THE INDIAN EXPRESS
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Page 1 anchor
It takes Wisden to ask: Sachin Tendulkar?
Run trickle underlines what facts point to: he can’t win Tests for India
Sachin Tendulkar VISAKHAPATNAM, APRIL 6 Apart from a glorious, nothing-to-lose 55 against Australia on a Mumbai terror track, watching Tendulkar became a colder experience... After his humbling 2003, he seemed to reject his bewitching fusion of majesty and human frailty in favour of a mechanical, robotic accumulation
—Wisden Cricketers’ Almanac 2005
Officially, the Wisden edition will be out tomorrow and will certainly provoke an emotional outburst from Sachin Tendulkar fans.
Sachin, cold? No way, they may say.
But if facts are gospel, cricket’s Bible has only underlined a question that’s been hovering over Tendulkar for some time now: has the superstar been reduced to a passenger in the Indian team?
Yes, there’s captain Sourav Ganguly, too—a joke doing the email circuit says that you can time how long your instant noodles need to be in water with Ganguly's innings—but that’s an easier story.
In the last 11 Tests that India has played, Tendulkar’s 664 runs has contributed just 13.7 per cent of the team total. In the last ten ODIs, this slips to an embarrassing 5.7 per cent—just 88 runs.
But that’s just one chapter. Tendulkar’s role in the team today is far removed from that of even a couple of years ago—he is neither the stayer that Rahul Dravid is nor the destroyer that Virender Sehwag has become.
The majesty—as Wisden noted—is missing, the touch is barely there, and after 123 Tests in over 15 years, he is yet to play that defining innings that has won a game for the country. Even as late as this month, in the Bangalore Test against Pakistan, which India should have saved, and the Mohali Test, in which his 202-ball, 301-minute, 94-run crawl virtually cost the team a win.
Once again, the facts:
• Tendulkar’s average is a falling graph when you trace his record from first-innings knocks to second innings, then fourth-innings chases or match-saving situations.
• Now go back to that fading Caribbean evening in 1999, when Brian Lara took West Indies home past the 300-mark against mighty Australia, with only No 11 Courtney Walsh for company. Remember the way Lara stepped out to McGrath and Gillespie then?
• Back in Bangalore this month, there was Tendulkar—with three 50s behind his back—patting every other ball back in an innings of 16 in 98 balls spread over nearly two and-a-half hours, with India facing a target of 382. The master only managed to increase the pressure on himself and his partner, Dinesh Kaarthick, before the inevitable happened.
This isn’t new. Tendulkar’s career has been one of missed opportunities, of India shut out when he had the key in his hands. Of course, the one that sticks out most is the Chennai Test against Pakistan in 1999, when Tendulkar scored 136 but India lost to Pakistan by just 12 runs.
The master’s dismissal—to a ludicrous inside-out shot off off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq—came when India needed 16 runs to win. And his departure triggered a famous collapse and ended in an infamous defeat.
A lesser-known, but equally crucial, instance is the Barbados Test of 1997. India were chasing just 120 runs and as captain, it was Tendulkar who had to show the way. But he scored just 4 and India kneeled down in front of a distinctly inferior West Indies team.
And then there are more:
• Vs Zimbabwe, Harare, 1998-99: India needed 235 runs to win. Sachin’s contribution to the chase was 7. Result: India lost by 62 runs
• Vs Pakistan, Kolkata, 1998-99: India needed 279 runs for a win. A 100 plus-run opening stand was followed by a collapse, Tendulkar scored 9 after a first-ball duck in the first innings. Result: India lost by 46 runs
• Vs South Africa, Mumbai, 1999-2000: India took a 49-run first-innings lead, thanks to Sachin’s 97, but failed in the second innings. Sachin scored 8. Result: India lost by four wickets
• Vs South Africa, Bloemfontein, 2001-02: Tendulkar scored 155 in the first innings but in the second, with India under pressure facing a 184-run deficit, he fell for 15. Result: India lost by 9 wickets
• Vs West Indies, Kingston, 2002: India needed 408 runs to win but, more importantly, had to bat the day out as there was a strong chance of rain curtailing the match. Tendulkar looked set to lead India out of trouble but was out for 86, his fall triggerred a collapse. The match ended half an hour before the rain started. Result: India lost by 155 runs
Of course, most these black marks have been erased but subsequent spurts of brilliance—though not while chasing a target.
