Sachin redux

During the first four games of the India-Australia one day series, there were murmurs both here and elsewhere relating to Sachin’s game, his form, and his continued existence. Then 175 happened — and the pendulum, not for the first time in Sachin’s storied career, swung to the other extreme.

It is against this backdrop that I find some at least of the comments on my Sachin post, The God of Big Things, mildly amusing — comments that suggest this blog is not worth following any more being among the milder ones, while others suggest I am guilty of ‘criminal journalism’, which is worse than the yellow variety. [On this, I’ll just say that I appreciate those who have attempted to argue their case with facts and figures; not so much, those who believe the best response to something they don’t like is ad hominem attacks and random name calling].

The irony is that had I written that piece after the fourth game, the reactions would not have been so extreme — and that supports my thesis that our worldview in this instance is etched in black and white, with no shadings of gray, no room for nuance.

What mystifies me is the tendency to see that piece not as an attempt to parse a player’s current form, batting mindset and best-use case but as an unprincipled attack on an icon.

Some years ago, columnist and friend Arvind Lavakare felt impelled to write the definitive anti-Tendulkar article. I responded.

Reading that response now, I believe every word I wrote then was true. Then. Just as whatever I wrote the other day is true — or, since ‘true’ is perhaps not the right word in situations that admit of no one single truth — it is a true representation of what I think, now. When writing, there’s two possible ways I can go: either play to the gallery, or write what I truly feel, think. All things considered, I think I’ll stick with the latter.

Three articles written in the wake of Sachin’s 175 should serve, for those who need it, as antidote to my ‘criminality’. The first is by my friend Soumya Bhattacharya of the Hindustan Times. In passing Soumya, who wrote arguably the first ‘fanboy’ book on Indian cricket, is on the verge of publishing his second book on a game he loves with a passion — as I have these past months discovered over several impassioned discussions when we meet below the office building we both share for a smoke and tea.

In his HT oped Saturday, Soumya says:

It all happened so swiftly, and with such unabated fury, that it seemed as though we were watching the highlights of an innings rather than the innings itself in real time. It was giddying; it was delirium-inducing.

In a way, though, we were watching the highlights. We were watching the highlights of what Tendulkar has offered us over the past two decades. Remember Sharjah? Remember Centurion? Remember Perth? It was like a photo album — as much homage as delighted remembrance.

We crib too much about not winning, about letting a victory slip, but we seem to lose sight of the fact that two decades ago, when Tendulkar began his career, we were rather too used to losing. Winning was more of an aberration.

In the end, however heartbreaking, it was appropriate that India lost. Because it allows some of us, after all this, to wonder. Thirty-two of Tendulkar’s 45 ODI hundreds have led to India winning. Why, oh, why, could this not be the 33rd? Why did he leave the last three batsmen to get 19 runs off 17 balls? He does so much, but will anything he ever does be enough for us?

If Tendulkar knows the answer, he won’t tell. But for cricket fans shambling towards middle age, he represents a tricky paradox. He was the first hero I had who was younger than I was. With the unfettered, nerveless boldness of his batting, he made us revisit and redefine our notion of hero worship. Now, 20 years on, Tendulkar is caught in a trap of his own making. We still want him to be like the boy we grew so devoted to. And when he can’t be (because things have changed, and he, with them) we grow wistful and nostalgic. Stuck in a moment, as Bono said, and you can’t get out of it.

Against the backdrop of an imminent anniversary in Sachin’s career, Peter Roebuck writes a fanboy’s tribute. Of the many quotable bits, this perhaps best describes the game that has contributed to Sachin’s longevity:

In part he has lasted so long because there has been so little inner strain. It’s hard to think of a player remotely comparable who has spent so little energy conquering himself. Throughout he has been able to concentrate on overcoming his opponents.

But it has not only been about runs. Along the way Tendulkar has provided an unsurpassed blend of the sublime and the precise. In him, the technical and the natural sit side by side, friends not enemies, allies deep in conversation.

Ian Chappell writes against the backdrop of another kind of ‘anniversary’. When the history of our times is written, ‘Desert Storm’ will refer to the First Gulf War August 1990-January/February 1991. In the minds of Indians, however, ‘Desert Storm’ is inextricably linked with memories of this game [and this sequel].

