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The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones

The Elephant Moves Ahead Of The Pack

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Tendulkar Meets The Challenge Half-way

Few things in cricket come close to the consummate ease with which Sachin Tendulkar keeps on adding to the mountain of his Test and One-day international runs. And nothing comes close to the pure delight of watching him do so season after season. In November this year, it would be 20 years since he stepped into the demanding arena of international sports.

He’s battled more than a few injuries over the years and has been written off by serious observers and experts of the game; but every time the little master has batted his way out of trouble. He is the elephant in the room; but not in the sense that Sanjay Manjrekar intended while commenting on his contributions in the tri-series in Australia. This is not the elephant that no one wants to talk about, it is actually the one that amazes everyone.

Manjrekar should be grateful to Tendulkar, as it is the little master’s sustained brilliance that has ensured that Manjrekar would also go down in history; if not for his average cricketing career than at least for his elephantine error of judgment.

In the last three finals Tendulkar has scored 117 not out, 91 and 138; all of them away from home resulting in a win for India; one of them is also while chasing, the 117 not out against Australia in Sydney. And that by the way is the first time India has won a tri-series in Australia.

Since we humans are not blessed with an elephant’s memory, let’s just take a statistical tour to see if there is any merit in the assertion that Tendulkar does not perform when it is most needed. Although this premise is inherently flawed as there is rarely a time when performances from him are not needed; but for the benefit of the eternal sceptics let’s just take the finals as a yardstick.

Tendulkar has scored 1833 runs in 39 finals, which is by far the highest. And if we look at all-time averages, at 55.54 he’s ranked pretty high among those who have scored at least 500 runs in finals. Bevan, Kirsten and Richards are the only ones above him in all-time averages, but even here Tendulkar’s strike rate is the highest (87.41).

Tendulkar is miles ahead of his contemporary competitors in Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara and Inzamam vis-à-vis performances in finals. Ricky Ponting has 1344 runs at 39.52, Brian Lara has 507 runs at 28.16 and Inzamam has 887 runs at 29.56. The master has the highest strike rate among the four; a combination of the three factors says that in the finals Tendulkar has scored significantly more runs consistently and at a much faster rate compared to the rest. Jayasuriya is the closest with 1613 runs at 42.44 with a strike rate of 98.35.

Sachin has scored 6 hundreds and 10 fifties in finals, with the next best being Gilchrist and Ganguly with three hundreds each and six and four fifties respectively—-adding the hundreds and fifties scored in finals by the two next best performers in Gilchrist and Ganguly (only in this particular stat) gives you the number that Tendulkar already has. And Sachin is the only one with a chance to further widen the gap. Far from not standing up and delivering in finals as the perception has been built, the reality is that there is no one who thrives and delivers in the pressure of big matches as much as Tendulkar does.

On Monday, the little master played another gem of an innings, a chanceless 138 that took the game away from Sri Lanka and raised his tally of ODI hundreds to 44. In the process he also bagged his 59th man of the match award, which was also his eighth one in finals and then the player of the series award for the 14th time. Needless to say there is no one who is anywhere close.

These are just cold numbers but if they are seen with the manner in which they have been created, the result is a symphony that could make a Beethoven jealous. In the last two to three years Sachin has put the scars of his injuries behind and has developed new ways to construct his innings. Greg Chappell had said confidently after taking charge that Tendulkar would never be the same old dominator again; something that most experts also like commenting on whenever he unleashes his dazzling array. It just makes me wonder many times as to why the old Tendulkar is needed when you have the new one going about his job with such efficiency and brilliance.

An Australian mother gave a serious advice to her little son talking to his friends during the Sydney Test on India’s last tour. This was when the little master was building his innings that guided India past Australia’s total with Tendulkar scoring 150 odd not out runs. ‘Shhh..’, she said, ‘no one talks when Sachin Tendulkar is batting.’ The boy understood immediately, and it is time that some of us should understand it as well.

The elephant is way ahead of the pack and is still running at a pretty good rate.

Written by Deepan Joshi

September 15, 2009 at 7:02 pm

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