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Blog Entry - Blog Friday, 04 January 2008 12:03
Contributed by Jaideep Varma    (6832 views)
Team A is nearly 40 runs ahead with one wicket in hand, with its most feted batsman on 146 not out. What would you expect? That this premier batsman on 146 farms most of the strike and tries to get some quick runs, right? In any country in the world, in a similar situation, would you expect anything different?

This was exactly the situation that was played out this morning in Sydney, on the third day of the second Australia vs. India test. Tendulkar’s innings was a magnificent knock without which India would probably have been bowled out with a huge deficit to lug, let alone going in with a 69 run lead. It was a near-perfect Test innings, until the 9th wicket fell and we came to the situation described above.

Well, this is what followed. Tendulkar only took singles thereafter, with not a single attempt of an attacking stroke. On four occasions, he took a single off the first ball of an over (!), and once off the second ball. Tendulkar faced 19 balls in the partnership and scored 8 more runs (to take his tally to 154), while Ishant Sharma played 34 balls and scored 23, which included 5 agricultural fours. Sharma got out eventually, in typical tail-ender fashion, fending the short ball, lobbing the ball back to the bowler (Lee), something that could well have happened earlier in his innings, given that he is, after all, a tail-ender, and him scoring 23 was an exceptional occurrence.

Not a murmur about this bizarre spectacle from any of the commentators. Later in the post-match interview, Harsha Bhogle warily asked Tendulkar if he had too much faith in the tail-enders, and Tendulkar said that he did and it is borne out by the fact that the last 3 wickets added 187 runs (including a swashbuckling 63 from Harbhajan Singh). With Ishant, apparently, Tendulkar felt that the field was too defensive with Tendulkar himself on strike and therefore the best opportunity to score runs lay with Ishant (as attacking fields were set for him), and so he kept giving him the strike with the brief to hit out.

I don’t know about you, but this is about the most bizarre thing I’ve heard in my thirty years of following cricket. It is not for the first time that a top-order batsman has been left to bat with an inexperienced, vulnerable number 11 for company and it is definitely not the first time that defensive field settings are applied to prevent the recognized batsman from scoring. And pretty much every single batsman who has been in such a situation has followed basic cricketing logic and used his ability to try and up the scoring rather than depending on the number 11 to do a batsman’s job.

The possibility that Tendulkar may have been interested, first in his 150, and then in a not-out innings to boost his average (he would be very acutely conscious that his is only the second-highest test average amongst Indians) is of course only spoken about in hushed tones. Just like what happened in Sydney 2004, and then Multan 2004.

At the risk of sounding defensive, a little allowance needs to be made for a clarification that is personal, but necessary here to see this piece in the right light and without misconceptions. For the last few months, I have personally been attacked viciously for writing “anti-Tendulkar” articles, whether it be about his match-winning ability completely disproportionate to his hype, or why Dravid is a far greater cricketer than him, or why Tendulkar should be asked to open in Australia and not Dravid . There have been nasty personal remarks made about me (especially for the first piece, as you can see in the comments section), about how I am a loser, or a mental case, how I crave publicity, how little I understand the game, about how I have other agendas in attacking a legend like this. A cursory Google search can counter doubts about me personally, but how do I counter the charge that I want to willfully attack Tendulkar? Of course I do not need to clear anything, but if it could help in having my point examined a little closely, maybe it is a worthwhile thing to do.

My problem with Tendulkar, as each of these three pieces suggest, have to do with the fact that he just keeps on giving the impression that he is acutely conscious of his personal achievement over his team’s. This is not to say that he does not value his team’s achievements; just that in a situation where the two are in conflict (which does not happen that often and that obviously in a sport like cricket) he tends to choose his own achievement. There have been too many examples of this over the years for him to get the benefit of doubt (as the first piece points out).

This website and this writer do not have anything personal against him, nor do we bring these things up to fulfill personal agendas. We all believe he is the most gifted batsman to ever play for India, and amongst the greatest to ever play the game, but this awe-inspiring talent does not serve his team over and above everything else when there is a conflict. In my book, that makes him a poor role-model in a country for which the phrase “crab mentality” is quoted ever so often to describe its biggest character flaw (and no doubt is used for me too by numerous incensed Sachin fans) and where individual glory is savoured more than combined triumphs (which is why we are such a poor sporting nation, in my view).

