2007 : Sachin must now measure his success differentlyHarsha Apr 17th, 2016
Great men invite challenges; they like the idea of the opposition, or circumstance, placing obstacles in the way for it allows them to demonstrate their ability, to paint a new picture, to vanquish any hindrance. Painters search for wider canvases, greying poets with stubbles enjoy writing songs for teenagers, golfers get excited by new courses. Even sudoku enthusiasts and spelling bee champions search for more difficult puzzles, for words that have nothing of merit save an obscure alignment of letters.
Now a great man heads for the West Indies and hopefully he has a glint in his eye, and not a sigh of frustration, for company. For a major part of his career, Sachin Tendulkar has batted at No. 1 and scored more runs and more hundreds than anyone else. Now he must bat at No. 4, live with the fact that he will score fewer hundreds but be energised by the idea of taking on the crucial middle overs.
The last time he had to bat in the middle order he hated it, tried his darnedest to impersonate someone more mediocre, put his name on the score-sheet but let an impostor walk out. He thought he has been ousted, that while the crown belonged to him, it had been snatched away and he had been assigned the outhouse to live in. It wasn’t meant to be that way of course but while genius can sometimes comprehend theorems that others do not notice, a peculiar state of mind can make them unwilling, or unable, to perform simple additions.
Almost five years later, hopefully Tendulkar’s outlook is different. The opener’s slot has not been taken away, the middle-order slot has been bestowed upon him for that, it has been identified, is the most critical batting position. Now he must adapt, he has already shown he can, and look upon it as the challenge of being the best No. 4 in the limited overs game. His numbers put him in that category already. The best, over a period of time, was Javed Miandad who averaged 43.34 from 160 innings and scored a century once every 23 innings. The last statistic is crucial because it requires a change of mindset for Tendulkar who, astonishingly, scores a century every 9.3 innings.
He must now measure success differently, seek glory in a measured 42 not out in a run chase if necessary, in a 62 from 90 balls if necessary. Already from 59 innings at No. 4 he averages 40.24 with a century every 15 innings. Past champions at this position have similar averages. Aravinda da Silva managed 39.29 from 197 innings, Inzamam 40.46 from 146 and Azharuddin 40.39 from 137 and they only scored a century every 23-24 innings. Probably the most highly regarded finisher is Michael Bevan (though some believe that the love for the not-out often took precedence over the number of runs!) and he averaged 59.61 from 53 innings remaining not out once every 3.5 innings.
Funnily that might just be a target for someone like Tendulkar. If he stays not out often enough, it is very likely that he has anchored the chase or provided the optimum target. And with him around, rotating the strike as well as anyone else in the game, it would make it easier for the likes of Yuvraj and Dhoni to play their natural game. It is the kind of role that Rahul Dravid has played outstandingly for India and if the team has two players able, and willing, to play that role it will give the batting the kind of flexibility that champion teams need.
And I hope that, like me, you have been disappointed by all this talk about putting pressure on Irfan Pathan and of how various individuals have ruined his confidence. In international sport you have to perform and nobody gets better by not playing. Had Pathan not played for Baroda, instead of sitting on the bench in South Africa, he would have had one game to judge him by and, if anything, would have been rustier.
My own view is that it might even have been better for him to have played another Deodhar Trophy match just to help get the rhythm back. In any case, it is increasingly unlikely that we will see Pathan swinging the ball back into the right handers during the World Cup. More likely, he will bowl his new style of cutters at around 125 kmph in the middle overs with the protection of fielders in the deep. It will make him India’s fifth bowler and No. 7 batsman and that is probably best for him. Having higher expectations will do nobody any good.
Oh, and by the way, if somebody knows what the truth with Shoaib Akhtar and Mohd Asif is, do tell us. I thought secret trips and hush-hush stories belonged to the world of espionage.
Published: March 1, 2007
Pic Source: Rediff