Posts Tagged ‘Sachin Tendulkar’

I know the BCCI is a ‘charitable’ organisation, but do the players who work for it also have to act like they are part of the package?

So, I have a problem with people who believe that Sachin Tendulkar should be allowed to play as long as he wants at the cost of the team and younger players.

I mean, that would be perfectly all right if the great man had announced on the day he made his debut that he would be playing for the country for free. That every rupee he earned from the BCCI, endorsements and sponsors would be donated to charity. THEN, neither I, nor anyone other Indian anywhere in the world would have the right to say a word against him. Then a place in the Indian team was his till he decided he had had enough.

But, that’s not what he said or he did, and no one, not even me ever expect him to say such silly things. He has give plenty to the game and so has every right to get back enough and more from it, and from all those who run it and fund it. So, when some followers of the game believe he has given enough and say that it’s time he went on to other things, there are howls of protest. Why?

He spent 22 years playing cricket, and he got paid handsomely for it. He’s a sportsperson who made money for every ball he played, every four, six or century he hit, and quite some in multiples of zeroes. So what’s the big deal if there is a demand that he quits, because he hasn’t got the same reflexes that he had as a 22-year-old? And that there may be a few youngsters who might lose their chance to play for India because a struggling, stubborn 39-year-old believes he’s still 22?

There have been other players as great, if not greater, and many mere mortals who were there in between who played for the country. They too gave their 100 per cent for less returns. But they were dismissed rudely and crudely. They were doing what they did best.

I shudder when his so called loyalists believe they should make a permanent place for him at no. 4 till he dies! It’s not just funny, it’s demented when people lose all sense of rationality and talk such utter rubbish. For heaven’s sake, the guy is paid a salary by the BCCI, he isn’t doing anyone a favour. He is also doing what he does best. And like some others before him, he isn’t doing what he is being paid to.

And since the Indian cricket team is not a retirement home, I don’t understand why he, or anyone else, should be retained. Doesn’t he realise that all he has done by clinging to the straws is that he has made a laughing stock of himself? Yeah, yeah, I know, I’ll get that line thrown at me by some ‘knowledgeable cricket fan’ that I haven’t achieved even an iota of what he has in his 24-odd years of cricket, so I don’t have the right to comment on Tendulkar.

My answer to that is that this is a free country and I have every right to comment on anything everything under the sun from the price of rubbers to Sachin Tendulkar’s cricketing form. In my 50 years, and in what I do, I might think I’ve achieved a great deal, but anyone has the right to rubbish that. He is, and I am being honest, one of the reasons, why I have stopped following the game as closely as I used to these past few years.

I have watched him prosper from age 13 and just as he had brought tears of joy to my face when I watched him bat against the world’s best in his younger days, seeing him bat now brings only sadness. I don’t want to watch him bat anymore, because watching the bewilderment on his face as he gets bowled middle stump is a sight that numbs me. I prefer to watch a film, than watch him bat. At least there I can also laugh with the hero, not just at him.

So to all those silly people who have anointed themselves Tendulkar cheerleaders, don’t you wish that all your energy could have helped him play like before…but it can’t, because even science hasn’t found a cure for ageing. So wake up and grow up.

Leave us with the memories of Sharjah, Old Trafford, Perth, Sydney or wherever, great man, and not the sight of you on your haunches, not just beaten, but looking completely beaten.


It took 16 long years and a retirement announcement for Rahul Dravid to finally upstage Sachin Tendulkar.

And now as one cricketing great steps into the sunset, the spotlight has turned on the two veterans – Tendulkar and VVS Laxman – who were till recently the Big Three of Indian cricket.

To be honest, technically Rahul Dravid was better than anyone else in the team. Dravid, at the risk of blaspheming, I would say he was even better than Tendulkar in that department. Any school boy who wanted to learn how to be technically correct, only had to watch Dravid. It’s his misfortune that he played in an era where every other player, in India or elsewhere, was dwarfed by the Little Master. Whether it was Dravid, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara, Inzaman-ul-Haq…just about anyone else, they were always considered second best in comparison to Sachin.