Chappell reviews the 175 against that backdrop. As with Roebuck’s piece, much is worth quoting; I’ll use just one clip as sampler:

In recent times Tendulkar’s batting has gained a mortal quality. He often has to battle and graft for runs, like a 40-average batsman. The fact that even in that mode he still churns out centuries, like a press printing 10-rupee notes, is a testament to his greatness. However, occasionally all the magic returns and on that day he can light up a cricket ground, the way he did in Hyderabad. The cover drive flows, the flick off the pads races to the boundary and the short-of-a-length delivery is punched off the back foot, while fieldsmen are left grasping at fresh air.

In batting maturity Tendulkar resorts to more deft deflections and little glides to third man but they are as much about resting tiring muscles at the non-striker’s end as any concession to the bowlers’ ability. He’s also moved with the times and is now more likely to upper-cut a short-pitched delivery rather than employ the hook shot. He even indulges in the premeditated shovel shot over the short fine-leg fielder’s head. It was one of those that ended his epic innings in Hyderabad, just short of him achieving deity and a thrilling Indian victory.

 

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54 thoughts on “Sachin redux

  1. After Sachin’s retirement,I believe more than half the junta in India is not gonna watch Cricket.It would just be ‘Bye ,Bye cricket’ and then writers like you would write about IPL ,how to save test cricket and so on…

  2. Prem,

    Just read your response to Arvind Lavakare’s column. I am wondering what his response to your response was? Did he realize what a crapy article he had written or did he just dismiss your response? It would be nice if you could shed some light on that.

  3. Prem – You mentioned that readers can comment that Sachin had played ordinary innings and when you say the same thing, people get offended and what not. It is really a pity that few people don’t give their views in a polite way with valid arguments and instead get personal. However, I don’t think that your readers were upset because you suggested that he is having an ordinary time in the series or is not the same Sachin of 1998. As I commented to your original post, I felt it is unfair to say his ordinary performance was related to him caring about his personal milestone and not the teams requirements. I don’t like if someone say about Sachin the following:
    ‘with the mind freed of personal ambition, that he felt himself free to turn his attention to the team’s requirement’…because this to me is saying that team’s requirement is not important for Sachin. But well, as a journalist, you have the power to write what you think is the case…Only Sachin knows how much he truly cares about the team, but as a fan, I think I know the answer 🙂

  4. In addition to what you write, one should also look at Sachin’s greatness is not merely an outcome of his batting. It is his consistency on the field as well as off the field. If one does not know cricket and then sees his interviews and his mild behaviour , one would easily ask the question, “Why are so many people mad behind this man?”. Really, he has maintained such dignity that it is hard to find a flaw in his behaviour.

    This added to his consistency while playing make him the rightful owner of the title, “God of Cricket”. There are a few like him. But such people are becoming rarer by the day.

  5. Right, gone for the day — have stuff to do outside office. Back on blog around afternoon tomorrow — be well all.

  6. Last comment: I didnt mean real criminalism when I used the team “criminal journalism”. I take that back. But I guess you know what I mean…Dont you feel you were a little careless when you wrote like that? And I am pretty sure that the negative feedback would have jolted you out of your comfort zone (otherwise, you wouldnt have bothered to do a redux). If that jolt makes you write with much more care, that should suffice.

    NB: It is criminal for doctors to be careless. I think journalists are the doctors of society…

    • No, I don’t know what you mean by the phrase ‘criminal journalism’. Neither do I think I was ‘careless’ — I’ve been working as a journalist for way too long to say things I am not sure of the meanings of — a luxury afforded those who comment on posts under pseudonyms.

      I do posts when I have something to say, which should have been apparent to anyone who has read me for a while. I don’t do them to walk back what I said a day earlier. ‘Redux’ merely refers to a return of the theme or in case the name — I did this post because of the three Sachin-related articles I read and liked.

      And no, the negative remarks don’t “jolt me out of a comfort zone”. My comfort zone is my mind and the thoughts that formulate there — and I would hope not to be “jolted out of it”, thanks.

      • -“a luxury afforded those who comment on posts under pseudonyms.”

        I admit Jazzy is not my name, but I dont think that using “shiva” or “vishnu” would have made any difference either, does it? My friends figure out when they come across “jazzy”, just like I identify you whenever I see “smoking signals”.

        “I’ve been working as a journalist for way too long to say things I am not sure of the meanings of”

        Argument from authority. You really need to do that? In that way, nobody in cricket can question whatever Sachin does….

        Sorry if I am being a pest to you. This is full stop from me, anyway we are not discussing the key thing that started this.