It would help if there was at least more of a debate on this, especially from the so-called experts of the game and the mainstream media.

  • Goks  - You know I agree with you, Jai
    I missed this one at the time it came out. Just caught it when I was reading a much later article related to Tendulkar's 20-years in international cricket in November 2009.

    But I just wanted to add one more "fact" that was being ignored here. It is that Ishant Sharma was to come in and bowl for India with the new ball soon thereafter. So, if SRT was a team man, wouldn't he want to make sure his team's opening bowler stayed safe and not struck by a lethal Brett Lee delivery, especially given his inexperience against such bowling attacks and pitch conditions as a batsman?

    It is all too convenient to combine Harbhajan and Ishant together as "tailenders" but there is a vast chasm separating the two in terms of ability with the bat and confidence on the back of experience, needless to say their role as bowlers, all of which should be part of a top order batsman's approach to a partnership with them.
  • Maserati  -
    What a dog you are Sunil... at least you have honestly lived up up to your true calling.
  • R Kumaran  - Right O Neetish...
    I just stumbled upon this article and you are quite right Neetish, if this is the level of analysis required to nail someone, God help Indian cricket writing. Am no great fan of Sachin myself, but feel that some of these so-called analysts employ very dubious yardsticks for certain players depending on which side of the fence they decide to be on. Dravid and Ganguly have also been at the receiving end of such writers many a time. It's a pointless debate really.
  • Neetish  - Nitish
    Y is this site completely ANti Sachin , im yet to come across an article which praises the master batsman ....
    Never mind is there to respect the great man
  • Indian  - What the hell??
    All these assholes will find something in sachin to criticise be it a hundred ,50 or 10.
  • Albus vijay  - don't be a dunder headed... l
    yes sachin did the same.... u r right think as an pessimist....

    just think for the moment.. y the indian lower order is soo brittle... coz we r not trusting them....

    what sachin did is to make them belive what they relly r and allowed them to gain confidence....

    the result for his efforts.. are clear in the final test.. our lower order batsmen played very confidently....
  • ha ha ha  - good one but
    If all players do these things how your smart youngsters because of whom dada is left out can learn....??
    Will Ishant Sharma get an apportunity ever playing so freely like he did in that innings...
  • K. Sunil
    Woof! Woof! Woof! (trying to speak your language, please appreciate effort) Wooo! Wooofff!
  • Vistasp Hodiwala
    If knowing Voltaire is funny you have proved how pathetic your arguments have generally been anyway. Enjoy your own soundbytes dude, if that gives you such a high. You seem like a sorry excuse for mankind anyway. Good Bye and Good Luck.
  • Vistasp Hodiwala
    If knowing Voltaire is phony, you have proved how pathetic your arguments are anyway. You can enjoy your own soundbytes if that seems to give you such a high. You do seem like a sorry excuse for mankind. Good Bye and Good Luck.
  • HW  - enough said
    Enough said, guys. Why don't you exchange emails if you want to carry this on? Both Sunil and Vistasp have crossed the line by getting personal, and suddenly it's not a debate anymore (though I'm not sure Vistasp or Navroze were ever debating). I find a lot to not just disagree with, even scoff about here, but surely we can do that in our personal spaces, and not on this forum. Let's end this here, as no one seems to have much more to say. There are more interesting things happening in the (cricket) world.
    - jaideep
  • K.. Sunil  - party time
    Glad you feel stupid because it is an accurate picture of yourself anyway. And you’ve showcased it really well too on this forum, thank you. You’re almost as entertaining as Navroze, keep it up. Voltaire…hahahaha…how old do you have to get to be this phony? :D
  • Vistasp Hodiwala  - Shut up Sunil.
    Sunil, you are not only too young to know Rajan Bala, you are also immature and shallow (another fallout of your esteemed age) in the way you have put forth your arguments. That is the problem with "OH I AM SO SURE OF MY OPINION" FANATICS. It renders all conversation with a fellow sports fan utterly meaningless. And I really feel stupid to have wasted my time arguing with an intemperate, obnoxious fool. (Please note that I call you this not for your opinion which I still respect if not agree with, but for the manner in which you have chosen to respond.) This, coming from someone who started out in sanctimonious fashion about the level of deranged posts you witness on india times or rediff! End of my story with you here, definitely. And yes, a tip before I sign off: Go read Voltaire and his quote on the basics of a civilised debate. Or maybe you are too young to have heard of him.
  • HW  - enough
    Sunil, appreciate your support for the piece, but please try to not get personal about people. I find Navroze’s post breathtakingly potty too, but he has a right to be as crazy as he likes. No need to get personal like you did. I think the point everybody seems to be missing is that this is not a one-off example of Sachin’s mindset – there have been several before (links in the piece itself) and this was merely the latest. Together, there is a picture that does emerge, however if you want to ignore that, that is your call completely. End of story.

