Monday, April 04, 2011

The World Cup - A Sachin Tendulkar Story

I have never been this nervous while watching cricket. At some point during the quarter finals against Australia, I understood why. When Tendulkar nicked one off Tait and walked back - we were shown an image of man with small eyes staring upwards and walking back dejected. At that time I felt - Is the world cup dream over for this man? Is that it? He is the only reason why I watch cricket - Will I never see him again in an ODI?

Anyone who has followed Tendulkar's career closely, and many have, would remember the pain of 1996, 1999 and 2003. His very first batting line-up was Shastri, Srikkanth, Azhar, Tendulkar, Kambli, Manjrekar, Kapil and Kiran More. Not the best batting line-up but a combination chosen because of the 1985 B & H cup success. And in his very first world cup appearance Tendulkar went down the way Umar Akmal went down against India in the semi-final. With Shastri occupying so many deliveries, Tendulkar was forced to up the scoring rate and was out caught behind. India never really got going that tournament. The only matches we won in that entire world cup (against Pakistan and Zimbabwe) Tendulkar was the MoM - and a superb 81 against NZ going to waste because of Greatbatch's heroics. No Indian fan really expected India to win the world cup. The team had 3 ex-captains and were generally screwed even before the cup began. But that was the beginning of new India. As the oft-repeated cliche goes. A new economic India was born, The cable TV era began with Star TV coming to India. Liberating us from License Raj and DD. Sachin Tendulkar and A.R. Rahman were introduced to the new India. My generation began to dream.

1996 was to me was the ultimate Tendulkar's World Cup. It was a world cup where we had a real chance. And Tendulkar represented that chance. Anybody who was in college during the time - became part of the Tendulkar generation. He became the reason for watching cricket. And how? In New Zealand, thanks to N.S. Siddhu - who went on to be the worst T.V. commentator ever - we had discovered that Sachin could open and do a Greatbatch. Here was one man who could challenge anybody. The rest were humans. But Sachin was a cricketing god who could tame any team. Even Ambrose went for an economy rate of over 5 an over. McGrath was taken apart in Mumbai. Every single game barring the Pakistan game became a Tendulkar show. He was the highest scorer in the tournament scoring an amazing 523 runs. It was the one man batting line-up with Siddhu, Manjrekar, Azhar, Kambli, Jadeja, Mongia merely acting as props. Unsurprisingly no other Indian was in the top 20 highest scorers list. To put it simply, if Tendulkar failed. Game over. No one would forget the dropped catch in Gwalior by Bravo when Sachin was on 44. That won us the match. The stumping of a wide ball against M. Waugh was stuff of Greek tragedy. In that context - that we reached the semi finals was a super human effort. It showed the distance that one man could carry a average team. In a square turner of a pitch not very un-similar to what Gavaskar played his last innings on. Tendulkar tragically got stumped in the most freakish way possible. Game over. It was probably the saddest moment of my teenage years. No one in my age-group knew how the 1983 felt like. We wanted another one. And we had to wait.

1999. 5AM. A bunch of grad school students in Columbus, Ohio who had installed dish antenna illegally woke up to find out Tendulkar not in the team. Why? It took a while for the commentators to mention his personal tragedy. The only match he wasn't with the team - we managed to lose to Zimbabwe. Damn Sadagopan Ramesh. You may be Thamizh but I will never forgive you for that indiscretion. Even after Jadeja told you not to swing wildly, you did, and you gave away the game. That was the reason we didn't make the semi finals. This was a world cup where we actually had a batting line-up. It was the new generation batting line-up that had the core 3 batsman. This core would go on to redefine the country's cricketing future. Ganguly, Tendulkar, Dravid were that core nucleaus who were teamed with S. Ramesh, Azhar, Jadeja, Robin Singh. It seemed like a decent line-up on paper but the batting machine took a while to start given Sachin's absence and our fate was sealed by the time the first two matches of the world cup were over.