  7. On a tangential note(this has nothing to do Prem’s argument, but about Chappel’s argument) – Obviously Sachin has changed his game a lot- sort of became “mortal”. But if someone consider his performances in the last two years, I think I am happier to see this “grandpa” Sachin now than the “young” Sachin. Young Sachin used to give too many chances. The “grandpa” sachin doesnt do that. With his slowed reflexes, it would be too fateful if he did that.

    Incidentally, it is the same Chappel who said (may be on a tip from his bro Chappel) sometime after the WC2007 tragedy that Sachin no longer has the appetite for the game and hence should quit….

    • Jazzy – looks like you are a perfect judge of talent, form and such. You know exactly who to praise and who to criticise well in advance ie you will never criticise someone whom you have praised in the past and you will never praise someone whom you have criticised in the past.
      But you need to understand there are the rest of us who have different (lower) levels of competence. We criticise someone on a day he didnt perform, but ready and doubly happy to eat our own words and praise him when he performs the next day.
      BTW – you cannot find a bigger SRT fan than me on this earth but that doesnt stop me from being a critic.
      take care

      • hi TamilIndian

        A few things to clarify:

        1) I did not claim I am a perfect judement of neither form nor talent. (tangentially, I do not think that you dont have to be a perfect judge to understand Sachin is a rare talent).

        2) I am not a BIG SRT fan – I dont have any proof for that, you just have to trust me. But proofs apart, what I have written has nothing to do with being a fan.

        3) I did not question anybody for criticizing the form or talent of Sachin. I questioned only those things where people unnecessarily criticized the attittude and character of Sachin. Prem said Sachin gives more importance to even a tiny milestone in his career than an important team goal. Chappel said Sachin no longer has the appetite for the game just because he saw one failure duing world cup (or more probably he didnt like Sachin going against his bro). If you remember, Prem did not say that sachin scored 7 runs from 16 balls during his 175 not because he was struggling with foam, but because he gave more importance to crossing 17K.

        4) Now, I do not claim that I am a perfect judge of character or attittude either. But when people ignore the rather obvious reasons based on the facts on daylight and try to pick up tiny things here and there based largely on their personal prejudices or assumptions, I can always question their judgement. Thats all what I did. If I did anything else, please bring it forward.

        5) Claiming that you have a different(lower) levels of competence does not warrant any thought or comment.

  8. Prem,

    I am not sure if I can buy “this is my personal blog” argument.

    First of all, I thought that this is a published article in Rediff (If I am wrong about that, then this doesnt hold), and hence you have crossed your personal sphere and whatever you were expressing were “journalistic” opinion. I dont know if a journalist can write anything, lets say in The Hindu, and escape saying that it was just his personal opinion.

    Secondly, even if it is a personal stuff, there is something called responsibility. People like me come to read this with a basic assumption that you are a credible guy. There are thousands of cricket blogs in internet. Why do you think I am reading yours? When you say irresponsible things, your credibility erodes. I just wanted to make sure that you come to know about it.

    I am not asking you not to write what you feel is true. Absolutely not. What I am asking you to do is to rethink your own judgement about the truth of the matter. I think you know this is the essense of any discussion or debate in case of a difference of opinion. I think I have given very good reasons why Sachin cannot be faulted with “the selfishness theory” during his 175, because thats the way he plays usually. I do not see you rethinking whatever you wrote. Do you think that is responsible from your side? You can of course say “I dont care, I said what I said”. If thats the case, then…..nothing.

    • A correction: “When you say irresponsible things, your credibility erodes. I just wanted to make sure that you come to know about it.” – Please reread as:

      “When you say irresponsible things, your credibility erodes. I just wanted to make sure that you come to know about it. More than that, others also come to know about it”.

    • Jazzy, you have over several posts here and on the other thread clarified your stand, and that is fair.

      I read all comments posted here, so you have successfully brought your point about my eroding credibility also to my attention. And, as you mention in an afterthought, to the attention of other readers. Fair enough — that is what the comments space is for.

      I have no intention of using any words I write to alter your judgment. I ask that you do me the same courtesy — and not keep harping on something in order to compel me to “rethink my judgment” — to say that is to suggest that my judgment, my thoughts, were formed half baked, and need fine tuning from you or whoever.

