“They all come with great records and fantastic scores but they all have chinks in their armour.” - Even the strongest knight in a battleground carries the proverbial “chink in the armour.”
In cricket too, every batsman has a weak nerve which when pressed can make way for his destruction. Some hate the smell of the perfume ball while the rest bite the dust stretching that front foot forward, but every single one has a vulnerable glitch that they hate being exposed and exploited.
Even God is not devoid of his weakness. I know I might rot in cricketing hell for this but yes, Sachin Tendulkar too has his share of technical faux paus. The left arm tweaker syndrome and the sneaking in of the incoming deliveries from innocuous medium pacers. Though the man has scored heaps of runs and a ton of hundreds, these two niggles have been his Achilles heel.
Ashley Giles, Ray Price, Paul Harris, Dion Nash, Abdul Razzaq, Hansie Cronje – they never made it to the top of any bowling chart but have topped Tendulkar’s problem list from time and again. In fact, Ashley Giles became the first and the only bowler to get Tendulkar stumped in test matches. During the course of time, Tendulkar overcame the problem of the left armers but his challenges against the incoming ball still haunts him.
Surprisingly, it’s not the fast in-cutters from the Donalds and McGraths that has been the nemesis. It’s the medium pacers who have made him sweat more. Dion Nash pops up as an immediate memory. He was one bowler along with the late Hansie Cronje who snuck through the gate of the little master on more than one occasion.
To state the obvious, Tendulkar’s weakness lies is his greatness. Tendulkar is supremely strong on the leg side and has a dominant bottom handed grip. He often whips balls from the middle and off stump to play towards the leg side. His initial movement gets him in line early and his strong wrists help him score off the best of the deliveries. But when he misses it, it either sneaks in or wraps him in front of the sticks. Another batsman who fell prey of this phenomenon was Rahul Dravid. The technically superior Dravid, too faced this problem when Australia bowled him an array of in-cutters. Michael Kasprowicz reversed the ball in continuously to trap Dravid in front during the Australian tour of India in 2001.
Another factor that leads to Tendulkar’s regular getting knocked over is his attacking intent. Whenever a batsman tries to play an attacking shot to score runs off an incoming ball, there is an automatic gap created between the bat and pad. Be it the cover drive or the flick through the mid wicket; the stretch of the arms, the change of the bat face and the pronounced back lift opens up the defence, hence creating a window of opportunity for the ball to sneak in. Even in the ongoing Test against New Zealand at Bangalore, he paid the price of being overtly attacking. After treating the Chinnaswamy crowd with an impeccable straight drive, he missed a straight one from Doug Bracewell to cut short a promising innings.
Whatever may be the explanations, the fact remains that Tendulkar has been toppled over almost 50 times and caught in front of the stumps 59 times in test cricket. One has to admit that it is a technical snag and Tendulkar has not been able to sort it out even after putting in all these hard yards. It is quite an aberration to Tendulkar’s pursuit of perfection where he has been unable to find a permanent fix to this problem. Be it Dion Nash or the young Doug Bracewell, Tendulkar’s castle has been breached time and again.
However, I am no expert on cricketing technique or eligible enough to comment on the technical glitches of arguably the greatest batsman of all time, yet it has been a constant prick to his greatness that some of the not-so-great bowlers have been able to get the better of his defence. But again he has scored thousands of runs and a hundred hundreds guarding his weakness for the last 23 years. It only proves the fact that the great may not have a fix for their “chink” but they always possess a special ability to manoeuvre it!