Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Business Standard Edit on Sachin Tendulkar’s 50th century

Editor's note:This brilliant editorial in Business Standard gives a balanced picture of Indian cricket….It’s a shame that analysis has been abandoned in favour of mindless eulogies in most of the sport pages of Indian newspapers.

After losing the final of the 1983 World Cup to India in June, West Indies came visiting four months later. They won the first Test by an innings and 83 runs, drew the second, won the third by 138 runs, drew the fourth, won the fifth by an innings and 46 runs, and drew the sixth. It was a comprehensive drubbing handed out to the new world champions. Clive Lloyd’s marauders had had their wish in what was termed the “revenge series”. The average Indian cricket fan seems to have very little recollection of that drubbing. They do remember the series, but for the two centuries Sunil Gavaskar scored in two drawn matches. They discuss in detail Gavaskar’s century in the second Test, his 29th, an uncharacteristically breezy one off just 94 balls, which brought him on a par with Donald Bradman. In the last Test, batting at number four, as opposed to the opening slot he occupied for most of his career, Gavaskar scored 236 not out. This took him not only beyond Bradman but also beyond Vinoo Mankad’s highest individual score by an Indian, a record which had stood for three decades.
Much has changed since then. West Indies, a world-beating force, have become the whipping boys. Australia have dominated and dissipated. Generations of players have come and gone. India has learnt to win overseas and risen to the position of the number one Test team in ICC’s rankings. It is not dependent on any one player anymore, as it depended on Gavaskar in the 1970s and 80s, and on Sachin Tendulkar for the entire decade of the 1990s. But one look at the last few days’ coverage of the first Test in South Africa will make any half-informed person wonder if much has changed. To be fair, Tendulkar accomplished a stupendous feat, his 50th century in Tests. That Gary Sobers, a bonafide all-time-great, scored 26 in his career would put Tendulkar’s accomplishment in perspective. However, the celebration around it glossed over the fact that, even as Tendulkar remained unbeaten when thundershowers washed off the fag-end of the fourth day’s play, India were staring at certain defeat. Curiously, the mood was celebratory, even euphoric. Everyone was busy digging out the list of Tendulkar’s centuries, his childhood photos, and the talking heads had a field day. No one would listen to the man himself, who insisted that 50 was just another number.
This could have been forgiven in the days when the team lost regularly. After all, everyone needs something to celebrate. Tendulkar often gave us the reason. His 114 as a 19-year-old in 1992 at Perth, whose pitch had much more spite then, is celebrated by his peers as arguably his best. Well, we lost that Test by a small matter of 300 runs! This attitude can be forgiven in an underdog. No one expects them to win, so they celebrate whatever they can, and cricket offers ample scope for an individual to shine even as the team surrenders. But, to be beaten by an innings and some, while being the number one team in the world, should call for some embarrassment, some hand-wringing.

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