      • So, we are down to “You can of course say I dont care, I said what I said. If thats the case, then…..nothing.” :-))

  9. Right, sorry, but I need to bail out of this discussion for now — work calls. Back here later — or more likely, tomorrow.

  10. Prem, ignore the fanboys and the trolls.

    This is your blog and for you to express your opinions. I might not agree with you, but you are entitled to your opinions. I will still read you 😀

    • Oh no, seriously, fanboys are fun — and in many ways I am one too. Don’t interpret what I said in this post to mean that I am angst-ridden by the response, mate — the more vitriolic of them amused me. I only bailed out of responding on that post because I have no intention of coping with gratuitous abuse and name-calling on the basis of a limited understanding of what I wrote, and where I was coming from when I wrote that.

      As for not agreeing with me — I’d bloody well hope not. A total synchronicity of opinion is the most boring thing I could think of.

  11. Prem,

    Nice analysis… I’m sure you get some opportunities to interview Sachin sooner or later? Can you ask him why do the golden generation of Indian Cricket (Sachin, Rahul, Saurav, Anil) have very little successes in ICC tournaments? The thing that really bothers me is the sheer amount of losses in finals. What gives?

  12. Prem,

    All said and done, I am sure you would be the first to admit that article is not one of your best ones. I thought it was offending in many counts starting from an ill-conceived notion of the typical Indian fan to accusing a veteran sportsman playing in a team sport of playing for himself first before playing for the team. I agree some of the responses to the article have been extreme and I condemn them but I am surprised you have not chosen to explain some of the pieces in the article that has caused heartburn for your readers.

    Also, you seem to be quite forgiving of some of the other batsmen in the team giving an impression that you are targeting SRT. For example, many of your readers and I have pointed out Sehwag’s one-dimensional game as not working against Australia but you have thus far ignored Sehwag’s non-performances.

    Anyways, just my thoughts, you may still be right in your thinking but unless you explain some of the issues raised it is hard to resonate with.

    • I write what I think, when I think it. And I don’t sit here rating my own ‘articles’.

      As for what causes heartburn to the readers, yeah, what does? My suggestion that Sachin’s powers are on the wane? Is that in and of itself a condemnation, or a fact of life? I’ve been writing/for 20 years, as it turns out, and my colleagues tell me — and I am aware of this too — that my speed, and even quality, has tended to show a dip. So? I don’t think that criticism takes away from whatever I have done through the course of my career — it is a pragmatic assessment of where I am right here, right now. I am not about to explain what should have been apparent — that the piece in question was not a retrospective, a judgment on what SRT has or has not achieved. It was written, and clearly specified, that it looks at this ongoing series to examine exactly where a player is. It praised an innings that deserved praise [ironically, I notice that Cricinfo in the Surfer picks out exactly that — the words I used to describe the innings, and my point about his longevity; some fans on the other hand tended to pick out only the negatives, and to go ‘how dare you’.].

      Bottomline is, I write what I think; you take away what you want to.

      As for my being ‘forgiving’ of Sehwag, please. When I write about Sehwag — which I likely will — is time enough for you to assess what my attitude to him is. Or to Yuvraj, or to Dhoni, or whoever else.

      Incidentally, during this same series I seem to remember writing that MS Dhoni might want to change the way he bats; I remember being nostalgic for the earlier version. On that occasion I remember folks pointing out that his average has been better since he began batting with restraint [folks managed to do that without name-calling, mercifully enough]. Fair enough. I wrote what I hoped/wished for — and if I can’t do that on my own blog without being told what I should think and what tack I should take in my writing, then this exercise seems to me pointless.

      • Prem,

        “As for what causes heartburn to the readers, yeah, what does? My suggestion that Sachin’s powers are on the wane?”

        If you read the responses to that article it is the piece that questions his integrity as a team player that is the No.1 cause for the heartburn.

        “I wrote what I hoped/wished for — and if I can’t do that on my own blog without being told what I should think and what tack I should take in my writing, then this exercise seems to me pointless.”

        From where did you get that? Certainly not from my comments?

        • No, not from *your* comments, but from the collective.

          I can and do question whether he allowed the landmark to shackle him to an unnatural style of play. That is not the same as “questioning his integrity” — it merely suggests that he has a human side to him, and that side can get distracted by what are in the larger scheme of things superfluous.