  • K. Sunil  - what fun!!!
    O what fun this is ! Navroze, I am too young to know Rajan Bala, but thank you for a highly delightful post. Never come across so many words put together meaning absolutely nothing – what a gift! Unless you have a govt job, your talent is severly underutilized, if you don’t and are looking for a job, please don’t show this post to your possible employer, as its unlikely you’ll get it. But that way at least we can get more joy like this post. Ha ha ha, it is too funny I will frame it and keep, spectacular in its corniness. Anal, this is a team sport, so take your capitalistic fervour elsewhere. John, pity your team did not display the same evenhandedness you do. And Vistasp, sure there are examples of no. 11s scoring runs but be my guest, give me one example where a top order batsman who is set (let alone batting on 146) kept giving the strike to a no. 11, repeatedly, through five consecutive overs. I was listening to radio then, and the commentators actually joked about how Tendulkar seemed to want to stay not out. So there are others who noticed this too and it is definitely not splitting hair. If you guys choose to be in denial that is your choice no one is arguing with that. India needed to build a lead then (against Aus in Aus, very rare occurrence), it is crazy to say that it was an opportunity to give Ishant Sharma batting practice! This is so funny, thanks for the entertainment!
  • Vistasp Hodiwala
    John, the point is I doubt whether there was any selfishness involved in the first place. I am sure if you go through Test match records of the past, you will find enough and more of these instances from every team, including the famed Aussies. It's just that when it involves Sachin, everything is blown up beyond all proportion.