2003 was the world cup of the awesome Tendulkar and the cup of bad captaincy decisions. We started by leaving out Laxman in favor of Dinesh Mongia. No matter what anyone says India's 2003 campaign was a 1-man effort. The only difference between 1996 and 2003 was that it was no more Tendulkar Vs India. It was more of Tendulkar vs the other team with Indians finally learning how to close matches without choking after their best batsman got out. There was finally some value to the 4th, 5th and 6th batsman (there was no value from the other opener and Ganguly). Sachin started with a 80 against Zimbabwe, went on to hand back Caddick a new ass, and hit some incredible 90s against Pak, SL and NZ. 673 runs. A level of maniacal scoring that surpasses any other sporting achievement I have seen. That we reached the finals inspite of Sehwag and Ganguly sucking beyond belief is a testament to the superhuman efforts of 1 man. And then the finals became Tendulkar Vs India. Again. This time we had a colossal moron of a captain who couldn't score crap against any test playing nation. And upon winning the toss and he chose to field. The least this totally useless fellow could have done is at least not cause us pain. To me - we lost the match then. To a few others we lost the match after Zaheer's frst over. To most the match was beyond over by lunch. I wonder why we walked out to bat. Might as well have completed the presentation ceremony at lunch. Only a few retarded morons thought the match was over after Tendulkar got out in the first over. To see him answer questions asked of him the post-match interview after winning the MVP award was heart-wrenching. It was the most painful thing. More painful than Ian Chappell sadistically torturing Lance Klusner when he won the 1999 MVP award.

2007: We deserved to lose. If there is a captain or a coach who thought that Sehwag or Ganguly (or anyone else) are better ODI openers than Sachin Tendulkar - neither of them deserve anything better than a first round exit. I cannot think of a cricketing strategy that has statistically failed more times, more reliably and more painfully than Tendulkar at #4. This suggestion alone is a high confidence indicator that the person suggesting it has no cricketing brains. I was glad that our exit was as shameful as it turned out to be.

And there we were. In the Quarter finals of the world cup 2011 against Australia. India was still undecided about Sachin Vs India. In the two matches against Eng and South Africa - India successfully pulled off a strong resistance to Sachin's efforts to win us the match. This Indian team had the best batting line-up I have ever seen in any team in any world cup. Every single person was capable of changing the match in their own right. So when Sachin was walking back towards the pavilion after getting caught behind to tait - I was thinking - is this the end? Has all the pain come to naught? Will the greatest batsman of my generation not win the world cup. Then Gautham Gambhir my pre-tournament favorite player stepped up his act. Then Yuvraj and then Raina. Finally it looked like this was India Vs the other team (way better than just Sachin Vs the other team). The icing on the cake was him winning the 3rd MoM award in a total of 5 WC clashes against Pakistan. To me beating Pakistan was high up the priority list. That Tendulkar screwed them over thrice in 5 times was a glorious achievement. Pakistan stand comprehensively defeated by India for the past 15 years. That Javed Miandad Six is buried somewhere in Chetan Sharma's retirement fund.

There were several points in the QF, Semis and Finals where I just couldn't bear the tension. This is the best world cup I have seen and featured some of the best matches involving India. Every single match against a test playing nation was closely contested, could have gone either way and was tense as hell. I am glad we won it the way we did. Just disappointed that Sachin didn't hit a 100 in the finals and take us over the line. Ironically his world cup campaign started in 1992 with a caught behind to Stewart and ended with a caught behind to Sangakara. But as a consolation price my 2nd favorite player stepped up his game and made sure all the bets I kept with anyone I knew didn't go to waste. Virat Kohli summed up the entire history of Tendulkar at the post-match interviews with one powerful line. And I can't believe he was this articulate so naturally. No one could have come up with that line even if they were given a day to prepare. And he said it causally - "Sachin has carried the nation on his shoulders for 21 years, it is time we carried him on our shoulders". They did that literally and metaphorically through their performances. It was the happiest day of my life. After almost a decade of cynicism I truly became a believer. Sachin was the only person I watched the game for. If he retired I may not watch cricket at all. He was the filter through which I enjoyed cricket and I am glad there was a happy ending.

P.s: Contrary to what experts are saying - I don't think this win completes Sachin's list of achievements. To me his cupboard is only 50% full. Lack of Test series wins in Australia and South Africa is a failure that frankly must make him feel ashamed of his 21 year old effort. I fully blame him for the 2007 loss in South Africa (which got re-confirmed later in 2010) and 2003 loss in Melbourne. He had his greatest chance to close out the series in India's favor and he failed. I'd be very surprised if Sachin himself viewed those failures any differently. He may repair the Australian record by beating a dead team this winter but I doubt if he'd be able to get a series victory in South Africa before he retires. That is a bigger gap than a world cup win. But thats for another day.

25 comments:

Alan Smithee said...