Just like during the era of Sunil Gavaskar there was Gundappa Vishwanath, who many considered more talented than the original Little Master, but who (many including Gavaskar felt) never really realised his true potential. Even though Vishwanath began his career a season before Gavaskar, it was the latter who dwarfed him since then after his stupendous debut against the West Indies. And while Vishwanth produced classic knocks around the world’s cricket grounds against all forms of opposition, it was invariably Gavaskar who walked away with the accolades, and one who the team depended on when the chips were down.

The case of Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar runs along similar lines. When Sachin bats every Indian’s heart in his mouth, because one never knows when the guy is going to do something silly. With Dravid around one was pretty sure that he would steady the innings and rarely make a false stroke. If he did, it would be met with incredulous silence. If Dravid was at the other end, it was a comforting factor. But at the end of the day it was Tendulkar who stole a march! Until today!

Speaking to a veteran Indian Test cricketer today about Dravid’s announcement, the talk veered around to the retirement of Tendulkar and the veteran shook his head sadly. He said Dravid was an educated, erudite man of many talents and could do a lot more beyond cricket. Tendulkar on the other hand didn’t know anything else except playing cricket. Probably that’s what was making the little man not contemplate retirement, felt this veteran.

It’s what he said next that made my ears perk up. It was sad to see Sachin getting hit on the head and elsewhere by the opposition bowlers so often, he said. Also, he was caught wrong-footed quite often. This showed that Sachin’s reflexes had slowed down a lot and, maybe, his eyesight wasn’t the same as before, he opined.

This gentleman who has followed Tendulkar’s game closely since the latter’s school days, opined that it was time Sachin also called it a day. “What does he have to prove anymore? Will it matter if he doesn’t get that 100th century? Will it make him any less a player he already is? He is beginning to lose the respect of a lot of senior cricketers by hanging on to his place.”

Now with the decision to retire at a rather emotional announcement in Bangalore, Rahul Dravid’s stature as a player and a gentleman has gone up quite a few notches. Who’s next?

My son and a few others think my comments against Sachin Tendulkar are ill-timed and smack of ignorance. Every time I say Sachin should now thinking of retiring, at least from Tests there is a storm of protest from home and from some of my students. He seems to have become the latest ‘holy cow’ and no one can speak a word against him. It’s like he should be allowed to play on undisturbed as long as he wants, even if the other ten are sacked and even if the team slips from one defeat to another! It’s almost as if cricket is not a team game but something invented for one man! I do wish our cricket fans would grow up.

Heck, I admire Tendulkar just as much as the next cricket fanatic and unlike a lot of youngsters who have only seen him play in the last decade or so, I’ve been following his game since he was 14, when he made his debut in school cricket and I avidly followed the natural progression of his game when he stood up to Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Abdul Qadir in his first series against Pakistan in 1989.

As I watched the cherubic faced kid taking guard my heart was in my mouth and my fingers were crossed. He had to succeed, I kept saying to myself, because, even then I believed, as a 16-year-old he was God’s gift to Indian cricket. Never has a player been born with such class, charisma, talent, at least not in my lifetime. Yes, there was Sunil Gavaskar, who I sometimes considered a notch above Tendulkar, if only for his phenomenal concentration. Maybe I am biased because Sunny Gavaskar’s exploits were a part of my life, as I grew up, and Sachin came along when I was already four years into my profession.

And, like every any other Indian, I too celebrated every time Sachin scored a century. That’s all I ever wanted him to do, because for me, that’s what he was best at. I watched him roll off ton after ton from his ‘Big Bertha’(Clive Lloyd had given his bat that name and people believed Sachin’s bat was as heavy, if not heavier than Lloyd’s).