          • You say he was shackled to an “unnatural style of play” because of the looming landmark but what is his natural style of play? If there is one thing that separates SRT from other Indian batsmen is that he has no natural style and he can play in any fashion and make it seem as his natural style. The last time India chased a target over 350 against Australia was in the WC 2003 final and SRT got out in the first over trying to play a pull shot before gauging the bounce or the pace of the pitch. May be that was in his mind?

              • Sorry, that was needlessly flip, so let me try it again: which of two words would you apply to that innings: Was it SRT’s natural style, or was it unnatural for a man of his abilities? You pick. Cheers.

              • When chasing a moderate target a steady start is what is important not a rollicking start that is followed by a spate of wickets. The pitch was certainly not a belter, so when the ball is new and most of the fielders are within the 30 yard circle you are going to have quite a lot of dot balls. It is how you make the most of the opportunities (bad balls) that come your way that is going to count. If scoring runs at a run a ball was easy and SRT was “shackled into an unnatural style of play”, what stopped the middle order from scoring at a strike rate greater than SRT’s? Oh yes! Now I get it, he passed on the disease of slow scoring to the rest of them or was it the 90’s syndrome of – if Sachin has a strike rate of 57, we cannot hope to score better than him on this pitch?

                • That was an ordinary innings, no two ways about it. An ordinary innings in an ordinary batting day for India. Here alone, a few Sachin innings in the past where he simply freezes indicate that he sometimes is unable to do what’s required. A top score of 40 is anyway neither here nor there. But I will take these few bad innings if he scores a 175 once in a while, and I am sure Prem will too, no? Doesn’t mean that we can’t criticize poor judgment (I think it’s not a lack of skills for sure – his natural game is to score at about 85-90 runs per 100 balls; just that he sometimes makes up his mind to stay at the crease come what may and when that doesn’t come off, it looks really bad).

                  If cricket, or sport, didn’t have its what-ifs – what if Sachin had played a 100 balls that day, etc. – what fun will be there?

                  • “That was an ordinary innings, no two ways about it. An ordinary innings in an ordinary batting day for India.” — and that was what I said, if I remember right. Why is it not okay for me to point that out? And to suggest that the first four innings of this series were fairly ordinary?

                    Yes, a century — hopefully, even a century that wins the match — I will take at this rate. Let’s say once in four, five visits to the crease. Which is a point you would make when you were doing a career retrospective — which, as you clearly are aware, this was not. So again — why on earth are we going on and on when there seems to be a basic agreement on the major points? Of course sports will have its what ifs — and fans will see it one way, or the other, and debate it endlessly. Totally fair, and totally how it should be.

                    My point was simply that fans need to allow others the right to their opinions too. And where possible, to realize that it is after all sport — heated arguments are fun in their own way, but I’d submit that the ones on the previous post long ago crossed that line. I would submit, too, that at some point you need to withdraw from a debate, agreeing to disagree — and for me that point is here, since I find myself increasingly repeating myself to multiple posters. 🙂

                  • I don’t get your point but the discussion here is about whether SRT allowed the looming milestone to shackle him or not. According to Prem, this “shackling” was evident not just in the early part of his 175 but also in the previous game when he scored 40 of 68 balls. “An ordinary innings in an ordinary batting day for India” – right, but as per Prem, in SRT’s case he played an ordinary innings not due to “poor judgement” (as per you) but because he was more concerned about getting to his “landmark” than the team’s target. My riposte is why then did the middle order not score faster?

                    • Sheesh, we are now getting circular. If you want to rate a SRT innings on the basis of the others in the team, fair enough — do we agree that Sachin is a cricketing mortal and has to be judged against the yardstick of his peers?

                      Seriously, this has begun going around in circles so with your permission, I’ll bail for a bit.

                    • If you want to bail out a bit I understand but turning off the “reply” button, now that I didn’t expect.

                      Anyways, you made my point for me. Why elevate him to a God who can do miracles and then when he fails find non-cricketing reasons for it which do more damage to his image than good? Why not just call him a great player of his generation, like we would call a Lara or a Ponting, and judge him by the same yardstick?

                    • Posted this elsewhere, doing it here as well from my admin panel: I did *not* turn off the reply button, and have no idea how that happened. Come on — if I don’t do that when people call me names, it is hardly likely I’ll shut it off simply because of a civil argument.

                    • I guess the system doesn’t allow more than 12 replies on a given thread. I can’t think of any other reason:-)

                    • Eh? I did *not* turn off the reply button, and have no idea how that happened! Nor any clue how to set it right. Too much to do just now to figure this out, but whatever happened was not my doing.