That was then.
Now, with Virender Sehwag showing the way and younger and fitter stars—Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif, for starters—knocking at the doors, it’s time to that question once again: has the superstar been reduced to a mere passenger in the Indian team?
It's happened again. Sachin scores a century but unfortunately India loses the 4th ODI. Bad luck haunts Sachin, on quite a few occassions when he has played a great innings, India lost.
Tendulkar, Wisden and a furore of ignorance
April 9, 2005
In the beginning it was amusing, but now it has become nauseating. What started with a deliberate manipulation by a national broadsheet is now a full-blown epidemic, with the ignorant and the polemicists enjoying a free ride. At the centre of this utterly senseless controversy is Sachin Tendulkar, the victim, and the Wisden Cricketer's Almanack, allegedly the perpetrator of a malicious campaign against him.
It started like this. On April 7, The Indian Express, a newspaper known for its pursuit of hard news stories, carried a front-page article headlined: "Wisden pops the query: Sachin?" The tagline that preceded the story, helpfully added: "Failure to play a matchwinner in 15 years rankles". The story started with this paragraph from the then yet-to-be released Wisden Cricketers' Almanack:
Apart from a glorious, nothing-to-lose 55 against Australia on a Mumbai terrortrack, watching Tendulkar became a colder experience: after his humbling 2003, he seemed to reject his bewitching fusion of majesty and human frailty in favour of a mechanical, robotic accumulation.
From here, the newspaper story went on the examine Tendulkar's contribution to Indian cricket, his inability to win crucial matches for India and his failure in key matches. It concluded with this question: has the superstar been reduced to a mere passenger in the Indian team?
Wisden was evoked once more in the piece. "The majesty – as Wisden noted – is missing, the touch is barely there and after 123 Tests in over 15 years, he is yet to play that defining innings that has won a game for the country." Clever tactics this, borrowing one word from Wisden then adding ten more, while making it appear that Wisden said all of it. In fact when I first saw the newspaper on Thursday morning, I thought there was a major essay on Tendulkar in the Almanack which I had not known about.
What it turned out was that there was a 125-word review of Tendulkar's performance in 2004. It was part of the Wisden Forty feature, where 40 leading cricketers of he world are listed on the basis of their performance in the previous calendar year, 2004 in this case. There were five other Indian players in the list, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. This is what the whole piece on Tendulkar read:
Having spent his career delighting the purists, Tendulkar spent 2004 whipping the statisticians into a frenzy. In Tests, he played a remarkable three-card trick: 495 runs without being dismissed to start the year; then seven single- figure scores in eight innings either side of tennis elbow; finally normal service resumed with an average of 284 in the series in Bangladesh. Apart from a glorious, nothing-to-lose 55 against Australia on a Mumbai terrortrack, watching Tendulkar became a colder experience: after his humbling 2003, he seemed to reject his bewitching fusion of majesty and human frailty in favour of a mechanical, robotic accumulation. The end – an average of 91 for the year – justified the means, but the game was the poorer for it.
That's all. Nothing more, nothing less. But amazingly, even before the copies were officially released this became the subject of a front-page headline in one of India's leading newspapers. "Wisden pops the query: Sachin?" What query? The Wisden pen-sketch was merely an observation on the way he batted in 2004. It was not even an original observation; Tendulkar's changed approach to batting is a much-traveled territory now and even Tendulkar himself has talked about it. But where in the Almanack piece was the question about his career and contribution to the Indian cause? There can be no issue with any publication wanting to raise these questions, but why fire from somebody else shoulders?
The Express piece has spawned many follow-ups. Some newspapers merely reported what Wisden had said, some went looking for reactions from former cricketers, and some have taken upon the themselves the task of defending Tendulkar against this "myopic and biased attempt at humiliating a cricketer." How touching indeed. It would have been funny, weren't it so pathetic.