In 1994, I got up at 4 am to watch him open the innings for the first time in a one-day match at Auckland, and play an innings what I and a million others, who were lucky enough to watch, believe was one of the finest one-day innings ever played. Tendulkar scored 82 off 49 balls with 15 fours and 2 sixes. Commentators said it was a chilly, blustery morning, with the wind swirling around and the ball swinging dangerously, but this kid played an innings that quite simply took everyone’s breath away.

Those who partnered him that day at Auckland – Jadeja, Kambli, Azharuddin and Manjrekar – were mere spectators as the fireworks from his bat sent a message to bowlers around the world. Here was a batsman, after Bradman, Sobers and Richards they had to fear and respect. I remember reading about some of the Australian players who were watching the match from home who said they had NEVER seen an innings like that played in a one-day match. It was acknowledgment from the best of one already a genius at 21.

I also remember his innings of 119* in England in 1990, a few years earlier as he took India to an honourable draw at Leeds. “Schoolboy defies England” screamed the British newspapers. It was pure magic, and the snooty British press that normally drips acid against anything that isn’t as English as them, waxed eloquent about the 17-year-old schoolboy. He was everybody’s darling.

I also watched him on television scoring back-to-back hundreds against Australia in Sharjah in 1998, that experts believed were two of the greatest one-day knocks played. There too a sandstorm threatened to blow the match away and the Australian bowlers were looking to do the same to the Indian batsmen – until they ran into Tendulkar. Suddenly the Aussies had lost their swagger. For India it was a do-or-die effort and a millions hearts must have stopped beating that day when Sachin took guard. He bludgeoned his way to 143 and 124 in successive matches and won the Cup for India. The Australians were left shell-shocked. They acknowledged that they had been beaten by a champion batsman and not by a team. And there were so many such innings like that, each a masterpiece in its own way, which only Tendulkar could play.

Cut to the present. I see him struggling to get his hundredth hundred, struggling against newcomers, struggling to make scores that he would have virtually made in his sleep. Those bowlers who would have been in awe of him, had they bowled against him a decade ago, were actually talking about getting him out now and quite openly saying they could.

So now when I say he should leave now, and I hear, “Why should he quit, when he’s scoring?” I want to tell these people that this is not the Tendulkar I want to remember. I don’t know what you think but watching the great man in the last year has, except for the occasional flourish, been a painful experience. I watch him struggling to get his feet moving or out of the way against bowlers who actually believe they can get him out. They seem to have figured out his weaknesses and are quick to exploit them. It’s ok to score double centuries at home on wickets which are made to order, but it’s another story on wickets abroad.

I want to remember Sachin as the greatest batsman alive. Sure, he can still get his 70s and 80s. If he can still do that it is proof of his greatness, that he is still a cut above the rest. But is that how we want to remember him? Just another batsman who is happy pulling his weight and adding to his tally of runs?

Maybe you do, but I don’t.

We can even change the Constitution to suit our interests! While the Constitution hasn’t been changed in this case, one is trying to understand the rationale behind altering the rules to include sportspersons as Bharat Ratna awardees, just so we can give it to Sachin Tendulkar.

I am a great fan of Tendulkar. He’s one in a hundred million, but to change the rules just so he can be given the Bharat Ratna is not just bizarre, but sets an unhealthy precedent.

Why Sachin, why not others before him who have excelled in their sport? Why not Kapil Dev — arguably India’s greatest allrounder, India’s first World Cup winning captain, superb bowler, powerful batsman and amazing fielder. What he achieved inspired a millions kids, Tendulkar among them, to take to the game in all seriousness.

Or a little farther back, there was Sunil Gavaskar. Diehard cricket fans still believe he was one of the greatest opening batsmen that walked the earth. He took on the might of the West Indies and Australia, and shouldered the responsibility of the Indian team for 16 years. There was a time, when one said if Gavaskar fell, India crumbled. He was the first cricketer to climb the mountain of 10,000 Test runs. Why not him?

