely directed and got to four because of a missed catch.The commentator says: "You just can't stop Sachin.He can make runs anywhere any direction.He has a variety.The ball had an impact no one could have caught it!!!"
This happenned during one of those times when Tendulkar was being spelled Ten-dulkar!

Madhav said...

Azhar? On par with Sachin?
Wait a minute ... are you talking about the same Azhar I recall being a miserable teamman once he was relieved of the captaincy? The same Azhar disgraced in the match-fixing scandal?
At best he was an elegant batsman, fantastic fielder, fortunate captain and flawed human being. Let's not even start comparing him with the likes of Sachin, Rahul and Lara ...

spiderman! said...


Aha !! The same Azhar you are talking about did that in the very last part of his career. And btw, cricket is not JUST about being a team-man. Thats just one aspect of it.

I cannot remember any innings which Azhar played for personal glory.

And about match-fixing - where is the proof ? If he is guilty why is not behind bars ? Kapil was also in the match fixing scandal - so should we compare him with Sachin - the quintessential team-man with 25k runs and a maximum of five innings worthy of note batting 2nd or 4th !

And I believe, that it is not easy if not impossible to under-perform consciously whatever be the trigger.

Can you ever recall an innings when 60 runs where required of 60 balls with 6 wickets in hand and Sachin hitting the winning runs ?

Can you recall a test match where Sachin single-handedly ensured India saving a follow-on with 3 wickets remaining ?

There was an innings in which both Sachin and he batted - at their very best - at Wanderers. Those of who have watched that innings have no doubt that on a day when Mohammed plays - you just watch. You have no other option.

Do not get me wrong - I am not saying that he is a greater CRICKETER than Sachin. But in terms of sheer quality of BATSMANSHIP it would definitely not be unwise to compare both.

Shobhit said...

I am actually one of those who has worshipped Sachin blindly , like these experts here.
I think he rocks purely for the joy he brings to our hearts.For a long time in the 90s when India was not so dramatically 'poised' and everyone did not really 'feel-good' - Sachin was the one bright ray of hope - who convinced us that we too can rule the world given a chance :)
Technically - he has been far more superior to the Laras and Pontings. Also - neither of these two face that much pressure everytime they step out.
It really saddens me then to watch this phantom bat in his name these days.Thats definitely not the Sachin I worship.
Notice that I left a link to my blog here :P

IssacMJ said...

I think Sachin's batting has been glorified way too often on too many forums because of his nice boy image. And that in itself was the point of the article.Sachin can do no wrong, the pitch was a beast, how the ball kept so low he had to bend on his knees and how he's been given out wrongly because he put his body and not his leg before the wicket! No one doubts his class but he's definitely not the best in the world. If I say Azhar is on par with Sachin its more because both of them have proved as effective in scoring superb 1st innings scores on home and away grounds! And both of them were a treat to watch in their own way.

@Shobhit: Agree with you on Ponting. Lara though, I think has over the years played in a much weaker team than India's and hence has always been under the same amount of pressure as Sachin if not more. You're right when you say that Sachin gave us that ray of hope that we could take on the world. For some reason though, he always fell short of fulfilling that hope...
Noticed the link! Now it's upto the traffic!:-P

Madhav said...

SR Tendulkar 100* (76, 10x4, 1x6)
Result: India Win

The Champion's blade has spoken!
I now eagerly await V Gangadhar's next piece on him.

Till then, excuse me while I catch up on the highlights! :)

Gaurav Kumar Ambasta said...

From Sachin Non-Worshipper

I think Ravi Shashtri was near perfect when he said - "If there is a Nobel Prize for commitment, it should go to Sachin".

On - "supremacy to win matches for India " - Sachin has 52 man of the match awards. Lara has 30. Sachin has brought India to the World Cup Semifinals twice (96 & 03).. and lara...:)
just look at the world cup statistics for both...

On coming close to no.1 - I think Bradman could have answered that better.

@ Spiderman

I agree with Madhav.. Azhar was fantastic.. But if u put the same standards of measurement, as u put on sachin, I think azza would loose by miles...

About playing under pressure - Pressure comes only when he gets out.


Lara scored 400 hundred and the match was drawn.. He is not questioned on being a team man or a personal-glory-man. Actually, statistics can always justify ur preconcieved notions :)

Shobhit said...