There is another wave of indignation sweeping across India. That's over the choice of the five cricketers of the year. Five Englishmen, huh. Ashley Giles? What a joke. Robert Key? Can he even hold a place in the England side? The idea of debating the Almanack's choice is a fair one. It's fair too to question the criteria used for nomination, and the relevance of the Wisden Five to the rest of the world, but to ignore the criteria altogether is absurd, and if willful, seriously malicious. Two great Test players of the past made quite a scene on a television show last night.
What about Virender Sehwag? asked Wasim Akram indignantly on a television show, smugly waving Sehwag's average last season. What about Irfan Pathan, piped in Geoff Boycott, wasn't he ICC's young player of the year? Who is this editor making all this decisions sitting on his desk, has he played even one Test?
But can 100 Tests be an excuse for ignorance? Perhaps Akram can be excused, for he proudly proclaimed that he had never read an Almanack, but Boycott, surely he should have been wiser. For someone who has lived, played and commentated in England all his life and been a cricketer of the year in the second year of his international career, not to know that the Wisden Five are traditionally chosen on the basis of performances in the English season and that no cricketer can win it twice is a bit odd. And to spread his ignorance to thousands of unsuspecting television watchers is plain irresponsible. The question that could have been asked instead is that if the Wisden Five are to be chosen from the English season, should they not be promoted as such?
But who are we to tell good old Boycs that? Have we played a Test?
Sambit Bal is editor of Wisden Asia Cricket magazine and Cricinfo in India.
I still can't believe Giles and Key were voted in the top 5. My top 5:
One more counter-argument to what Wisden says...
WISDEN BURIED, WISDOM DAWNED!
By Sanjay Jha and Tapan Joshi
Mumbai, April 8, 2005
First things first! Wisden, that grand old ageing amalgamation of withering editorial minds and senile statistical analysts, is thankfully at least nearing its final lap towards self-extinction. God bless us all!! Wisden has from time immemorial fooled us all, because we have all meekly and gleefully accepted the so-called self-crowned buffoons as a sacrosanct, Bible of cricket. We request the Wisden Editor, Mr. Mathew Engel, to stop living in a paradise of illusions and get down to harsh realities. Wisden is now decadent, dilapidated and debilitated beyond redemption. The recent article on Sachin Tendulkar is symptomatic of the malaise it's been afflicted with: an incurable remorseless disease called desperation.
There are three recent events that confirm Wisden's apprehensions and their desperate measures to stay afloat:
1. They are being challenged by the launch of a rival cricket magazine, which has a spunky, no holds barred spirited style with a sprightly get-up which is in synchronicity with the contemporary cricket mood world-wide.
2. The International Cricket Council -- the pristine vanguard of cricket administration -- now moves away from the imperial Lords, London to the more savvy, professional, dynamic and new Dubai Sports city in UAE.
3. The English domination of cricket has now been completely overwhelmed by the success of the Asian teams (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and now even Bangladesh) with the sub-continent dominating cricket not just in terms of commercial sponsorships but outstanding individual talent and analytical abilities of Asian media specialists. It's about time media across the world unanimously and universally dumps Wisden from their self-assumed royalty.
The recent effort to run down the game's current superstar and India's ultimate icon (and we say so despite Virendra Sehwag, Adam Gilchrist and Brian Lara still playing the game) is a blatant manifestation of Wisden's deep seated prejudices. It must be indeed acutely humiliating for Wisden to witness the sub-continent's domination and virtual hijack of this ever-growing sport. It's time we completely demolish the authenticity and reliability and expose the factual inaccuracies of Wisden, once and for all.
Above all, we must highlight their myopic and biased attempt at humiliating a cricketer to increase their flagging circulation.
4. Wisden's website created over a decade ago, acquired by them when it went into bankruptcy and liquidation, only attracts the traditional Brit and a couple of old die-hards from South Africa still coming to terms with living under the Nelson Mandela era.
