Maybe I am exaggerating or maybe I am not – as much as 15th of August, 26th of January and October 2nd are indelible in Indian history, so would April 24th be. I would be considered naive if I went on to elaborate about something which requires no introduction. When I mention the 24th of April, you would read my mind and in fact by now all of you must have guessed that I am trying to wish Sachin Tendulkar on his birthday. Well, your guess is partly right in that case. When the wishes come pouring every year to Sachin from all corners of the world on his birthday, how will my wish be special?
So, instead of wishing him, as one of his fans, I would like to analyse the 23 years of his international career which would definitely serve as a learning curve for many youngsters playing the game. By saying that youngsters can learn many things from Sachin, I never meant about the shots that he possesses or produces. It is not his forward defensive or cover drive or square cut which I recommend for others to learn. All those things are a part of the coaching drills and the youngsters can learn those from their coaches. Each and everyone will have their own style and no one can try to become another.
Leave alone the variety in his game, there is something else young cricketers can learn from him. Again, I am not talking about his humility or his impeccable behavior. Loads and loads of articles have been written on those things and I am not going to add anything new. It would be self explanatory for cricket loving kids if they had watched how his game has transformed from his debut until now.
Amidst numerous senior cricketers in the Indian team like Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri, Kris Srikkanth, Mohammed Azharuddin and Kiran More, this 16-year-old Mumbaikar made his debut in the year 1989. When Tendulkar started his career, he was just all over the bowlers. He was overly aggressive right from the word go. He used to dance down the wicket more often than not. Still, the cricket fans would not have forgotten how in the company of Ravi Shastri, he had put the bowling of Shane Warne to sword in Australia. He could play his natural attacking game during those days because he was not vested with any sort of responsibility as there were many seniors on whose shoulders the performance of the team rested.
Sachin was playing in such a manner till the 1996 World Cup. The way he manhandled McGrath in the 1996 World Cup match against Australia is still fresh in my memory. Similarly, his performance throughout that World Cup was exemplary. He really resorted to carnage against every bowler those days. But, as I start to mention about 1996 World Cup, I cannot but stop thinking about at least two instances which bother me even now.
One – Sachin was at his imperious best when he was chasing a huge total against Australia and like I said before, he was all over Glenn McGrath and co. When it looked as if Sachin was taking India to victory, one wide ball was wisely bowled by the part time off spinner Mark Waugh. I am calling it as wisely bowled because the bowler at the last moment, having seen Sachin coming down the wicket, pushed one wide of his leg stump which left the keeper to take the bails off easily – Sachin was out stumped and India lost.
Two – Sachin, in the World Cup semifinal in 1996 against Sri Lanka, was scripting a very beautiful innings combining proper cricket with aggression. He got down the wicket and was stumped again. Thereafter, the wickets of Indian players fell like nine pins and India lost.
Sachin, by that time, realized the importance of his presence at the wicket. He understood by then that he who had grown among many seniors, was now a senior himself. He then felt it was he who needed to guide and anchor his team to victories. So, he curbed his aggressive instinct a bit and by then he became a very responsible batsman. This is one thing our young cricketers should learn. Our cricketers of the present era have been very intolerable to play the waiting game. They gift their wickets away by playing loose shots in the guise of being aggressive. The present Indian team is full of youngsters and only a couple or more seniors. So, if these guys could see videos of Sachin the way he played before 1996 and post 1996 they would have a lot of good things to learn.
Something of this sort, Sehwag has never bothered to learn. The best example of how not to play on some situations can be learnt from a player like Sehwag and the best example of how to play according to situations can be learnt from Sachin Tendulkar. You may have many aspirations of showcasing your skills on the cricket field which any youngster would have, but again your interests should not be viewed over your team’s interests.
When Ganguly started to open the innings in ODIs alongside Sachin, the former used to dominate the bowling more than Sachin. Those days, Sachin never tried to compete with his opening mate. He had the tolerance to play a watchful game but still was able to maintain his strike rate to more than a decent level. Sachin was someone with the sort of game that could have been similar to that of Sehwag having the intention of only sending the balls over the boundary lines. If he chose to play like this and that too inside the first 15 overs of an ODI, then no Sehwags, no Gayles, no Gilchrists would have been called as a match to him. But, he knew that he, as a senior in the team, should play in a way that serves as an example for the others.
Sachin, holding records after records, is only because of the way he has changed his batting style in accordance to situations. I have mentioned about post 1996 but there is one more stage which can be added. His batting style in the last five years has changed even more. He has become even more circumspect nowadays. As he is getting old, he has understood that it is time for youngsters to play the aerial borne shots and so if you see his batting nowadays he hardly attacks the ball. But again if one cannot score runs, even if you are some one who is viewed like God, you cannot survive in the team. Therefore, he has started to play many cheeky shots and he is playing them successfully. It is not something recommended in the text books but Sachin has practiced those shots and almost is perfect in playing them.
Now, if Sachin could say even at this age that he doesn’t foresee retirement and no body can dictate when he should retire it is only because he could adapt to the different times easily. He knew that runs would come from his bat and that is enough for retaining his position in the team.
So, for all Virat Kohlis, Rohit Sharmas or Rahanes who are viewed as the future for the Indian team, Sachin’s 23 years of international career is the best learning. I am sure they will be wishing the maestro on his birthday today but at the same time they have to analyse and understand how Sachin is still fresh in being a run machine. Then we may have many more Sachins in the years to come.