Monday, March 12, 2012

A year on, Tendulkar still on 99 tons

Exactly a year ago, on March 11, 2011, Sachin Tendulkar scored his 99th international century against South Africa in Nagpur during the World Cup. It wasn’t enough to set up an Indian victory, but it showed viewers the world over that aged 37 and 323 days, he was still a master batsman showing few signs of slowing down.

A year on, and Tendulkar is still on 99 international centuries, while so much has changed for the Indian cricket team. In the last 12 months they have won the World Cup, slipped form their No. 1 perch in the ICC’s Test rankings, been whitewashed in consecutive overseas Test tours, failed to make the finals of a tri-series, and have seen Rahul Dravid make his exit from the international scene.

In these 12 months, Tendulkar’s batting returns have also diminished. In 11 Tests he has scored 778 runs at an average of 37.04, with a best of 94. He came close to scoring that unprecedented 100th hundred a couple other times too; at The Oval he made 91 and in Sydney he reached 80. That innings of 94 was the best chance he had of getting to three figures – Tendulkar came out on the fourth morning in Mumbai in robust mood – but an unwarranted dab to third man ended up in the slips.

His batting hasn’t been poor, but he has endured patches where he has shut shop – such as in Sydney, where he fell to Michael Clarke – and others when he has timed the ball perfectly only to lose focus (London, Delhi, Mumbai, Melbourne) with aggressive shot selection. Plenty has been written, spoken and surmised of whether the 100th hundred has played on Tendulkar’s mind, and not without reason. It is a long time for Tendulkar to go without a century. Along the way, India were blanked 4-0 in England and Australia, adding to the overall sense of failure.

Tendulkar did not play an ODI since the World Cup final on April 2, 2011 until he was named in India’s squad for the CB Series after the Test debacle in Australia. That period included four ODI contests, against West Indies and England home and away. Injury played its part, with Tendulkar being ruled out of the ODI leg in England. In 11 ODIs since that century in Nagpur, Tendulkar has made 301 runs at 27.36, with his best shot at the 100th hundred being his chancy 85 against Pakistan in the World Cup semi-final. He has not crossed 48 since then.

Tendulkar’s inclusion for the ongoing Asia Cup – India play Sri Lanka on Tuesday – gives him another opportunity to reach that landmark century. After a bad CB Series, there is thought that Tendulkar will score No. 100 on much friendlier tracks in Bangladesh. If he does, India will rise to cheer a legend. If he doesn’t, the calls for Tendulkar to take a firm call on his ODI career will get much louder.


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Sachin shouldn't wait long to decide

Former Australian fast bowler Geoff Lawson feels Sachin Tendulkar has got the right to decide when to quit one-day cricket, but says he should not wait too long, as otherwise, the criticism will grow.

"In Tests (in Australia), I thought he played the second best after (Virat) Kohli, who probably played the best. Looked to me he (Tendulkar) was in pretty good form in the Tests," Lawson said.

"But I wonder whether he is playing the one-dayers for the right reason? Was his heart and mind in it? Is he playing for the 100th hundred or for India? That's what he will have to ask himself."

"He is one of the greatest players of all-time and he has gained the respect that he can take his own decision, but if he waits too long, someone (like Kapil Dev) would not like it," said Lawson, when asked for his reaction to the former India captain's view that Tendulkar should have quit one-day cricket after India's triumph in the World Cup last year.

The veteran of 180 Test wickets conceded he was surprised by the dismal Indian show in the Test series Down Under.

"Yes, I was surprised. First Test was very close, India were a bit unlucky. Umesh Yadav bowled well. Ishant was a bit unlucky. After that the bowling fell away. I thought the bowling was getting better but Zaheer got injured again."

The former Pakistan national coach felt that Sharma was bowling a little bit on the shorter side.

"Ishant was bowling the wrong length, an Indian length on Australian wickets. All the Australian bowlers were getting wickets when they pitched (the ball) up. He was bowling with lot of heart, he was making the effort, but to me, the length was a bit wrong in the Tests," Lawson said.

The 54-year-old New South Welshman was full of praise for Kohli's display and his on-field attitude Down Under, but could not say much about his leadership skills.

"I like him as a batsman. He has got talent, got quick hands, good feet (movement). He stood up to the Australians and did well on those bouncy pitches. He played well on front foot and back foot."