We take the example of the extremely critical and deliberately concocted piece and expose the illustrious Wisden team as a bunch of illiterate, ignorant ignoramuses who deserve to be treated with contemptuous indifference and consigned perpetually to the dustbin, where they deserved to be a long-time ago.
The Wisden Cricketers' Almanac 2005 has this to say about Tendulkar: "Apart from a glorious, nothing-to-lose 55 against Australia on a Mumbai terror track, watching Tendulkar became a colder experience... After his humbling 2003, he seemed to reject his bewitching fusion of majesty and human frailty in favour of a mechanical, robotic accumulation."
It is appalling to note that Wisden, without checking facts has stated that even after 123 Tests, Tendulkar has not played that defining innings that has won a game for the country. This article is not an attempt to counter-attack. It is merely an exercise in bringing facts to the people because we believe that is what good journalism is all about. Not the dirty yellow reporting that Wisden has resorted to.
So, here are some facts:
1. Has Wisden forgotten the magnificent 165 at Chennai in 1992-93 that a 19-year-old Tendulkar scripted against England? And yes, India won that Test by a massive margin. Please go and dig into your archives, my dear old Engel!
2. Does Wisden remember a 20-year-old Tendulkar winning India the Colombo Test in 1993 by scoring an unbeaten 104 in the second innings? We repeat, in the SECOND INNINGS. Dear Engel and your dear cronies, please do your homework, pals, instead of sulking like a bunch of moronic schoolboys.
3. Where were the Wisden statisticians when Tendulkar scored 142 and 96 in two consecutive Test matches in Lucknow and Bangalore against Sri Lanka to help India win both the games? Engel, please wake up, dear friend!
4. What does Wisden have to say about the knock of 155 not out against the rampaging Australians in Chennai after India were looking down in 1998? Wasn't that a 'defining' knock according to Wisden? And once again Sir, that knock has come in the second innings. Wisden statisticians, please note. Or are you too pre-occupied with counting the consecutive number of times England has been humiliated by the Australians in the Ashes! Isn't it true that England's miserable track record suggest that they have been reduced to ashes, and perhaps it is time to re-christen the series?
5. In Chennai against Steve Waugh's Australians in 2001, with the series tied one-all, Tendulkar's 126 in the first essay held the Indian innings together, something that even Shane Warne acknowledged after the game. But obviously, Wisden won't agree. And India won that match.
6. The 193 that he scored on a seaming wicket at Leeds, Headingley against England is not mentioned anywhere in Wisden. Perhaps, because it was played against England? And we all know the match result, Engel and Co.
7. Also, what does Wisden have to say about a 19-year-old schoolboy involved in a brilliant counter-attack on a fast, bouncy Perth wicket where he scored 148 glorious runs? India could not save the Test because the other more experienced batsmen failed but Tendulkar proved that he was already a warrior. Even his first Test hundred, an unbeaten 119 at the Oval in 1990 was a match-saving effort. Comments, please?
8. Why did Wisden remain silent when Nelson Mandela stood up to applaud Tendulkar when he smashed a belligerent South African attack comprising of Allan Donald among others for 169 glorious runs? No other Indian batsman except Azharuddin stood up to that attack. Agree?
9. And what about those centuries amidst the desert storms in Sharjah against Australia in 1998 when there was an open talk of some Indian players trying to lose those matches because of bookmakers? And one man fought for his country tooth and nail, and won!
10. How can Wisden forget the 98 against Pakistan in 2003 World Cup? Barry Richards calls it one of the best one-day innings of all time. (Also, Tendulkar was the highest run scorer in 1996 World Cup and was single-handedly instrumental in taking India to the semi-finals), where he was the highest scorer.
11. If Wisden is blaming Tendulkar for India losing the Chennai Test against Pakistan in 1999 by 12 runs in spite of scoring 136 in the SECOND INNINGS with a back that would have made ordinary mortals collapse on the field, then does it deserve to be called the Bible of cricket? In fact, Wisden stinks! And we should now explode that false halo and their super sized egos.
Incidentally, even Sunil Gavaskar scored a magnificent 96 on a vicious turning track in his last Test Innings at Bangalore against Pakistan. We lost that match by a mere 16 runs or so, but does that in anyway diminish a great effort?
