The man Who Dared to Dream when no one Could....
From the time Sachin made his debut as a 16 yr school boy the spotlight has always been focused on him. When he came into the team he was hailed as the next Sunil Gavaskar. Gavaskar for his part took great interest in mentoring his fellow Mumbaite, a relationship that continues even today. After he had made his mark in the away tours of England and Australia he has always been hailed simultaneously as both a hero and villain. No one in the history of cricket might have had his game as minutely scrutinized, dissected and discussed as Tendulkar’s. But what is he really? Is he really a hero who with his skills mesmerizes a country of 1 billion or is he an opportunistic villain who abandons the same people who worship him in the time of need? Maybe the answer lies somewhere in between.
Tendulkar’s skill has never been in question. His longevity and statistics alone are proof enough for that. However there is this raging debate that he hasn’t won enough matches for India in the past. There are two ways to look at this. If you look at his ODI career around the mid 90s to the early part of the millennium you can see that whenever Sachin has got a good score the team inevitably went on to win the match. This was the time when he was at his peak and he was opening the innings with regularity. In those days there was none more reliable than Sachin Tendulkar in the Indian team. Remember those days, when people used to turn off their television sets if he got out early. Whatever support he got from other team members were viewed mostly as a surprise. On those rare occasions when someone else put their hands up we were pinching ourselves with disbelief. Sachin was a one man army in those days. He made us forget that cricket is fundamentally a team game played by individuals.
We might argue that Sachin was not able to translate his good form or scores into test victories abroad. Yes very true. He was not able to. But we forget that tests are won by the side taking 20 wickets. It’s more of a bowler’s game than a batsmen’s. One look at our bowling attack and we can see why we never won enough tests abroad during Sachin’s peak. Baring Srinath there was no other fast bowler worth mentioning. Our best bowler then was a Kumble, a spinner. To win matches abroad we need atleast 3 good bowlers. I believe we would have won more matches if we had the current bowling attack then.
Another counter argument that might come up is that Sachin was never able to save enough test matches let alone win it. To a major extent this is true. Sachin woefully let down all and sundry whenever the team was in dire straits. But to say that he has never done so would be unfair on the man. Neither is it fair to say this was due to his ineptitude alone. Remember the test against Pakistan in Chennai when Sachin braving a serious back injury soldiered on to take us to 16 runs short of victory. We could have still won the match with 3 wickets in hand. We lost the match by a handful of runs. For argument’s sake one can say that he should have been there till the end. But the fact remains that there was no support for him from the team. There have been countless other instances where he has made centuries in a losing cause. There have been countless more when he has disappointed us. But pray tell me other than Dravid now which other Indian batsman has fulfilled his promise time and time again as many times as Sachin did in those days. He has an average above 54 away from home which few batsmen can boast of.
His captaincy is also subject to much ridicule. We tend to forget that most of the series that were played under his captaincy were away series. Which Indian captain before him has had success away from home? It is not until recently that India started changing its fortunes away from home. This is largely due to the new young breed of fast bowlers that we have unearthed. Tendulkar never had that luxury. He very often never received the players he wanted. The team that he took to Australia in 1999-2000 must have been the worst ever. Not to mention several of his team mates were involved in the match fixing scandal forcing him to quit the captaincy in disgust.
So why do we question Sachin Tendulkar and his ability so much? The answer lies in that Sachin has had the misfortune to be living in a media driven world. A world where every couch potato, who has never set foot on a cricket pitch in his lifetime, starts voicing their “expert” opinion for the whole world to hear.
He was projected as an icon by us because at the time of his prominence there was nobody else who could hold a candle to him. He was the sole beacon of light when there was only gloom and despair all around him. Now we criticize him because he is not the same player as he was. What did we expect? That he is a modern day Peter Pan? Yes he has aged. Yes he is not the same player as he was. But tell me is there any great talent out there waiting in the wings to replace him? Why then are we so desperate to make him pack his bags for good? Even today Sachin Tendulkar can give you a 75 ball 100 maybe a run a ball 60 in the ODIs. Maybe a century in the first innings every 3 tests. So what? It is still the same if not better than any greater talent we can conjure up. Not to mention his vast experience which is always an asset in tight situations.
People ask if Sehwag can be dropped why not Sachin. They shout at the top of their lungs that the selectors are showing double standards. Sehwag and Ganguy were tolerated and given chances after chances for more than a year before they were dropped. We cry for Sachin’s head if goes through a series without a century. Tell me, aren’t we the ones who are showing double standards.
Sachin Tendulkar may not be the greatest ever. He may not be the greatest now. But he can still give 3 more years of good cricket if not great cricket. Can’t we show a bit more respect to him and judge his performances objectively rather than by blind passion? The man deserver it for the 17 years of joy he has provided us. We as a nation need to treasure our heroes more because we do not have many of them and we definitely won’t get someone like Sachin Tendulkar for some time to come. So savor the moments he provides you because it’s not going to last much longer.