I wrote this more than 7.5 years ago, even before I started this blog. Parts of it still seem fresh and why not? The man is still playing at his best, 20 years after he began. Rock on, Tendlya. Rock on!
During the last few years, I have not missed reading an article about cricket in news-magazines. These magazines do not have anything to do with cricket and I believe that by reading these magazines, one can get other angles to view the game from. However, most of the time I have found that such articles have a common thread. A partisan attitude is evident (barring some good pieces) and it almost seems that a witch-hunt might be on sometimes. And even the best in the team is not left alone. Not surprisingly, these pieces of criticism have come, not from former cricketers, but from writers whose connection to cricket is not evident, at least to the casual reader.
Here, I have tried to put across a coherent reply to one of the common questions raised by such articles – “Is Sachin, an all time great?” A general feeling around the media and some sections of the Indian public, is that Tendulkar, for the greater part of his career, has failed to deliver for his team when they need him the most. And a number of instances have been quoted where we were near and yet so far. These views go as far as indicating that the tag ‘chokers’ that the Indian team has earned in the last few years is because of one man alone.
The one major fact that these people have always overlooked is that there have been many a knock where he has done his bit (rather, almost the whole thing) and India has failed to win because the other ten failed to do their job. I am not a stud with statistics, but what better example to come up than the Chennai Test against Pakistan in 1998-99. Wasim Akram recently said in a TV program that the Chennai test was one of the best Test matches he had ever played. And this match is quoted by one and all as a prime example to illustrate the ‘fact’ that Sachin is not what he seems to be.
At Chennai, hasing 271, India were at one point 82/5 and then Sachin and Mongia put on a stand that got India close, when Nayan Mongia’s irresponsible hoick put the pressure back on Sachin. With just one half decent batsman to follow and back spasms racking him, he had to hit out and go for the finish rather than exposing the other end to Akram & Co. Prior to his dismissal, Tendulkar scored most of the 37 runs in just 5 overs and was the 7th batsman to get out for a score of 136.
Even though only 17 runs were required at that point (“only” is not the word to use when Saqlain and Akram are bowling, but nevertheless) India lost all the 3 remaining wickets, scoring only 6 runs in the process. A good question to ask at this point would be – What happened to the other 10 ??
Ganguly got a bad decision (bad is a word that does not convey the enormity of that umpiring slight) , but you get the sense that Tendulkar’s innings (even though the finishing was not there) was invaluable when u see the scorecard. We would just not be discussing this match if it were not for the scores of the other batsmen in the team. Only Dravid (10) and Mongia (52) got to double figures.
And surprisingly some (like the author of this article) have compared him with Andy Flower at his best. This reveals another basic flaw. While, on the outset, it is probably fair to dismiss the Zimbabweans as a one-batsman team, the team is full of dangerous floaters (as Douglas Marillier and Travis Friend amply demonstrated last week!) all of whom are capable of 30′s and 40s in any given day. And they do get these runs regularly. So the “exceptional average” of 84.5 % (which he had a couple of months ago) would lose some sheen if you look at the scores of the other batsman. I am sure you would find the above-mentioned 30s and 40s supporting the hundreds made by Flower to the maximum. So it’s unfair to use statistics as a tool to evaluate Tendulkar.
Sidhu might be partly right with his “Statistics are like miniskirts…” statement. But sometimes the hidden stuff makes compulsive reading and convinces us that the open stuff is all hogwash. And maybe the question that has been posed is answered by the usual view that these people put across. “Given his prowess, Sachin does not seem to be able to set up a victory as often as he should”. Where are the other batsmen to sometimes finish what he started?
Cricket is just not a one-man game. If you don’t have another batsman to take guard opposite you, then you cannot even bat. This is not street cricket where sometimes all the players get to bat. I hope every Indian fan realizes this and does not get into any conclusion of this kind. Sachin is just the major piece in the jigsaw puzzle that is the Indian team. Only when all the pieces fall into place, will India win.
Accountability is another factor that the Indian public and more importantly, the team and the selector need to understand. They should understand that “no member is bigger than the team” and that includes Tendulkar too. I think he has realized that. His decision to relinquish the captaincy stems from the realization that he cannot cope up with the kind of hassles that a captain has to face and then perform of the field too. But again this has been held against him too. So what more are we going to hold him responsible for? The Babri masjid issue?
So let’s not blame Tendulkar for not making “match-winning” scores. The difference between winning and losing lies in playing as a team and not as a collection of individuals. And if someone says that Tendulkar is responsible for not the team not winning, even though he has had good stints at the crease, then he cannot be more wrong. If one batsman’s score alone would win a match, I am sure India would be the only unbeaten team around, cause from his first Test to the latest, he has done his bit and would continue to do so until he feels he cannot. Then he will gracefully get off the bandwagon and let India rue the day they asked – “Is Sachin an all-time great?”