12. Another example is the Barbados Test of 1997. India, chasing measly 120 runs, collapsed in a sorry heap to the West Indies fast bowlers. If you want to know the real story of that particular match, ask Gavaskar. He saw the pitch and remarked than any team would be shot out for 80, such was the state of the wicket. Just because the Indians behaved like gentlemen and did not protest, they faced the flak. Had someone like Ricky Ponting been leading the team, he would have straightaway complained to the ICC. And got free brownie points too.
13. For all those criticizing Tendulkar for his 'failures' in the second innings (he averages just under 38 in the second innings), here is an interesting statistic: West Indian wizard Brian Lara, who Tendulkar's critics proclaim as a bigger match winner, averages 39.56 in the second innings compared to his overall average of just under 53. Now, there isn't much difference there, is it?
14. Wisden has slipped here because it is relying on mere figures to put Tendulkar down, and that too, selective statistics. The institution has not bothered to study the Tendulkar impact on Indian cricket. It is thanks to the Tendulkar impact that you have a Sehwag or a Dhoni trying to blast the ball out of the park with a bottom hand grip. Dhoni, incidentally, still has a Tendulkar poster in his room. And for Sehwag, Tendulkar will remain the model inspiration.
15. Whether one likes it or not, the Tendulkar impact was felt on Team India when he was out of a few one-day tournaments including the last ICC Champions Trophy in England due to elbow injury. It is not just Tendulkar the batsman, it is the complete aura which makes him a cricketing powerhouse. His habit of doing the opposition in with the ball has not deserted him and in fact, India won the first ODI against Pakistan at Kochi recently due to his heroics with the ball because a score of fewer than 290 was easily achievable on that flat wicket.
16. As far as cold statistics are concerned, there is something more for Wisden to ruminate on. It indicates Tendulkar's hundreds have not come in a match winning or saving cause. Going strictly by the stats, it is proved that out of 34 Test hundreds, 26 have contributed in India winning the game or drawing it, which works out to a staggering effort of 76 per cent. Engel, did you know this?
17. Now comes the knock out punch for Wisden, and the final nail in its coffin. When it talks about the Tendulkar impact, it should be ashamed after reading this piece of statistics in the ODIs. Tendulkar has played 344 ODIs for India, scoring 37 hundreds. Out of 37 hundreds, as many as 29 have come in a winning cause, giving it almost 79 per cent win ratio. And at least two of the eight hundreds that have come in a losing cause has helped India qualify to the finals. NOW, WHO WILL NOT CALL THIS MAN A MATCH WINNER?
We were always led to believe that a hallmark of a great cricketer is consistency, a criteria that Tendulkar fulfills for the last 15 years, an ability to change the course of the match, a criteria that Tendulkar fulfills with both bat and ball and the ability to motivate, a criteria that Tendulkar more than fulfills as he has inspired a whole new generation.
18. Wisden is a dumb organization -- and let's see why! According to Wisden, it appears that only the second innings matters. You idiots, cricket is a two-innings game, and as long as the players are contributing in totality, it does not matter whether you scored the winning boundary or set it up.
19. Wisden's bias is so easily visible when they indicated that Tendulkar let the team down by scoring nine runs in the Kolkata Test against Pakistan in 1999-2000, conveniently ignoring the fact it was Shoaib Akhtar elbowing Tendulkar, which forced a run out of the master batsman. The resultant crowd trouble created a brouhaha that captured international attention, but Wisden, of course, suffers from amnesia.
20. Wisden, of course, cannot remember that the little Master was the Player of the Tournament in World Cup 2003 -- not too long ago, beating the best of the lot. And instrumental in all Indian victories.
Lastly, the reason why Wisden needs to be shown the door, and Asian media should boycott their pontifications is because despite years of covering cricket, they forget that cricket is team game. Individual brilliance invariably gets them dues, but it is a team effort that brings about a victory or defeat. Period!
Go hang your heads in shame, Wisden! Goodbye, Engel!!
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