Crucial Times Await Sachin
By Orin Davidson
Sachin Tendulkar is accustomed to enduring scrutiny of the
meanest type from the world’s best bowlers.
But within eight weeks he will encounter an examination unusual
for cricket stars.
Opposing teams, fans and the media will have all eyes and
lenses on the great man as cricket’s biggest competition
comes to town to the West Indies.
It will not be for Tendulkar’s looks — everyone
knows he exhibits minor physical change from the time he debuted
17 years ago. Nor will it be an examination of his marital
life — the world knows he has a solid relationship with
wife Anjali and their two kids.
Rather Tendulkar will be under the microscope for doing the
things that made him a legend from Bombay to Bridgetown —
that of scoring runs.
Those who admire him will be happy if he finds his best form
before the first World Cup delivery is sent down in Jamaica’s
Sabina Park. Those who worship him might have to be placed
on suicide watch if he does not set the spanking new stadiums
ablaze there. And even those who support non-India teams will
be disappointed if he does not get among the runs, in what
could be his World Cup swansong.
The cause for the abnormal attention on the Bombay mega-star
needs little justification.
Ever since his return to competition last year from a string
of injuries Tendulkar has not been himself.
He has not dominated bowlers the way he used to that yielded
him more than 10,000 Test runs, more than 14,000 One Day runs
with 35 and 40 centuries respectively in both forms of the
It is said that injury and age is a telling combination for
sportsmen after years of wear and tear.
And already the whispers are making the rounds surrounding
the Indian batting sensation ever since elbow and shoulder
problems forced him to miss in total a, year of competition
between 2005 and 2006.
Disgruntled Indian fans accustomed to him reeling off ton
and ton with the ease they exhibit in downing a cup of tea,
did the unimaginable in the crucial return series against
Pakistan last year.
Boos rang out from the stands at Amedabad after one of frequent
low scores from the country’s greatest batsman which
staggered the rest of the world, and enticed one of India’s
leading newspapers to question Tendulkar’s presence
in the team .
“Endulkar”? was a headline never thought possible
in the heyday of Test cricket’s leading century maker,
yet India’s decline since the departure of coach John
Wright only bolstered the local media’s confidence to
diss the country’s most acclaimed cricketing son.
Whether it shook the great man’s resolve only time will
tell, but the statistics state Tendulkar’s scoring has
not improved since then.
India lost both the Test and One Day series heavily against
Pakistan when he returned from a second absence for the shoulder
injury last year.
They were embarrassed in the Invitational limited overs series
the India Board hosted for Australia and West Indies in Malaysia
and despite a big 141 against West Indies from the master,
it was just not enough.
Another first round elimination in the Champions Trophy staged
in India, placed greater pressure on the former world number
two ranked team, in which their mega batsman’s non scoring
And when they toured South Africa last month Sachin ‘s
two half centuries was all he mustered in all of three Tests
and four One Day Internationals that culminated in a crushing
defeat and a heart wrenching 2-1 Test loss respectively.
At the same time Tendulkar’s main batting rival in the
fans minds, Brian Lara continued to make the headlines with
centuries against Pakistan that landed him one away from the
former’s Test record.
Lara is not motivating his West Indies team to any significant
level of success in the Test arena, but he is ensuring his
batting legacy will be unforgettable when he eventually quits
And that will not be anytime soon, as even at 37 he is yet
to contemplate a retirement date.
Tendulkar also had to hear Shane Warne and Glen McGrath rate
the triple world record holder Lara, their most difficult
batting foe, long after Muttiah Muralitharan made an identical
Then former Test stars Ian Chappell, Tony Greig, Ravi Shastri,
Wright and Sanjay Manjrekar, adjudicated Lara the best contemporary
batsman, in a Cricinfo convened panel, based on his consistency
through a 16-year international career.
Although Tendulkar has never shown any interest in the bragging
rights game between himself, Lara and Australia captain Ricky
Ponting, all the recent putdowns must be tough to take.
After all he is human.
Whether all of it, or some of it ignites the competitive fires
within the Mumbia Maestro, the world will know within a week.
Tendulkar and Lara will suit up for their respective countries
in another of the numerous pre-World Cup warm-up competitions
the India board has arranged for its team.
The venue will be India and Tendulkar will have an attack
he is familiar with and from which he reeled off his biggest
ODI score in recent times.
If the upcoming four-match series doesn’t bring out
the best in him, don’t expect it to happen in the World
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