  13. Prem,

    Glad that you have used a fresh post to round out your thoughts – the comment board there was getting sweatier than necessary.

    After I posted my response to that post, it was obvious that the matter was simple – you have a view that Sachin, either consciously or unconsciously, cared enough about crossing that record and then went on to try to win the match; a few people including me disagreed – I did because every thing that I have read about him, seen in him leads me to believe that this was definitely not a person who’d chase such a meaningless record. The only person who knows the truth won’t tell us what it was and even if he tells us anything, it need not be the truth simply as a matter of form. So, there it rests.

    As far as nuance is concerned, the greatness of cricket (and I know football lovers would say the same thing about football and so on) is the sheer spectrum of shades it conceals and reveals through a single match. Tendulkar’s career is a rich tapestry of such nuances – because it’s been so thick with greatness, so fraught with tragedy and so bloody long. I guess the easiest thing is to agree that he has been special – the degree and the timing of being special may vary from person to person.

    But we in India (and I suspect it’s not very different elsewhere) like our blacks and whites and fours and sixers, where there’s little room for ambiguity or debate. The tragedy is that Tendulkar’s career is perfect debating material – and worth debating about. Being a Tendulkar fan, it’s usually easy to at least have a strong argument to support him (though when he did a couple of inexplicable go-slows on last days of important tests leading to collapses and defeats, even the biggest Tendulkar fan would have found it exasperating) but the fun is in engaging in fact-based but yet emotion-imbued debate, no? That’s what makes being a cricket fan so awesome!

    p.s. Why can’t gods be flawed? So many Hindu gods and definitely all the Greek ones are as flaw-ridden as the next man!

    • “Tendulkar’s career is a rich tapestry of such nuances” — precisely. And when I get down to doing a retrospective, I hope to have enough ability, sense, and skill to incorporate all those nuances into my writing.

      However, there is something that happens with distressing regularity. Suppose you write about a player in the here and now — and this is true no matter who you are talking about — there will immediately be a set of that player’s fans who will point to various past deeds and ask, how dare you not mention any of that. That response ignores the difference between a retrospective, and a current, article.

      “Why can’t gods be flawed?” — thank you, you just summed up my article for me. Isn’t that exactly what I said? I merely added to it the additional point, that if we accept flaws, then maybe we can adjust our own expectations, our prayers even, accordingly.

      • Your article obviously was based on the here and now, and at least a few responses disagreed only with parts (and not the whole) of that analysis. I am sure that when you write a retrospective (and I sure hope you do and I sure hope that day is far away enough to add some more layers to the Tendulkar saga), there will be enough time to pick on the nuances then. Quoting the past here (except for the sake of context or clarification) and name-calling is a waste of time and space.

        One of the toughest things I have had to do as a die-hard Sachin fan is to reconcile with the changes / waning in Sachin over the past few years. But I am glad I have because it’s been rewarding. One thing that has stood out for me is the effort Sachin himself has put in to explain the changes again and again – I think it shows maturity and wisdom rarely seen in sportsmen. Not for him the ‘going down guns blazing’ approach which is a cop out in my book, and has been advocated in different ways, including by the likes of Ian Chappell. So we may have a different / diminished (as per point of view) Sachin but one who still is worth his weight in gold in the team (whether at the top of the order or at 3 is a matter debated often enough here).

        • “One of the toughest things I have had to do as a die-hard Sachin fan is to reconcile with the changes / waning in Sachin over the past few years.” — yes, but why? Surely commonsense alone will tell us that physically, we cannot do today what we did with ease 20 years ago? So when it comes to sport, it is only natural that there will be a diminishing of powers?

          I thought Chappell’s point was particularly well taken — that you push and prod at times to save your body, not because of the quality of the opposition attack. I merely added to that point a corollary — that when a player gets to that point where the brutal dominance of the past has to be tempered by a growing concession to age, it is good man-management to take note of that, to allow for it, and to change the collective thinking accordingly. I seem to remember a time when the team installed SRT as its explosive warhead — the man who would go out there at the start and tame the opposition attack, so the other lesser batsmen could ride in his slipstream. Clearly, such batsmanship will be more the exception than the norm going forward — I didn’t think pointing out the obvious was, what did someone call it, “criminal journalism”. 🙂