Or let’s go even further back in time. How about Dhyan Chand, India’s hockey wizard? It was said people flocked to the grounds around the world just to see Dhyan Chand dribble his way around the opposition.
If he was missing from the line-up, so were the crowds.

Or why not Prakash Padukone? Milkha Singh, Wilson Jones, Geet Sethi, Michael Ferreira, Lala Amarnath, or P.T. Usha? All of them were masters of their universe. The point is — where do we draw the line? As it is, the selections for Bharat Ratna have been mired in controversy.

In 2008, the BJP recommended the name of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the BSP of Kanshi Ram, the Leftists of Jyoti Basu and TDP’s Chandrababu Naidu suggested N.T. Rama Rao. In the end there was no award. Now that sportspersons are to be included, will lobbying not start here as well? Tomorrow the likes of Ram Vilas Pawan and Mayawati will want a quota in it!

It’s anyway, nothing but a huge ego boost for the awardee and his or her followers and the hectic lobbying that takes place before the award is announced reduces it to a farce. So let’s just put the Bharat Ratna back where it was these past few years – in cold storage.

What next? Sachin Tendulkar for President?

Vinod Kambli has always been the kind of person who seeks attention and thrives on it – on the cricket field and off it. And the latest incident where he has claimed that the 1996 World Cup semi final against Sri Lanka was fixed is another example of that. Before that was his outburst on TV that Sachin could have helped him get his place back in the team, but never did.

Sometime in 1988, a journalist friend called me to ask if I would be interested in carrying a feature in the Maharashtra Herald, on the other and lesser known half of the Tendulkar-Kambli combination. Vinod Kambli was then a 17 year-old-year living in a one-room tenement in Kanjurmarg, in the suburbs of Mumbai, unlike his more famous and younger-by-a-year friend who lived in Bandra.

He and Sachin had just set up a world record score of 664 in schools cricket, and while everyone was raving about the talent of the cherubic Tendulkar, who was already been spoken of as a player to watch, not too many people were talking about Kambli.

So when this journalist friend spoke to me, I was not too convinced. But he used all his powers of persuasion to convince me of Kambli’s talent and the fact that the ‘biased’ Mumbai sports media couldn’t see beyond Shivaji Park and Dadar Gymkhana!

So we carried a full-page feature on Kambli and it made fascinating reading. Here was this boy from the lower strata of society, who knew that everyone was talking about Tendulkar, said he didn’t mind because Sachin was his best friend. The young Vinod would travel by local train to Shardashram School where both the boys would go through cricketing lessons under the watchful eyes of their coach Ramakant Achrekar.

He was sure that one day soon his time would come, that people would take his name in the same breath as they did Tendulkar. And they did, in 1993, four years after his friend Sachin made that spectacular debut against Pakistan. In his first seven Tests, Kambli scored two double-centuries and two single ones. Not even his best friend could have boasted of such a sensational start.

He then made that very telling comment, “Sachin used the elevator and I used the staircase.”

Nothing could have been better for Indian cricket at that point. I genuinely liked the kid and thought he deserved his success. From January 1993 to November 1995, Kambli had played 17 Tests and scored 1084 runs at an average of 54.20. He had scored 2477 in 104 one-dayers. Pretty impressive record, but then somewhere along the way, I believe his success went to his head. Unfortunately, his career never took off because he was, like many others before him, suspect against the rising ball.

There were also various instances of indiscipline and a tumultuous personal life, which probably also contributed to his slump. His behaviour on and off the field was in marked contrast to that of his friend Sachin, who was never involved in any unsavoury incidents – personal or professional. Even the fact that Sachin ended up marrying someone seven years older was overlooked by the media. And since Kambli was supposed to be his best friend it was natural for the media to compare the two. In this comparison, it was Kambli who invariably ended up with the bad reviews.