    Interpretations must at all times, take into account the match situation and at that stage the situation was already weighing heavily in India's favour, with no small thanks to Sachin himself. And besides, over the last decade or so, Number Elevens have famously had a go at bowlers because they have little to lose in such a situation. This too is a FACT, not an OPINION! Somebody should also ask poor Ishant Sharma if he needed Sachin's mothering at that stage. The guy seemed to have had a blast, so what on earth are we going on and on about? When an Aussie or SA tailender playing his first test plays this way we go ga ga over their killer instinct and gung-ho saying these guys have no fear and that is why they are world champs, but when we do the same all hell breaks lose. Selfishness is not even an issue here because it's an assumption, or at best, a semi-intelligent deduction from the lens you choose to see the game. It's NOT a fact. And I repeat myself here but if the issue was as big as it is made out to be, enough reasonable cricket writers (and I daresay there are many) would have thought it important enough to devote space on websites and traditional media. THAT, nobody has done it so far should speak for itself; though that DOES NOT mean that HW has no right to raise it (of course it does). But then we too reserve the right to disagree if we disagree with it. Jaideep's observations on every other cricketing issue on this site has been spot on (including the very refreshing view he holds on Sachin Vis a vis Dravid) but this one just doesn't cut with me.
  • John  - Interesting
    It's interesting that this was pointed out, because it was easy to miss to a casual viewer. I'm Australian and I can tell you this would have not have gone down well out here. The arguments to justify it are very strange. If a player plays for himself and not the team, that's a pretty good reason to drop him, even if he is a star. Remember Geoff Boycott being dropped after making 246? The problem with Asian teams is that they pay too much attention to individual glory, not the team's first requirement. The way I understand it, when a top order batsman bats with a no. 11, he takes strike as much as possible and scores quick runs. There can be no justification of any other scenario. It is interesting to see the other interpretations but they just don't wash, I'm afraid. It is rather sad that your biggest sports icons are selfish and how your fans accept it and like above justify it. Explains why you guys are not world beaters, and never will be. This is where we felt Ganguly was different.
  • Anal
    Talking about role-models in India and how they should behave, it might help to draw a parallel with the Ambanis (more so, after Guru), Tatas and Mallyas of the world. Today, their stature (atleast in the eyes of the 'upmarket', net-savvy people like readers of this blog) is at par with cricketers. Do you think any of these guys would have made it to the top if they had not been selfish? They achieved their personal motives and desires before spreading their wings for the greater good. Otherwise, why would the massive wave of industrialisation, benefiting a few lakh investors, continue unabated, despite irreparable damage to the environment affecting a billion people? Case in point: Tata car plant in West Bengal.
    The FACT is: everyone is selfish - it's only the degree that differs. And being selfish is no impediment to being a role model and inspiring others. Ambanis will be more than happy to vouch for that. So, that Sachin was selfish makes him no lesser a great than he already is.
    On a different note, if we are already so much into imagining, let us look at another possibility: Maybe Sachin wanted to stay unbeaten and gain a psychological edge over the bowlers when he came out to bat in the second innings (and crush the morale of the bowlers who were being whacked by the uptil then 'fragile' Indian tail)!
    There are always two sides to a coin, my friend.
  • Holdingwilley  - Yet again
    Oh well, here we go again. Rabid, emotion-led pronouncements, with no attention paid to the logic of the day. Question an argument on facts, not emotion, please. In this context, trains of thought require tracks of fact. Question the facts, not the motivation for bringing them up. That is so tasteless and silly.
    And no, this is not a small thing at all. Our icons are role-models and this one is the biggest of them all. If he encourages the young and impressionable to think that it is all right to be selfish and to put yourself over and over again (and all the examples are provided) above the team, then that is not a small thing. Once again, please argue with facts, not emotional outrage.
    No one’s asking anyone to stay away from the site; the net’s the most democratic space of all. Just as you reserve the right to make your points, we reserve the right to call them spurious…and so on.
    - Jaideep
  • Navroze
    Jaideep's many articles on Sachin Tendulkar lately reminds me of Rajan Bala's cosnsitent targeting of Kapil Dev in many of his columns (mostly in Afternoon) in late eighites and early nineties. The only victims were poor readers who kept on wondering about the objectivity of the writer.

    Also I think what are mostly presented as "facts" are nothing more than an individual's "interpretation" of the event as per his prism of thinking.

    In the above example some of the facts are as follows:

    1)Sachin Tendulkar scroed an unbeaten century
    2)This is Sachin Tendulkar's 3 rd century at the SCG
    3)Sachin Tendulkar arrived at 3/185
    4)SRT and Bhajji had an 8th wicket partnership of 129 runs
    5)Last baatsman Ishant Sharma arrived at score of 501 after already having a lead of 38 runs and had a 31 run partnership with SRT for the last wicket.
    6)Ishant Sharma scored 23 runs of 34 balls with five boundries in his first match.

    Now some of the interprations based on the above facts:
    1)Sachin Tendulkar should have been protected by SRT since he was playing his first match.
    2)SRT should have thrown his bat away and tried to score maximum runs to give India a vital strong first innings lead
    3)Sachin Tendulkar plays for himself.
    4)Sachin Tendulkar wants to increase his average by remaining not-out
    5)Sachin Tendulkar did the right thing by giving chances to a youngster and hence bolstering his confidence against such tough opponents
    6)Sachin Tendulkar could have hogged the limelight by thrashing fast runs and maybe in the provess he could have even completed his second successive double century on this ground, but he selflessly gave the yongster the necesasry confidence to go for the Aussie bowling.
    7)Sachin really thought it right from his vast cricketing experince that Ishant has a better chance of making fast runs due to the attacking field placing given to him.
    8)Sachin Tendulkar played a gem of an innings, probably one of his best.

    Well as it's clear from above, an opinion or interpretation can't be presented as facts or viceversa.

    Interpretations may be right or wrong the veracity of which can't be convincingly proved either way.

    I really resisted responding but a mix of underemployment and passion for game and debate undo my relsove.

    My response to the arrticle is a FACT.

