Tendulkarisation or Dravidisation of Cricket?
So the world celebrates Tendulkar’s 20 years of international cricket. Experts, former and present cricketers who has played with and against him, media, theorists have poured in their highly-emotional tributes to the man who almost seems as old as the game itself in India, at least to the current generation. It is almost like Tendulkarisation of Indian Cricket!
However, there are others, a different set of fans (and experts and former cricketers) who had a different opinion about the master, (at least they thought so in the period from 2004 to 2007). Who like the batsman Tendulkar, while disagreeing with many tributes such as ‘being the best ever’. I too feel that he is not.
Personally, I know him as the batsman as any other cricket follower, and of course I too feel privileged to have watched him during Chennai 1998, Sharjah 1998, or Centurion 2003, And I am enjoying the process of all this adulation on little master. I too watched him as the God of cricket, but only till 2003. I feel that somewhere, he has not been doing what he should have or could have done for himself, and that would been automatically rewarding for Indian cricket as well.
By coincidence or otherwise, I suspect that all such different set of people (at least in India) must be Dravid fans.
Not a single 300 in test cricket and only five 200 plus scores is a huge under-achievement by his standards. We talk of his records but these come when you play for 20 years, longer than anybody else from contemporary players.
That he is not a selfish cricketer is of course true but he has not been selfless either. There was time when experts including Ian Chappel and Ravi Shastri questioned his contribution to the team, around 2004-07 (though I do not believe that he was playing for statistics). But unlike Dravid, he has not gone out of the way, offering something extra (of which he is capable of, and is as good a manner as anybody else) to help the team cause. Many a times, when India was struggling to find a opening batsman in test cricket, Dravid was ‘ready’. Notably, test tours in South Africa 2001, Pakistan 2006 and Australia 2007. Remember, Dravid was the captain during Pakistan 2006 he took the initiative and challenge to open the batting despite his not-so-good record as an opener. Dravid did that in ODI also, West Indies 2006, and most recently Sri Lanka tri-series 2009, so that other players could play freely assuming that Dravid will keep the other end safe. And most often, he did.
On Australian tour in 2007-08, team again moved Dravid to open the test match to ‘accommodate’ Yuvraj Singh, who failed. Dravid too failed and the process repeated in next match and by that time Australia were leading the series by 2-0. Ever since India have tried to fill an open middle-order slot (Kaif, Yuvraj, sometimes Laxman, whose neck had been invariably on the wire), I always felt that Sachin Tendulkar should have been pushed down at 5 or 6 when less experienced batsmen were trying to be regular in the team. And I am very surprised at his dislike for not moving from no. 4 position (if you looking at stats, please exclude all such instances when night watchman made him bat at 5). Over the years, Border did it for Steve Waugh, and later S. Waugh did it for brother Mark or Martyn, to groom fluent and less-established players and he himself was better able to play with the tail. Azharuddin demoted himself to five bringing Tendulkar to 4, Ranatunga did it for D’ Silva, Cronje did it for Cullinan and Kallis. Tendulkar has never taken initiative to make adjustments for the team. On the contrary, when he failed in first 4 innings during Australian tour in 2003, he was moved to no. 5 position so that he could find form. Isn’t it interesting?
I suspect that he does not believe in process, and his belief is ‘I will score more will help team more’ isn’t always true. Sometimes, I sense that he plays (and scores well) as if he is oblivious of team problems (batting order, opening slot) which is not good for the team. His No to captiancy in 1997 and 2000 were understandable, and his decision is respected. But his decline to captaincy when Dravid resigned in September 2007, particularly when there was no other suitable candidate at that time, again raised a question on his attitude towards the ‘process’.
He has openly heaped praise on Ganguly and Kumble as captains, and Sunil Gavaskar as a batsman. I wonder why he doesn’t talk about Dravid. India’s fortunes have changed in last few years for different factors including Ganguly’s captaincy, team’s better adaptability to foreign tours, and of course Dravid the batsman. I have rarely heard Tendulkar talking about Dravid, neither as captain for our series triumph in West indies (2006) and England (2007) or the glorious run in ODIs prior to world cup 2007, nor for Dravid the batsman. I was very surprised that a few days back, he took Bangar’s name before Dravid during that infamous Headingly test in 2002 and it was because he himself scored a hundred. And may be that is why he did not mention Adelaide 2003 or Kingston 2006, both pioneering moments in their own respective sense. Dravid as captain, emphasized on having the process which doesn’t work in India, and so he resigned. He was dropped from ODI, quite unfairly twice. It is fine if Sachin has nothing to say on his ‘dropping’ but now when he ways that ‘batting order’ was the reason for world cup 2007 debacle, I can read it between the line. And so many others can.
So, I feel that though we should enjoy this moment of little champion’s 20 years of cricket, and we applaud him, though the process could have been better, punctuated with the spirit of ‘growing together’.
(C) Copyrights Vinish Garg.