Another defense from a Sachin fan .
My friend from school used to say -
"Sachin rarely performs well under pressure , agreed.But thats mostly because when he gets going, there is hardly any scope for pressure building up.Its just one-way traffic"
I think its a chicken or egg thing.
What say ye ?

IssacMJ said...

@Gaurav: Can I be brought to notice any one innings in a 130 odd test matches that Sachin has played wherein he won a test match for India on his own? Add to that some more questions that Spidey had posed before.
Of course , we can overlook all this because he has won 22 MoM awards more than Lara after playing in 88 more matches.And thats why I'm with you when you said that anyone can prove his notions through them.

Lara did take WI to semis in 96.In '03, Sachin failed in the finals and I cant give him enough credit for scoring against Kenya in the semis. His 98 was a great innings. No doubt.But Rahul and Yuvraj won it for us.

I'd put Lara ahead of him any day simply because he has dominated every single bowler in his career.

I'd myself think that Lara's 400 must've been a personal landmark more than fighting for the team to win but that's something I guess Sachin would never know about.He's never even got close.

Of course, Bradman might've known but somewhere we'd like an opinion of our own after seeing someone play for so many years... :-)

@Madhav: When you see those highlights dont bother watching the last over of the Indian innings of that match. Our master was a little busy collecting his singles to get to his hundred!;-)

@Shobhit:If one defines a pressure situation as a semi-final or a final or a series decider test, as one rightly should, I think our man's come a cropper every time.

Gaurav Kumar Ambasta said...

Sachin's scores in 2003 world cup were -

I don't know what is meant by contribution if this is not contribution in the biggest tournament of cricket. Why is it so hard to admit that he was the main reason for India performing so well..

In 1996 world cup. he scored 523 runs at 87.16.... Tendulkar was the leading run scorer in the entire World Cup ... again the main reason why India performed so well..

For test matches

On 12 occassions he scored a century and India won. For lara it has been only on 8 occasions.

Sachin scored 100 of 76 balls the other day.. By saying that he took a single, one gets an impression that he has scored a century of 170 balls...

It seems a lot of prejudice is working here.

IssacMJ said...

I went through the list you referred to.
Sachin has scored 12 hundreds and 12 fifties and Lara has scored 8 hundreds and 16 fifties. Sachin averages 63 in matches India has won. Lara averages 61. Hardly a difference.Now,by the same yardstick, Dravid has done even better cos he averages 76 in matches India won. So if your point is that Sachin has contributed more to India's win in tests, it doesnt hold water cos Dravid outwits him by a fair distance.My point being without the support of a player like Dravid, Lara has put the same level of performance in his teams wins.

You'd agree that the phase Lara played in has been the worst WI team ever. They've got thrashed 5-0 by SA and Aus in the era Lara played.Sachin has always had a better support in terms of batting throughout his career.

In Wisden's list of best test batting performances,3 of Lara's innings figure in the top 100. 2 in the top 10. Sachin had none.
In ODI's , 6 of Lara's innings figured in the top 100. 2 again in the top 10. Sachin had 4. None in the top 10. I'm not saying the list is definitive but at least an indicative source that given a better quality of bowling attack Sachin has never delivered.
I've never said that Sachin never contributed. I agree with you on the World Cup stats.Superb.Absolutely superb.At the end of the day, when he really needed to perform he didn't. Add to another 19 odd dismal ODI finals batting performances.

Regarding the singles off the last over, I'm realizing it was a failed attempt at humor.I'm sure Sachin's not that bad! :-)

Regarding the prejudice bit, I think I've given a reason/statistic for every reason/statistic that you've brought forward.

spiderman! said...

I would agree on all of the points with you vis-a-vis Gaurav, except for the World Cup part. We can't hold him responsible by a single percentage for not scoring substantially chasing 360. Though, I am sure that you did not assume much significance to that.

Rest, all agreed ! And I do think, you and I, and a lot like us would die proving what we are saying. Never for one moment questioning his greatness but always keeping our eyes open to his shortcomings.

Cheers to Brian Charles ! He has never played at Eden, and he wished he would. Hopefully, that day I would be there. One of the things I missed in life. To see him bat - live !