2005 : A ‘yahoo’ moment from Sachin’s back pagesHarsha Apr 17th, 2016
Long before he overcame Sri Lanka’s bowlers at Nagpur, Sachin Tendulkar won the battle against his deadliest opponent. Besieged by injury, Tendulkar had allowed himself to believe that there were now things he could not do, that being the senior statesman meant he had to impose limitations on himself.
His powers of auto-suggestion, like his other powers, were substantial. Tendulkar became polite to bowlers, sometimes made them look better than they were, he nudged the ball and placed it gently. It was like the Bachchan of Deewar playing the Bachchan of Alaap. He was very good at it, but it wasn’t him.
The trance had to break some day, he had to cast aside his suit and put on his sneakers again. He had to rediscover himself, look into the mirror and realise that the man looking back at him was 32, not 45. I suspect it happened two days before the match at Nagpur.
It was a liberated Tendulkar that walked out to bat, one who had overcome the burdens he had imposed on himself. This was the child again, the same joyous little boy with his toys; he skipped from one dinky car to the other, pulled out the remote-controlled bike and cheerfully sprayed the world with his water pistol. He played the straight drive again, lofted the fast bowler, teasingly lapped the ball to fine leg and unleashed the cover-drive.
It happens to the best. The mind is made up and instinct is buried. We seek to become conformists, from making the rules we bow to them. Sometimes we grow weary with battle, the next conquest becomes daunting. We start looking at obstacles rather than opportunities, worry about getting out rather than think of scoring runs; once again we see the fielders not the gaps between them.
And we need to be convinced about our own skills. We own them but we don’t trust them anymore and that is when the environment becomes critical. Stars who are surrounded by people who tell them they can do no wrong start stagnating because fresh thought doesn’t reach them anymore, the contrary view becomes outlawed, even unpardonable.
Somebody broke Tendulkar’s defensive mind-set. Maybe he did it himself, maybe he listened and agreed but the end result was that he drove past his own barriers. The journey was thrilling, it was almost as if the result didn’t matter. And so he played the shots he wouldn’t, and some he couldn’t because of his left elbow.
Now the Sri Lankans will be worried. He may still get out early, he may still miscue shots, that cheeky run might be nipped by the direct hit but he now seeks to dominate which is what he was born to do. He sees himself as the striker again, not the mid-fielder who feeds the ball, Shammi Kapoor is saying ‘‘yahoo’’ again, not reciting Ghalib.
As captain, Rahul Dravid couldn’t ask for more. Indeed he made a handsome contribution himself, batting positively and taking the big decision. Most people find the power plays irksome, too predictable. The real challenge of the new law was always going to come on the sub-continent and Dravid showed why a good captain can take advantage of it. So too with the super-sub and while that might see a little tweak to it, these are things that need to be tried, not consigned to the bin because of rigid thought.
I suspect he will be just as happy with Harbhajan’s performance. Unlike Tendulkar, Harbhajan isn’t endowed with the coolness of mind, the complete control over performance. He is an extraordinarily gifted but attitudinally fragile young man, brilliant but stubborn, lethal but distracted.
For a long time he was convinced he wasn’t going to bowl round the wicket. Then in Zimbabwe, he relented and saw immediately the effect it could have. It opened his mind and he is a better bowler for it.
Indeed, getting the best out of such mercurial talents as Harbhajan, Yuvraj and Sehwag will be Dravid’s biggest challenge.
But it was typical of the man that on one of his best days, he chose to look at the wider picture; to remind people that on another day not everything might come off, that Pathan is still a bowler who bats! All captains look good when Tendulkar is firing.
Indeed the magnificent Jayasuriya might play the kind of innings that Tendulkar did, Sangakkara might show off his skills and the wicket-keeper’s lapses might prove to be costly. Catches might fall a foot further away and run-outs might be missed.
But India have made a beginning and it is a bold one. They will stumble but if they want to rise from number seven, this is the only way.
Published: October 27, 2005