Ok. Sachin is great. Now on to other important stuff

Was the Ind-Pak match fixed? http://bit.ly/hLq54h

Anonymous said...

Hawkeye,
As much as I disagree some of the stuff u post here, (lazy to comment each time, so you wouldn't know.. not that you would care) you share my views on this Sachin Vs India and that 2003 finals was lost due to Saurav more than Zaheer or even other dumbfucks arguing that Sachin did not perform when it mattered.

But this world cup was so tense to watch most of the times that I forget myself. And finally to watch Sachin exult like a kid brought happy tears and made me feel like a kid again. I hope he doesn't retire anytime soon.

-Indolent

Raj Jayaram said...

A superb analysis. I am not sure if it will convince the heretics but, for all I care, they can go to Hell.

Anonymous said...

Nice write up but I disagree on your Post Script. You win and lose as a team. Yes, SRT could have done those few things that you mentioned but unless India produce a "Sachin" or a couple of "half-Sachins" in the bowling department, it is going to be difficult to win series in Oz/SA. Very unfair to blame him for that.Looking at the big picture, lack of true paceman or two has been the issue since India entered Test Cricket. If you resolve that, India will win series in those places provided the Batting remains decent. You give more chances to win (not a couple of instances you mention) if you have that component and may SRT would have pulled it off with more chances. Why does Oz/SA/Eng and WI of the old won in those places - because of genuine pace bowlers in their team? Not a single pace bowler(or a spin bowler for that matter) from India has an average below 25 ever in Tests who has played considerable cricket.

Anonymous said...

Sachin may play with a lot more freedom since there's nothing more to achieve. It would be a treat if he returns to the 90's mode. I want to see him coming down the wicket and smash the bowlers. I don't think we will achieve series victory in Oz/SA easily since we don't have many batsmen who can handle the bounce or the bowlers to bowl out the opposition.

Thiru

Web Hosting Chennai said...

Sachin is great always..

Anonymous said...

Good post.. I feel you are undermining others efforts (jadeja's blitz in the 96 QF or Ganguly/Dravid's knock in Taunton in 99 and quite a few other knocks) to project Sachin's world cup heroics.. There's no doubt that Sachin has been our best WC player but there were contributions at crucial stages from everyone in every wc..If there was one wc that I thot India could win, it was the 96 wc.. It was an unplayable turning wicket in the second half that made India lose that game.. It was a chaseable target and that was a good team coming off an emotional qf victory.. The 2003 wc final was more of favorable matchups (semis against kenya), a super-six stage that had kenya, zim and nz in it... This 2011 team had the batting depth we've never seen coupled with a matured bowler in Zaheer.. We never had a bowler like this who could take the ball in the middle overs and get that crucial wicket.. I think Zaheer is the unsung hero of this team and look at his crucial wickets in the second spell (bell/strauss, devon smith, mike hussey...

expertdabbler said...

His has been a super human effort for the past 22 years ever since we saw blood in his nose thanks to the Ws of pak in 1989-1990. So I will never blame him.

Remember the 1999 chennai test against pak.? This guy took to the team very close to the target and once he was gone to saqlain, the whole team manages to lose 6 wickets for 12 runs. He was under severe pain due to his back injury all thru that last day. Sure, the Indian crowd will blame him for not finishing it off.
Compared to those days, the present team ku kovil kattikumbidalaam.

For test series wins abroad, me too thinks we need bowlers to take 20 wickets. I am sure even Ricky Ponting without Warne and McGrathwill readily concede that.

Anonymous said...

//No one would forget the dropped catch in Gwalior by Bravo when Sachin was on 44//

Courtney Browne dropped it bro. Two costly misses. One was Steve Waugh on his way to a 200 at Sabina and this one.

//Damn Sadagopan Ramesh. You may be Thamizh but I will never forgive you for that indiscretion. Even after Jadeja told you not to swing wildly, you did, and you gave away the game. //

I would not be harsh on Ramesh here. We do not know what Jadeja said. He must have said something like " Hit it to the fielder nah", I have got the money already.. so Ramesh must have obliged"... LOL

Cheers
Ganesh

Anonymous said...

1999 was the cup we could have won if only our great batting lineup, including the great Sachin Tendulkar, hadn't collapsed before the might of McGrath. We were 15/4, remember?

And when is the great Sachin Tendulkar going to score his first triple hundred in Test cricket? I've been waiting for 20 years.