  • K. Sunil
    Not my site to ask you to stay out, just a pity that the arguments have to be skewed. You're still missing the point though. Dravid is out of form and is trying to get it back, and is trying his best. At his worst, he's doing an Akash Chopra, so let's give credit where it's due. Your argument (and not just yours, even Sandeep's) that Tendulkar is great so let's not pick on "small" things like this is ridiculous. For starters, this is not a small thing. But if you cannot understand that, why even carry this debate on?
  • Vistasp Hodiwala  - In response to Sunil:
    I don't need to belabour my point Sunil and I shall refrain from commenting on this website if it must invite so much misplaced ire but I will yet again try explaining what my point was. If you don't agree, well, that's fine by me. I can live with your opinion even if you can't live with mine.

    There is a word I have used there which I would like re-emphasise upon: Micro-scrutinise. If we develop the tendency to magnify every little fault, make mountains out of mole-hills (in this case, a near-perfect innings) and put every damned characteristic of one individual under the harsh scanner of analysis paralysis so that parts of the fault seem much bigger than the sum, there is no individual on the planet, forget a mere cricketer, who will come out like a knight in shining armour.

    I am no enemy of Dravid my friend. In fact I consider him a greater batsman than Sachin for the sheer number of times he has delivered over Sachin and which is why my expectation from him will always be far in excess of Akash Chopra for Chris sake. And while it may have been out of place to bring his innings up here (it still does), my point is once you start looking at imaginary flaws in an individual, there is no stopping anyone or anything from dropping in stature. And there is such a thing as a sense of occasion and timing; surely that little stint with Ishant wasn't that criminally outrageous in nature that it warranted an entire article. But that's view mate. If you find it not worthy of this site, you will not see me here again.
  • K. Sunil  - nice piece
    There is a lack of people who can look at things in a more detailed manner as some of the pieces on this site. Given the facts presented above, it is really an obvious observation but somehow no one does. The comments are pretty strange though, more the sort you would expect on rediff or indiatimes. You're ok with Sachin playing selfishly once in a while because of who he is?! Ok, then, maybe that customs duty should have been waived too? Hodiwala's arguments are odd too - what do no. 11's proficiency or Dravid's performance have to do with this piece? Dravid, despite being in such poor form, has played more balls than any other Indian batsman on tour, something that Akash Chopra did to much praise in 2003. Kumble has gone on record to say how happy he is with his approach, and given that the first test ended with more than a day to spare, perhaps people have forgotten this is test cricket, not one-day or T20. On a commitment scale, i don't think you can even put Sachin in Dravid's or Kumble's league. It is sad that your site gets responses like this; it deserves better.
  • Vistasp Hodiwala  - No Sir, I do not agree.
    It's surely a matter of some concern that there are cricket writers in this country who can summon outrage for Sachin at the drop of a hat. This is surely not the first time that we have seen a Mr. 11 bat with such purpose and resolve in world cricket with a senior batsman reposing his faith in him in a not-so do-or-die situation. Why must that come as such a shock? I for one am not at all surprised that not a single commentator or newspaper columnist has deemed it noteworthy for comment. The tendency to micro-scrutinise any worthless issue when the matter involves Sachin is rather tasteless and worrying. Especially when it has become such a pain to watch a batsman like Dravid push and plod his way through like he is playing his first Test match (even accounting for the fact that he is opening the innings, his impossible crawl through the series makes no sense at all). Today at one stage the Indian Team required 220 odd runs in 46 overs and even while Saurav was stroking away marvelously for what looked like a win, Dravid was only concerned with saving the Test from the word go. Isn't that worth a comment? Or is it that he has become yet another holy cow of a country that revels in holy cows? Dravid and Sachin; both are champion cricketers of our time. When they play well they should be praised and when they falter we need to be fair to call their bluff. (Even if it is one guy we like more than the other.) But going after one man time and time again raises serious questions about credibility and the ability to analyse issues seriously on the part of the writer of this article. This article is a shocker!
  • Sandeep  - So what?
    Yes, you are right with your observations. But so what? So what if Sachin is selfish? He also gives India a lot to be proud of. More often than not, when he does well, the team does too. If he plays for himself sometimes it only shows he is human.
  • Uncle J Rod  - I concur
    Not only did Sachin do it, but Shiv Chanderpaul has done it twice this test as well.

    On all 3 occasions i thought it was odd.
  • Anonymous
    Ur article sucks man!!!!!! :oops:
    Sachin has always been a team man....Never has he played for personal glory.....

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