Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Greatest Ever

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“To understand us is to take into account the moral, physical and aesthetic effect of Tendulkar. To feel your pain, when he retires from a format he made his own, is to know what it means to grow up with him.”- Siddhartha Vaidyanathan

A lot has been said and written about Sachin Tendulkar since he announced his retirement from limited overs cricket. The first thing to note, and that is a positive, is that by announcing his retirement from limited over’s cricket, Tendulkar has clearly indicated that he intends to play the longer version of the game for some more time. While his retirement from limited overs cricket is a significant moment for Indian cricket, it must be noted that Tendulkar anyways was in semi-retirement mode in the shorter form since 2010. Apart from the 2011 World Cup and the CB series in Australia last year, Tendulkar hardly played any one day games.

A scan of the virtual world will point you to many wonderful articles about Sachin Tendulkar. There is a master piece by Siddharth Vaidyanathan on cricinfo- an extract of which I have quoted above.   Many people agreed have with Sidvee and related their own life with the article. Gaurav Kalra has also written a wonderful blog (admittedly before the retirement announcement) where he writes that “So Sachin came into my life (in 1989). Much before so much else could. Before ambition. Before desire. Before lust. Before money. Before pain. Before loss. Before love”. And Harsha Bhogle has written a wonderful moving open letter to the great man.

Such appreciation is of course well deserved because Sachin Tendulkar was the greatest one day batsman ever.  In Test Cricket one can argue that Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara, Jacques Kallis and Rahul Dravid were close to him. But in terms of pure batting ability nobody came close to him in limited over’s cricket.  And I dare say nobody will come close to him. What made Tendulkar’s one day career special was that for a long time he was the sole carrier of the Indian cricket team. Prior to the arrival in 1996 of his good friend Saurav Ganguly the Indian one day team did not have a single batsman who could destroy attacks- who could change the course of a match- no one that the opposition feared.  People often criticized him, claiming that he never played when the team needed to win. That is a joke. Because for a long time India won only when Tendulkar scored runs.

Forget statistics, forget records. Look at little moments over a period of 23 years and you will acknowledge this as a great career. Regular readers of this blog will know that I consider his 90 against Australia in the 1996 World Cup as his finest batting innings.  The ball was swinging, McGrath, Fleming, and Warne were charged up and India, chasing 256 were 7 for 2. Tendulkar played three consecutive maiden overs from Glen Mcgrath and then launched an astonishing counter attack. It was high quality batting against high quality bowling and in 16 years since Tendulkar never produced the array of stroke play witnessed that day. Mark Waugh got rid of Tendulkar and as was pretty common those days the rest of the Indian batting line up collapsed and India lost the game.

His last over against South Africa at the Eden in the hero cup semi final, Two days later knocking Brian Lara out in the final, his hundred at Bristol four days after his father’s death, his 98 against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup, his match winning gems in the CB series final in 2008, his double hundred against South Africa are all significant moments in his career. These are also significant moments of happiness and moments of joy for every Indian fan.

My finest Tendulkar moment  (in one day cricket) came a few days before that Australia game in the 1996 world cup when India were playing West Indies at Gwalior. Curtly Ambrose was bowling and Tendulkar played what seemed to be a perfect back foot defensive stroke. Except that the ball sped away between mid-off and the bowler for a boundary. The great Richie Benaud was on air and he said “Not sure if I have seen anything like this before. Not sure if I will see anything like this again”.

Perfect words to describe Tendulkar’s career.

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