I remember speaking to some senior sports journalists, much more knowledgeable and experienced about the game than I was, and their opinion was that Kambli just wasn’t as good as Tendulkar and had been outmaneuvered by the opposition bowlers, because of his weaknesses outside the offstump. They also felt he had messed up his career by his antics off the field.

Around the time when he was out of the Indian team, I remember writing a piece for the newspaper, where I praised his batting in some first class match. Kambli’s first wife called me to complain about the piece. She said I had no idea what he was up against and instead of supporting him I was running him down! I didn’t have the patience to clarify and didn’t see the need to apologise.

A few years later, I was at a medical shop in Pune, near my home, when I saw Vinod in shorts and a tee-shirt buying a crate of beer. I remember thinking, as he struggled with a paunch to load the beer into the car, that this is what happens to players who get dropped. I then heard that he had got into a brawl at some disco in Pune, because some people tried to make a pass at his wife.

A few days later, the advertising manager David Sawant came to my cabin to tell me excitedly that Vinod Kambli was coming to our office to book a full-page advertisement on Valentine’s Day for his wife. Frankly, I had no interest in Kambli’s antics and couldn’t understand why he needed to announce his arrival. My caustic comment was, “Does he think he’s Sachin Tendulkar?”

For Vinod Kambli, I guess that’s what it has really been all about since he was 17.

And I thought Shahid Afridi, was a sensible young man, who had mellowed in the past two years! On June 25, 2009, I had posted something on Afridi and his big mouth, where I had said that he was going around making silly statements like India were scared of playing against Pakistan, instead of trying to mend fences with them. I had also said that he should keep his feet out of the one place where they invariably find themselves – his mouth!

But then after his rather sporting speech at the post-match presentation ceremony at Mohali, I was impressed with his demeanour. I thought he had matured as a skipper, and that Pakistan cricket had finally found Imran’s successor – a serious, yet modern and forward thinking skipper. But judging by his latest ‘boo boo’ nothing’s changed. I can accept his comment that as a Pakistani he feels that his people are more large-hearted than the Indians. We can’t expect everyone to like us. We don’t think much of the Pakistanis, do we? But to say THEY’VE tried to make peace with US for the past 60-odd years and WE’VE always rejected THEIR overtures, is laughable. And then to say that the Indian media was negative is even more laughable. Has he forgotten that it was the Indian media which blasted his minister for the ‘keep away from match-fixing’ comment?

The problem that the Pakistanis have is age-old. It stems from the ‘weight’ of the rather large chip that they’ve been carrying on their shoulders for the past 63 years. I guess Afridi is no different. And I’m not talking politics here. They are simply unable to accept that they have lost to India in every single World Cup they’ve played against us and quite a few other matches in between. It’s not that they are a bad team or inferior to the Indians. They’ve always had better fast bowlers, if not batsmen, so why, when they meet India, do they come a cropper? That and the fact that Indian cricket has everything they don’t – better managed infrastructure, better paid players at all levels, and after the Azharuddin episode, no incidents of match-fixing – is what really pisses them off.

And, so, even as Pakistan Prime Minister Gilani expressed the hope that Indo-Pak cricket matches could be resumed, along came Mr Shahid ‘Big Mouth’ Afridi shooting from the lip. After what he has said about the people of India and against Gautam Gambhir dedicating the win to the victims of 26/11, does he really expect the Indian Government or the BCCI to be in any sort of hurry to resume ties? What did Gambhir say that was offensive? Didn’t Tendulkar dedicate one if his centuries to the Mumbai after the terror attack?

I remember reading in Sunil Gavaskar’s book Sunny Days that in 1971 when war broke out in the subcontinent between the two neighbours, he and Bishen Singh Bedi were playing for the World XI in Australia. They would have dinner every evening with two other players – Mustaqh Mohammed and Intikhab Alam – both Pakistanis and there was no rancour or animosity – in fact they were the best of friends and still are. Afridi should accept that he cannot change history. But it’s really in his hands to change the future. But that won’t happen if he, like some of his predecessors, walks around with that chip on his shoulder.

