“When Sachin Tendulkar travelled to Pakistan to face one of the finest bowling attacks ever assembled in cricket, Michael Schumacher was yet to race an F1 car, Lance Armstrong had never been to the Tour de France, Diego Maradona was still the captain of a world champion Argentina team, (and) Pete Sampras had never won a Grand Slam. When Tendulkar embarked on a glorious career taming Imran and company, Roger Federer was a name unheard of; Lionel Messi was in his nappies, Usain Bolt was an unknown kid in the Jamaican backwaters. The Berlin Wall was still intact; USSR was one big, big country.”
“It seems while Time was having his toll on every individual on the face of this planet, he excused one man. Time stands frozen in front of Sachin Tendulkar. We have had champions, we have had legends, but we have never had another Sachin Tendulkar and we never will.”
So, has Times magazine eulogized Sachin a bit more in Tendulkar’s country?
You have seen it right. For all the talk that we hear of tagging things as right and wrong being incredible we have seen some wise heads (not the BCCI selection wise heads), of Richard Feynman’s calibre, advocating us to see the picture and label them “appropriate, more appropriate and less appropriate”. Those who are impatient to go through details below can straight away leave the page and see the bottom.
- India had shown exemplary discipline in containing Caribbean batsmen to shut them down to 173. Chanderpaul and Richie Richardson had tried to build innings who received no support. Srinath had Brian Lara, although the replays showed error of judgement by the on-field umpire. Anil Kumble had struck for India at vital points.
- India started their innings with Jadeja and Tendulkar but the bowling attack was not an ordinary unit with the likes of Walsh and Ambrose early on with Ian Bishop supporting these lanky pacers in from the other end. Jadeja and Navjyot Sidhu had to go back. Sachin and Azhar built the ship.
- Sachin had maintained restraint all through his demonstrative knock of 70 off 90 balls and when everything was set for a neat finish Kambli ran him out at around 130. Manoj Prabhakar too left the scene in a manner only he could justify. Of course, India had sailed home.
Scenario 2: India v Australia, Wankhade, 1996, February 27, Tuesday.
- Mark Taylor had won the toss and chosen to bat first in the first ever day-night ODI at The Wankhade.
- Taylor and Mark Waugh had put on 100 runs for the first wicket.
- Thanks to Sanjay Manjrekar’s sharp hands at Point, Ricky Ponting was out for small score.
- Srinath and Prasad were outplayed by Aussie openers. Mark Waugh’s dream run continued in this match too with a fine century. Earlier, on February 23, he scored 130 at Vizag.
- India contained other batsmen with spin and some good fielding. Australia ended at 258.
Indians were required to pace their innings brilliantly against the quality bowling that had best swing bowler of times Damien Fleming and emerging bowling sensation Glenn McGrath.
- India had tough time dealing with the problem of opening pair. They entrusted this task to Jadeja and Tendulkar. Jadeja and Kambli got out in quick succession. Score was below 10 for the loss of two wickets at a time when all they needed was crucial partnerships.
- Azharuddin, one of the finest players of the world cricket, tried to assemble the innings with the help of in-form Sachin. Azhar too got out for a cheap score. I still remember how Fleming knocked him over. Azharuddin had been a quality batsman but the time was not in his favour and he didn’t get enough support from the North-biased media and Mumbai-biased Sunil Gavaskar. If I remember correctly, only Kapil Dev and another Mumbaikar Wadekar had full faith in him. Sunil Gavaskar had the technique and intelligence, but his instincts and bad intentions played big role during that tournament too. Ohh, what about his ill-mannered batting in Bombay semifinal against England in 1987! We can see it nowadays too when he speaks nothing about VVS Laxman who had given life to Sourav Ganguly’s captaincy. Others from Mumbai like Manjrekar talk right and it’s a great sign when Mumbaikars talk about the stuff of VVS and his contribution to success percentage of SG.
- Sachin had scored runs in quick time as he realized he should not expect any support from the other end. In all, Sachin scored 90 runs off 84 balls with 14 fours and a sixer.
- Out of 150 runs scored by India, his score of 90 was the highlight where he had dented the confidence of emerging GlennMcGrath and Fleming. He received Warne with a straight four over his head. He had unnecessarily wanted to hunt one too wide of off stump and paid the price.
- Nayan Mongia had shown the promise but he was never confident of going for big shots. The reason: Manoj Prabhakar’s dramatic run out. This was vital. India were 150 at that stage. In the end, India lost by 16 runs. Fleming was the MoM.
Scenario 3: India v Sri Lanka, Kotla, 1996, March 2, Saturday.
- Ranatunga asked India to bat first in the misty conditions in Delhi. Chaminda Vaas had bowled brilliantly with 3 maiden overs. The pace of Indian innings was too slow and it was evident from the fact that the score was only 99 at 24th over.
- Sachin and Azharuddin added crucial 150+. Sachin unleashed his stroke play as he was getting enough support from Azhar who knew how to build a partnership.
- Sri Lankan openers left nothing for Indian bowlers and Manoj Prabhakar once again proved he was not up to the standards as he gifted away crucial 33 runs off his two overs.
- Sachin and Anil Kumble brought us back into the game but then there was always the shortage of a potential bowler who could set up a game for us. He, along with Kumble at the other end, tightened Lankan batsmen.
Match was easily sealed by Lanka and India had only four points with only Zimbabwe to contend at Green Park, on March 6. Indians, however, won that game, thanks to Sidhu and Kambli and Raju, Kumble and Srinath.
If you verify the above cases, India banked on Sachin mostly and he delivered when it mattered. It would be harsh on our part to ask him to bat through full fifty overs in the game against Australia when all he needed to do was to attack McGrath and torment Warne and Fleming. He DID THAT. In the game against Windies, he was out because of a poor call from Vinod Kambli. Here too, he had delivered when it MATTERED. In the game against Lanka too he had stayed there till those 49.2 overs. India had won the game against Windies when he made 70. India lost to Australia and Lanka when he made 90 and 137 respectively. The fact was that India had depended on Sachin most of the time with few silver linings from the other players.
As a kid, I knew of the importance of team work those days but the players who were on the field couldn’t get it right haa? Sometimes, how great a batter a man may be, he fails to get the timing right. It happened with Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Imran Khan, David Boon, Hansie Cronje, Azharuddin (just don’t talk about match-fixing and attribute every failure to fixing. Grow up!), Kepler Wessels, Miandad, Aravinda, Salim Malik, Peter Kirsten, Mark Waugh, Aamir Sohail, Saeed Anwar, Jacques Kallis, Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly (Please don’t ask me to compare Sachin to the likes of Sehwag, Boeta, Gibbs, Kohli, Pujara, Yousuf Pathan, Asnodkar, Rahane, Dinesh Karthik, Dinesh Mongia, Ajit Agarkar, R. Ashwin who too made centuries and other greats of this era, and other batsmen like Hrishikesh Kanitkar, who steered India to a win over Pakistan with a single four, on January 18, 1998, when Ganguly made a brilliant hundred with the support of Robin’s 80 and Sachin’s quick 40. Spare me please and let me grow up!)