Anonymous said...

i dont know why , but i had this feeling that sachin was getting out intentionally against australia and pakistan after he got 50. against Australia he atleast tried 3 times to get out before getting out to tait caught behind 4th time. and gave 4 chances to Pakistan to get out in an all important SF. Can't still believe it is sachin who was playing though and not sure if this is intentional.

i am not sure if sachin is superstitious , but the most known talk that if sachin hits a century india will loose the match got to his head or what ..... ????

Anonymous said...

Wow i totally agree with you on 1996, It was definitely Sachin year to shine but we got knock out due to controversial against Sri Lanka. For us to win it against them 15 years later with Sachin still in the team is really sweet.

Abdul

hari said...

I think if any innings defines Tendulkar, it was that knock in 1998 in that Sharjah Cup.

It wasn't the most important tournament, but it was a rare knock - once in a lifetime innings.

I don't think Tendulkar reached that level of domination of a bowling attack ever again in an ODI game, though he did come close on some occasions.

hari said...

Incidentally I think I remember Ravi Shastri being crowned as the first of the "Lottu Maamaas" after that 1992 World Cup performance followed closely by Sanjay Manjrekar.

I have fond memories of experiencing the same emotions that Pakistanis now feel with Misbah-ul-Haq with Ravi Shastri though I was still young at that time. :-)

sivakanth said...

A couple of sentences before plus this one - "Only a few retarded morons thought the match was over after Tendulkar got out in the first over". This completely is in contrast with your starting comment that you watch cricket only for Tendulkar. Yes, even impossible becomes possible if sachin is there, thats the belief of everyone. You have to eat your words, dear author. Ofcourse, I agree that sachin is great, but there are lot of disagreements, which I won't put as it would not be cared for. Anyway, thanks for some interesting Sachin moments.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a flashback of the previous world cups..
I am aware that Sachin has been a key contributor during every edition of the World cup.
The look on Sachin's face when he was carried by the team, I felt was of embarrasement for not contributing in the finals but still being carried and treated so.
Pardon my ignorance..Your blog resonates Virat's statement loudly and which is true too..
SACHIN rightly deserved a World Cup win in his bag and finally got it.....

-Kunta Kinte

Hawkeye said...

alan,

this fixing argument has been floating about for a long time. now that everybody says it its become like another team strategy. as long as i dont know the outcome i dont care of a player underperforms naturally or artificially.

indolent,

we will certainly agree on indolence as away of life.

Raj,

:-)

anon,

the specific matches i am pointing to 2003 melbourne, and 2nd test match of 2007 - sachin's inability to score a 100 and save/win the game was the reason we lost. if sachin had scored a 100 in 2003 melbourne an oz series win was guaranteed.

both test matches werent lost because sachin performed and bowlers / rest of team underperformed.

thiru,

agree

anon,

i specifically mentioned "barring pakistan match" in the post.

expertdabbler-prabhu,

in 1999 pak match - the team scored 6 runs before sachin came to bat and 6 runs after he left. And him not closing out the match is given as a reason. namma naatu pasangaluku lack of logical skills is an inborn quality

the two test matches i point to - we had bowlers who actually took 20 wickets.

ganesh,

browne'a keeper andha match'la..

anon,

the loss against australia became so crucial because we lost to zim. if we had won against zim - our semi final path was guaranteed.

abdul,

do you mean the pitch was controvesial. i dont think we would have won the game if crowd hadnt turned violent

hari,

the 98 sharjah innings was ok.. but i wouldnt say it was his best.

and shastrigal won us the B & H cup with that kind of battting. i dont think we lost matches because of his lottu lottu. in fact in most games we didnt last 50 overs.

sivakanth,

you must take some courses on basic logic. the 2003 finals was over long before tendulkar came out to bat. and one can watch tendulkar bat regardless of what they theink the outcome of the match will be.

kunt akunte,

482 runs, highest series scorer for india. he had the right to expect people to lift him up. if he hadnt scored we may not have won the WC

Anonymous said...

"the loss against australia became so crucial because we lost to zim. if we had won against zim - our semi final path was guaranteed."

idhuvum namma naattu pasangaloda inborn quality -- talking of "if only" situations instead of trying to admit that we just weren't good enough. why couldn't we beat oz with our legendary batting lineup including the great sachin? it was do or die and we did what we are damn good at.

and why don't you respond to my triple hundred qn? don't you think sachin with his immense talent isn't capable of a 300? or that it doesn't matter?

