Is it fair to Tendulkar?

2007 Feb 07 by DreamCricket

Talented individuals and great players may garner all the attention but then isn’t cricket in the ultimate reckoning a team game?

How many times have we heard the accusation against Sachin Tendulkar that he is not a finisher, that he falters at the doorstep of victory, that he does not deliver in crunch situations or really important matches? Before we analyze these charges there are a couple of points to ponder.

Talented individuals and great players may garner all the attention but then isn’t cricket in the ultimate reckoning a team game? Should not the team come before any individual however great he might be? It is true that outstanding cricketers can shape notable triumphs but the greatest victories are quite often achieved when there are a number of invaluable contributions from more than one member of the team. And these could be from the lesser lights or less glamorous players.

Given this background Tendulkar could well be asking what the others are doing if he is expected to win a match every time, to come off every time. It is because he is so prodigiously talented, has earned a name for himself as one of the greatest batsmen of all time that expectations are so high – sometimes unreasonably high. Which is also why everyone is after his blood when he fails.

When Tendulkar recently made his 41st ODI century against West Indies and India went on to win the match I did some research and found that ten of those hundreds went in vain. Of the remaining 31 India won 30 matches and there was one no result. In almost all the ten games that India lost when Tendulkar made a hundred there were hardly any sizeable contributions from the others. In some cases the players who followed him in the batting order failed to build on the excellent start he gave the side.

At Adelaide in January 1948 Vijay Hazare scored a century in each innings, yet Australia won by an innings and 16 runs. In the second innings he got 145 out of a total of 277. There was only one other score just over the half century mark and five batsmen were out for ducks while a sixth remained unbeaten without scoring. With just a little contribution from half the team Hazare could well have seen India draw the match. Thirty years later Sunil Gavaskar could well have asked the question ``what are the others in the side doing?’’ and as vice captain could have pulled up half his team for not contributing to the team’s cause. He got a hundred in each innings and Pakistan won by eight wickets. A few years ago of course came the supreme example of one man carrying an entire team – in vain. Brian Lara scored a double century and a century and yet Sri Lanka won by a clear cut margin of ten wickets. One wonders what would have crossed his mind at the end.

This is not written in Tendulkar’s defence. Yes, sometimes he has not been there at the finish, at times he has not contributed in a crunch situation or an important match. But one can’t be too harsh on a player who has also contributed immensely to the success of the Indian team on numerous occasions – as indeed some of the facts and figures I have mentioned clearly point out. When he fails it will be more appropriate to remember that cricket is a team game in which everyone is expected to contribute to a team’s success. The onus cannot and should not always be only on the superstars.