          • The reconciliation was tough precisely because it’s logical (that sounds batty, I know). Here was a hero you look up to and you don’t want to be reminded he is a mortal, not least by himself. It’s a mental adjustment that takes away from what inspires you. It’s not logical, but what part of waking up at 3 am to see a meaningless one-dayer in New Zealand is 🙂 But as I mentioned, once reconciled, it’s been particularly rewarding – because you see the maturity and adaptability of a man who has grown up from being a boy and if anything, he’s a bigger hero than before. Granted, he still makes errors of judgment in how he should essay his new role, but he seems to have accepted the fact that he has to change and he has done a good job of it. Sachin himself is at the forefront of reviewing his role in the team and though I will never say he is the right judge of that (he is too close to it to be objective), he at least will listen to the team’s requirements.

            I was referring to an earlier Chappell article about Tendulkar retiring which I thought was ill-timed and rather ordinary (he argued how Lara was Lara right till the end, etc. if I remember correctly). His latest is actually a well considered one.

            We could do with some ‘criminal journalism’ from time to time 🙂 Though the real criminal journalism is that which is practised in Bombay Times and ToI – where they kill language and journalistic propriety every single day!

  14. Fine Prem, So some readers didn’t understand that you were talking about Sachin’s current form and that the piece was written at the end of the fourth match.

    So given this and your reply to Mr. Lavakare’s article, what do *you* think about Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar now? Will you still hold Sachin in high regard as you did in that Lavakare-reply article? Or you think he doesn’t deserve to be labeled the “greatest” ? In short your view on Sachin- the person, the player!

    Can we expect a reply to this on Sachin’s 20 years in International cricket !

    • My personal opinion remains unchanged, and broadly they span the following points:

      1. That Sachin has been one of the most seminal influences in Indian cricket history.

      2. That he ranks — in my view, yes, but then this is my blog, not a history book — as India’s greatest ever all round batsman.

      3. That he ranks among the greatest batsmen the world has seen.

      If I don’t use the absolute “the greatest”, it is not because I think others are greater, but because I truly have no idea how some of the comparable names have played, not having seen them. I remember once watching, in Mumbai, Graeme Pollock and Barry Richards bat. Both were in their mid/late forties at the time — and what struck me was the incredible skill they could still put on display. At the time, I thought that maybe it is impossible to compare across generations, especially since such comparisons will be colored by the experience of watching contemporary greats as opposed to having to rely on scoreboards for a sense of their predecessors.

      As to the last point about whether I am writing on Sachin’s 20 years, from what I know, and hear from journalist friends in other papers/sites, there is considerable content planned for that day. My own feelings about Sachin fall broadly into two categories: the unstinted admiration I feel for a sportsman, especially in the pressure cooker world of Indian cricket, who has managed to sustain his personal game for two decades now, and on the other hand the pragmatic belief that as age catches up with him [and I don’t mean this in any pejorative fashion — I am merely making the same point Chappell did], there needs perhaps to be an internal reassessment within the team of what the best possible role is that the Sachin of today can play in its ranks; of how best to leverage 20 years of experience and incalculable skills developed over that time to the task not only of winning games, but also of shaping the stars of tomorrow.

      I’ll likely write on Sachin again, if and when circumstances warrant. But I’ll save my personal retrospection/valedictory piece for when his career is at an end, whenever that is, and I can sit back and think through 20 years of watching him, and make sense of my thoughts.

      • I dont get it.If Sachin is not the absolute greatest,then who is?This is not to force opinion on you, but I dont see any absolute reasoning behind this.There were talented players and like you mentioned,there was Barry Richards and Pollock.It’s like you are arguing you see players with incredible skill playing at Shivaji park gymkhana but…….??! WTF?Get my point?

  15. It’s this sickening attitude of the mainstream media & fanatical fans that irritates me. Everything is black & white for them and in the case of SRT, it is white alone. He is human like the rest of us and has his faults. But, if you try pointing them out, it is blasphemy.

    I don’t know why people have to defend him at any cost. Seeing the venom in the abuse that you received, I am reminded of the kind of reactions we had to the Danish cartoons. Cricket is indeed a religion here:-)

  16. Prem,

    You mention about your other ‘Sachin’ post, and the response to it. It appears that you quite a few Sachin fans unable to look at your ‘analysis’.

    I just want to comment on this exercise of ‘analysis’. The primary reason for any analysis ought to be for improvement of the system. In this case, you and I know that this is not going to happen. The second reason for any analytical exercise is to make a living of such an exercise. These academic analyses appear to contribute to debate and discussion, but most of the time they happen to stir and firm up dogma and fanaticism.

