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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sachin Tendulkar conspicuous by his silence

It is not easy being Sachin Tendulkar. Perhaps, he is the only cricketer whose failures raise more eyebrows than his successes. One is so used to Tendulkar’s centuries, that they get noticed only when they are not scored.

Tendulkar’s 100th international century has been the talk of the cricket world and it has taken too much time to come. The impatience in all the quarters is perceptibly growing.

It is not just in India that one takes a big score from him for granted. Even here, in England, one is not used to such a prolonged lean patch from him.

The Little Master has received a lot of flak for his none-too-impressive showing in the ongoing series. The silence of his bat has been deafening. One newspaper has called him Master of Little and another, sarcastically, commented that he could rename himself as I-lack-runs.

For a batsman of 51 Test centuries and close to 15,000 runs, such comments are not just uncharitable but scathing. But then Tendulkar, to use a David Lloyd phrase, is conspicuous by his quietness in the series.

The extent of Tendulkar’s lull can be seen from his numbers in the series so far. A total of 159 in three Tests in a marquee series is too little for his standards. His series average so far — 26.5 — is less than half of his career average which is over 56.

He recorded scores of 34 and 12 in the Lord’s Test which India lost by 196 runs and 16 and 56 in the Trent Bridge Test which resulted in a massive 319-run shock for the visitors. At Edgbaston, he made 1 and 40 as India suffered the ignominy of an innings and 242-run defeat. Sad but true, Tendulkar continues to raise eyebrows.

He may still reach the milestone — two innings of one more Test and five ODIs are still left — but it would be too late if not too little. He has provided his critics with enough fodder.

Tendulkar looked in fluent form in the second innings at Trent Bridge but his 56 had come after the game was out India’s reach. It was almost a similar scenario at Edgbaston. He looked in superb nick before he was run out for 40. By then, however, the Test and series were in England’s bag.

Tendulkar had skipped the West Indies tour after the Indian Premier League (IPL), which means he was relatively fresher than some of his teammates. Having come to England a little earlier than the other players, Tendulkar had more time acclimatising the conditions.

It, sure, is unfair to blame Tendulkar alone in a series in which the team has not lasted for 100 overs and has not yet scored 300. But the Little Master could have shown the way. A good knock from him could have galvanised the inexperienced members of the side but then failures are part of a batsman’s career.

Tendulkar was involved in a few series when his bat failed to do the talking. The most recent one was the 2008 series against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka, in which he had made 95 runs in six innings.

But since then, he came back strongly, scoring nearly 3000 runs in 30 Tests at an average of 66. So, who knows, the current lull could lead to a storm.

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