Hawkeye said...

if you dont want to talk about "if only" then dont talk about "if only we beat oz.."

if you do want o talk about "if only.." then admit that winning against zim is *preventing* a disaster by beating an easy team. winning oz was *curing* a disaster by beating an awesome team in conditions that suit them the most.

we lost the 1999 cup agsint zimb. just the way we lost the 2003 in the first innings. everything lese is saagara nerathula sankara

and btw.. how many #4 batsman or below have scored 300?

Anonymous said...

//in 1999 pak match - the team scored 6 runs before sachin came to bat and 6 runs after he left. And him not closing out the match is given as a reason. namma naatu pasangaluku lack of logical skills is an inborn quality

the two test matches i point to - we had bowlers who actually took 20 wickets.//

Allow me to correct you here. 6 before he came in and 4 after he left A grand total of 10 runs when he was not there.. :-) And yet I know a few who dissed Tendy on that day in the ground. I wanted to slap them but went home quietly. However I felt Tendy missed a great opportunity to set his detractors straight with that innings after I saw Brian score that 153*. The key BCL had some fortune on the way and stayed till the end. It was a mixed feeling for me.. When BCL completed the win and after I was over that the immediate thought that came to my mind was what if only Tendy had done this.. I was just lost :-)

Cheers
-Ganesh

Anonymous said...

if you dont want to talk about "if only" then dont talk about "if only we beat oz.."

I never talked about if only we beat OZ; my question was why the hell did we not beat OZ with that great batting lineup, and the great Sachin? You answered it--they were the awesome team, our batting just wasn't good enough to triumph over them.

"and btw.. how many #4 batsman or below have scored 300?"

Whenever I bring up the issue of why Sachin hasn't done justice to his talent by scoring a 300, I get such vague replies. No Sachin devotee is able to stomach the reality that for all his records and feats, a 300 is still missing. It's like not winning a Wimbledon but having every other record in the book.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure why everyone is enamored with this triple century thing. The argument for SRT not finishing matches has more legs than this. Often, Lara having these innings validates some kind of superiority over SRT. BCL scored 400 not out because he wanted to, not because he had to. He was already trailing in the series 0-2 to England and he wanted to take back that record from Hayden continuing onto 3rd day lunch. He could have declared earlier and tried to go for win but match ended in a draw. Comparing this to not winning Wimby is just plain stupid for whoever did that. Of course, getting a triple ton would be nice but it does not mean much and you need to have luck as well. Bradman himself rated his 254 as his best innings instead of his triple tons. What do Edrich, Cowper & Sandham have in common? They all have triple centuries in tests and average mid-40s or lower in Tests. Headley/Ponting/Miandad dont have them either. I will take these guys ahead over the other ones I just mentioned who had triple centuries.

Hawkeye said...

/*Whenever I bring up the issue of why Sachin hasn't done justice to his talent by scoring a 300, I get such vague replies. No Sachin devotee is able to stomach the reality that for all his records and feats, a 300 is still missing.*/

vague reply. really? so you are saying you did not make the connection between my question and why tendulkar hasnt hit a 300? seriously?

Bala said...

//and hit some incredible 90s //against Pak, SL and NZ
Nitpick: He got out for 15 against NZ but even the shot he got out of was an absolutely breathtaking cut (back foot moving fully across). Kannathula aranja madhiri irukkum

feddy said...

Some thoughts on your Post script section:

1. Curious to know what are the other 50% achievements you are talking about.

2. 2003 Melbourne loss, yea first innings Thalai was out the first ball but even then we were 329 or 330/4. Don't you think the rest of the team should have pushed at-least to 400. No doubts Tendulkar didn't do well in both the Innings(I Mean to his standards) but still we can cut our guy some slack.

3. 2007 SA Tour was the only Tour that Thalai didn't hit a 100. Every other tour yeah he had hit at-least one 100. A 44 and two sixty plus scores only. Yes Tendulkar could have done much more.

4. 2010 SA Tour - The final match if i can say so was single handedly saved by Sachin in the first Innings. 146 of the most difficult runs against the most hostile bowling he faced since his 2007 come back.

Appadi paathirundhaalum our guys had sa at 130/6 in second innings and we couldn't bundle them out quickly. Guess who came back to bowl and take boucher's wicket. Tendlya again.

Australia test series win don't worry. It's coming this year. However I think winning this time in England would be more difficult than winning in Aus.