Green, it would seem for the Pakistanis, is also the colour of envy.

Here’s a confession. Till yesterday’s final, I had not watched a single match of the ICC World Cup which India played. But more of that later…

Last night as I watched the kids in my building running up and down the parking area screaming “India India” after Dhoni smacked the six, I could afford to look on indulgently. After all, I had been there, done that. I had witnessed it before. I couldn’t help think back to that magical day in June of 1983 when India achieved the impossible. Was that a more defining moment than this one? I was 25 then and crazy about the game as my son is today. No one gave India a hope in hell to even reach the semi-finals, leave alone the final. I remember reading that the arrogant England players and their media were delighted and derisive about meeting India in the semi-finals, because they couldn’t have asked for an easier opponent en route to the final at Lords.

When Yashpal Sharma whipped Bob Willis of his legs to midwicket for a six, everyone sitting in the control room of Hotel Blue Diamond, where I worked in those days, erupted. We knew it then that we were going to thrash the Poms. We could see the faces of the England players. They were shell-shocked and had already lost the match. You don’t pick Bob Willis then England’s best fast bowler and cart him over the fence like he was bowling with a tennis ball!

Then in the final as the West Indies were sailing to a win with the arrogant Viv Richards treating the Indian bowlers like they were schoolboys, we all prayed. All ‘we’ needed was his wicket and as Richards lifted a Madan Lal delivery to the leg side, I think most of us packed to the nines in that small room at the hotel died a thousand deaths as we watched Kapil Dev running to get under the ball. Would he drop it? Would he? He didn’t.

As Mohinder Amarnath claimed the last wicket I don’t think there was a dry eye amongst us. We wept. For a lot of us, it was a moment we never imagined would happen. Just like today’s generation, we had been waiting for this moment since we were kids. Imagine a rag-a-tag bunch of no-hopers under a 23-year-old captaining his country at cricket’s most prestigious tournament for the first time, walking away with the title. I remember wishing, like I did yesterday, that I could have been in Mumbai, because that is where the celebrations would be at its best. It was after all the home of Indian cricket. I remember reading that the foghorns on ships anchored along the coast near the Gateway of India went on blaring through the night, flares lit up the night sky and people danced on the streets.

I might have lost my job that night, because I should have been on duty at the Reception of the hotel, but was instead watching the match. But no one noticed and no one cared. The hotel lobby was packed with guests who came down from their rooms asking us to open the Bar, because they wanted a drink to celebrate. You can have been a waiter or a guest, but it didn’t matter, because people hugged each other in the lobby. I remember thinking, as tears rolled down, that this was the most incredible moment of my life.

But all through this World Cup whenever India played my son told me to stay away from the living room. He believed that every time I walked in an Indian wicket fell, so I was banished into the bedroom and told to watch the match on my laptop! He claimed India won because I stayed out of the living room and he didn’t move from his perch on the sofa! But yesterday, as India lost Sehwag and Tendulkar, my son was despondent, and went to sleep. I came back, sat in the living room and watched the entire match. Fifteen runs away from a win, I woke him up. He was stunned when he heard me tell him excitedly that India was about to win the Cup. I also told him that I had been sitting in his chair and India was about to win!

Of course, I didn’t tell him that I was jumping up and down like a schoolboy, cheering and shouting every time Gambhir and Dhoni sent the ball to the boundary. “Two fours….two fours, is all we need to take the pressure off,” I remember thinking aloud. Going a run a ball wasn’t exactly comforting as we inched closer. The run-to-ball ratio had to change quickly now and then Dhoni took on Malinga. As he hit two fours I was applauding and clapping in delight. And then in the next over as he banished the ball into the stands, I leapt from the chair, dancing, screaming – just like those kids down below. It was 1983 again.