Thursday, February 01, 2007

On why Sachin and Sehwag should not be dropped...

I have seen some interesting posts in the last few days/weeks relating to Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag. Some of these have been laughable and some of these have been plain annoying (to me!).

Several experts and non-experts (including close friends) have suggested that Sachin should be dropped from the team.

I have always been amused by these suggestions and looked at the (non-)experts dangle perilously as the pendulum -- their pendulum -- swung wildly from one end ("wow he is a legend") to the other ("ohhhh! kick him out..." or "he should retire") without as much as pausing for breath at a stable, central, core (read: rational) resting point. And would these (non-)experts ever think of either humble pie or (God forbid!) egg-on-faces in the light of his majestic match-winning innings in the 4th ODI against West Indies in Vadodhra yesterday (31 January 2007)? I do not think so. The manner in which he played was incredible [Photo below from Times of India]. Sachin Tendulkar first steadied the innings with Rahul Dravid and then slowly accelerated to a fine (match winning) century.

The (non-)experts would quietly move on to pick on the next random player to be either "sacked" or "incarcerated" or "chopped at the limbs" or some other form of extreme punishment, until it is time to pick on Sachin Tendulkar again. If these experts thought about eggs on faces, there would be a dearth of eggs in the land!

Captain Rahul Dravid himself captured this mood quite adequately in a series of comments laced with sarcasm which was so subtle and delicate that it probably didn't quite measure on their egg-on-faces-laden-Richter-scale! Dravid said, for example, "We were not unduly worried about Sachin. Maybe everyone else can stop worrying now so we can have a bit of peace around. But what will we discuss then?"

A look at Sachin Tendulkar's comparative stats in ODIs indicate the sheer fallacy of these chest thumping opinions. An interesting article today compares the batting stats forSachin vis-a-vis other international cricketers. Other than Mike Hussey -- and that lad is clearly in the zone -- Sachin has fared as well as the others in recent times! And no, lest the typical Indian cricket fan jumps up and down in non-factual hand-waving, in this comparative period that the author has chosen, India has not played either Bangladesh or Kenya!

Sachin Tendulkar is a proven match winner. Yes, he probably let himself and his team down in the manner in which he played in the 3rd Test in South Africa. But, let us not forget that he is a proven match winner. And he still knows how to hold a bat. And he still knows how to score runs.

The mere presence of Sachin Tendulkar in the team makes the opposition bowl negatively. They do not know what he will do on any given day. Similarly Sehwag. These are players that can (and have) taken games away from oppositions. This is why it is absolutely important that Sehwag goes to the World Cup. This is a view shared by John Wright (quite emphatically) and Arun Lal, in a roundtable discussion with Sanjay Manjrekar.

This is one of the reasons I feel Sehwag should go. And I agree wholeheartedly with Prem Sanjay Vuthandam when he pleads, "Leave Sachin alone". The presence of these two is, I believe, worth 40 runs on the field. Opposition teams would often take risks to set of target of 280 when 240 may have sufficed, because they know that, with Sachin and Sehwag in the team, India can take the game away from them. They might bowl a negative/defensive line because they may not know what the realms of possibilities are when these two guys are on song.

We have a habit, in India, of putting people on terribly high pedestals. I feel we do that so that we retain the right to be able to drag them off it whenever we chose to do so. This is surely a sad state of affairs! This has been commented on recently in a lucid and frank interview by Greg Chappell. Sachin Tendulkar himself responded rather tersely (and I think, uncharacteristically) to this issue when asked about the pressures on him at the conclusion of the 4th ODI against the West Indies yesterday.

There must be stable ground somewhere between those two extremes.

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