I spent last Sunday watching Sachin score a century at the Wankhede in the Ranji game against Baroda. The bowling was club class and so was Yusuf Pathan’s captaincy. A few thousand faithful were at the ground and they went home satiated, having watched “God” get a hundred. Yet, something was missing from Sachin’s batting and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Aussies figure it out in the Test series next month.
A couple of trademark straight drives indicated that Sachin was in the groove and a century was in the offing. Yet, the overall effort was rather laborious by his lofty standards and there were spells of uncharacteristic uncertainty about the way he went about against a bowling he could have played blindfolded at his peak.
At about the same time, some 1,500 kms to the north-east of Wankhede, the Indian batting was collapsing against the rampant Pakistani bowlers at the Kotla. Yet, Sachin’s progress was far more fascinating to watch if only because it served as his preparation for the series against the Aussies whose bowlers are sure to be at his neck.
On a slowish pitch, it wasn’t exactly easy to bat and it took a while for Sachin to ease into his flow, the shots to the straight boundary being clears signs of him getting into the stride. Given the fact that the Baroda bowlers were clearly in awe of Sachin, the runs should have come in a torrent rather than a trickle.
Perhaps, a decade ago, it would have been a run-a-ball century, but as a commentator pointed out, for Sachin these days it is a case of accumulation of runs rather than scoring and the tag “master blaster” no more lends itself to him.
Of more relevance and significance was the manner of Sachin’s dismissal. He was bowled neck and crop as the friendly medium pace bowler called Vahora sneaked through a massive gap between bat and pad as Sachin lunged forward to block. The off and middle stumps were shattered, reminiscent of his recent dismissals. It was a sad sight to behold for the bowler, but quite disturbing otherwise.
I will be the last to even suggest that Sachin should quit international cricket altogether, because like most of us, I am not qualified enough to advice the maestro. The point is that you cannot ignore the signs that are apparent to even a novice that the twilight has set and it will get increasingly tough for the maestro to negotiate in the gathering darkness. As a fan though, I will be wishing he will prove all the Doubting Thomases wrong.
Sachin’s batting at the Wankhede ran parallel with India’s at the Kotla where our batsmen looked incapable of scoring even 10 runs. While we must admire Sachin’s commitment to the game, the same cannot be said of Team India players few of whom even seem to have any pride in their performance. Perhaps, they do realize that the national selectors, constrained as they are with an intrusive “Big Brother” watching over their shoulders, would not dare wring in major changes.
The omission of Sehwag was to be expected and is to be welcomed. It is about time that these self-styled prima donnas are put in their place and made to fight for their slots. The likes of Rohit Sharma should be dropped permanently. I do not see Rohit ever living up to his potential and while we should shed a tear at the talent wasted, priority should be given to performance and not promise or reputation.
As for Yuvraj, there has been too much of hype and emotion over his return to cricket. Of course, we must admire his spirit to bounce back from cancer to lead a normal life, but purely from a cricketing perspective, the selectors should not bestow any special favours. Yuvraj’s performance has been far too up and down and his spot in the team looks anything but cemented.
Similarly, persisting with Gambhir is a folly and it is about time he too is shown the door and made to fight for his position in the team. Youngsters like Mukund, Vijay and Rahane are ripe for the picking. They might not click at the first instance, but need to be persisted with or at least given a decent run.
In this regard, the inclusion of Pujara for the ODI series against England is to be welcomed and his run-a-ball triple hundred against Karnataka is a clear indication that he will not be a slouch in the shorter format. The tragedy is that even before he could be tried, Pujara is being typecast as a “Test batsman”. Poor Dravid suffered because of same misconception despite often proving that he was as good a batsman as any in the limited over format.
The series defeat to Pakistan was hardly a surprise and many theories are being floated to hide the fact that Dhoni’s team was flogged even as most Indian players showed little or no commitment or seemed to care about the result. In the event, it is laughable that the talk has begun about preparing the team for the 2015 World Cup which I think is a clever piece of diversionary tactic and as if to say the present doesn’t count for much! Then so be it.