    There has been a general observation that Indians are not team players but look for only heroes within the team. This series has been a show case of this argument. In most games, Indian players have played in areas where their contribution was not expected – a bowler scoring runs, a batsman getting run outs effected, etc. And in the analysis, the point that the contribution of a specialist in their area of specialization has not been addressed.

    Ram

    • Ram, first up I hate to apply the word ‘analyst’ to myself and what I do. At one time I used to do match reports and stories on Indian cricket. Once I gave that up, I have been, and continue to be, another cricket fan who uses his blog to air his thoughts — for what they are worth.

      I understand what you are driving at in your second para — but if ‘analysis’ has to be viewed against improvement in the system, then there is basically no point in writing about Indian cricket at all, because very clearly the system will not change — at least in the conceivable future. As for the second reason for ‘analysis’ — to make a living — that too does not apply. I make my living as editor of India Abroad and as an employee of Rediff.com with a specific set of functions. Writing about cricket is not one of them — and this blog and its various earlier avtars are my private space, which have nothing to do with the company.

      As to the point that has not been addressed in that piece, most certainly not — but then, it was never intended to be an analysis of the team, or even a lifetime analysis of the player concerned. That piece had a specific context: the present. There will hopefully be other pieces — retrospective ones perhaps, about Sachin or whoever else; ‘analytical’ ones about the team and/or its component parts. It is not however my intention — nor is it within my abilities — to address every single question every time.

      • Prem, thanks for a reply. I had mixed up my observations about your writing and some general observations regarding ‘indian fan’ behavior in my previous comment. Let me try to separate them here.

        Regarding your writing you use an analytical reasoning to make your point, and also you use emotive descriptions. Mostly, you keep both these compartments separate and not mix them. (I think this is the style you follow – willingly or otherwise, and I don’t have any issues with this approach.) The idea of ‘making a living’ need not be equated to ‘earning a living’, so you need not get too sensitive about it.

        The general observation was that response (in number and sensitivity) have been more when points are made against individual players, but not as much when made about team, leadership or collective plans.

        Ram

  17. First thing first, I think we Indians should stop calling Sachin our “God”. If our God is as flawed as Sachin then even God can’t help us. He is a mortal human being with all its flaws and I have a feeling that even he would appreciate if he is treated as a normal human being.

    His 175 under the circumstances was an excellent effort but consistency doesn’t seem to be the word in any Indian player’s dictionary. Sachin may have played some of the better innings but Ponting and Inzi were always more consistent than him.

  18. Your response to Arvind Lavakare gave me goosebumps. This happens every time I read about ‘Desert Storm’ or see the video in youtube. Thank you 🙂

  19. In all honesty (if that has any value), I was waiting to see what you say in response to the comments from the “God” post. I have rarely read comments to your posts, and so, I was a bit surprised (or shocked) to see some really strong – almost personal – responses.

    Everyone seems to have caught that one part of the entire article, and twisted it into an attack on the most revered God, confirming the beliefs that we are fanatically support/view our cricketers when they are in full flow, as Gods, who are not supposed to be human at all, and if they are human, they are supposed to have overcome a problem.

    At the same time, I do not see anything wrong in a person focusing on a record and getting it out of his mind. It just releases the additional pressure a person has (although, people might claim that Sachin does not have it). I do not look at it as selfishness. It is just a way to ensure that one unnecessary milestone is out of the way!

    And now that I think – if Sachin would have come out and said that he was a bit careful in the beginning because there was too much pressure on reaching the target, following which he could have played much better, people would have applauded him… maybe!

    Disclaimer: I do think Sachin is God. I still live in the euphoria of Sharjah and I still have the confidence that if Sachin is around, we can get any score, or save any match we want.

    Perhaps, most importantly, this is your blog and these are just your views and they should be respected. Of course, people who have commented have their views and they must be respected equally! But, it is sad to see that views on Sachin were transformed into views about you, particularly, since they were so negative.

    • Happens — and is only natural in a land where we tend to take things to heart. I did not respond on the comments to that post, nor did I intend this as a response, because I’d prefer not to get entangled in ad hominem attacks, arguments that miss the central point of what I wrote, and above all, name-calling. As you say, readers have the right to their own views, too, and that’s fair.

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