Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sachin @ IPL 2010 - The Story So Far...

Tendulkar transcends the format | By Sambit Bal

To watch the master in Chennai was to be reminded of how he unites India, and also of how his batting has remained pure, even in Twenty20

The moment the ball soared into the night sky in Chennai from Sachin Tendulkar's bat, nearly 40,000 people, most of them screaming, rose to their feet. The match had swung dramatically Chennai's way after dehydration had forced Tendulkar off the field. Till then, he had been majestic and had kept Mumbai in control but, from 66 for 1 in the ninth over, Mumbai had sunk to 89 for 7 in the 15th. Tendulkar was forced to drag himself back.

Mumbai now needed nearly three runs off every ball to win but for the Chennai fans, as long as Tendulkar remained, there remained the possibility of the win being snatched away.

It wasn't so simple. If that moment when the ball left Tendulkar's bat could have been frozen, a peculiar conflict might have been detected. The Chennai fan would have wanted the ball to land safely in the palms of the long-on fielder; the Indian fan would willed it to travel further.

In the event, Murali Vijay, Chennai's new poster boy, took the catch safely, and the crowd celebrated. Having spent the whole evening among them it was easy for me to sense they would have celebrated even if the ball had landed beyond the rope. In a perfect world, of course, Tendulkar would have taken the game to the last over and Chennai would have won by one run.

The crowd continued clapping as Tendulkar made his way back. It was hard to tell at what point cheering for his wicket merged with simply cheering for him. A man stood up with a poster that reflected the mood. It read: "XI Super Kings v one Superhuman."

They may not demonstrate their devotion as vociferously - or as quietly, as Virender Sehwag found out after scoring his half-century at Eden Gardens - as the Kolkata fans, but franchise loyalty has been strong in Chennai from the very first year of the IPL. Perhaps I chose the wrong match to experience it first-hand: Tendulkar loyalty is a huge counter-balance.

A few months ago Tendulkar antagonised regional chauvinists in Maharashtra by proclaiming that Mumbai belonged to all Indians. To watch him play Chennai in the IPL was to feel the true import of that statement: Tendulkar, Mumbai's proudest possession, belongs to all Indians. MS Dhoni got a big ovation to the crease, a spontaneous cheer broke out when Mike Hussey's image was flashed on the giant screen, and Doug Bollinger found his name chanted when his turn came to bowl. But inevitably Tendulkar received the loudest cheer. They cheered him when he strolled out before the toss, they cheered even louder when he was being interviewed on the square, they cheered when he stopped a ball, and they cheered his boundaries with nearly the same enthusiasm as they did those by their own.

And what boundaries those were. There has been zest in Tendulkar's batting in all forms of the game over the last 12 months, and the best thing about his batting in Twenty20 is that it does not lack purity. It has been pointed out how the two leading run-scorers in this year's IPL are orthodox players but Jacques Kallis has often had to go outside his zone - lofts over extra cover, swipes and heaves towards the leg side - whereas Tendulkar has batted almost serenely: the upper cut, the paddled sweep, the lofted drive against the spinners, are all part of his regular fare.

His first five fours against Chennai came off five different strokes. Sudeep Tyagi was driven through the covers off the back foot and pulled behind square, R Ashwin was cut to point, Bollinger was whipped to midwicket from off stump, and Ashwin again was lofted over mid-on. You can tell great players from the way they move into their strokes: Brian Lara, Tendulkar's great rival, was all flow and beautiful arcs; Tendulkar is about precision and balance, and not a muscle out of place.

It is a grossly unfair comparison, but what a contrast it was to watch Saurabh Tiwary, who has been one of the successes for the Mumbai Indians this season, bat with Tendulkar. Tiwari threw all of himself - shoulder, body, feet - into his strokes, often sending the ball in unintended directions. He can sometimes be savage, but he is unlikely to ever provide aesthetic pleasure. Twenty20 is a restricting form, but it takes only one stroke or one ball for great players to distinguish themselves.

Tendulkar couldn't carry Mumbai over the finish line that day. But while he shone, not only did he transcend the limitations of the format, but also the partisanship. While it lasted, it was a happy reminder of the things we adore about cricket.


Tendulkar's golden captaincy run By Harsha Bhogle

At the IPL, Sachin Tendulkar continues his purple patch, this time not just as batsman but as captain. He must enjoy this because while his inbox is forever full of accolades about his batting, the captaincy folder has not always been overflowing. But in the first half of the IPL, his leadership has been a breath of fresh air.

n the first game he backed his youngsters, Saurabh Tiwary, Ambati Rayudu and R Sathish, and played only three overseas players. In every game thereafter he has given these young players the confidence they need by sending them out at crucial moments. Tiwary, for example, has retained his No. 4 slot ahead of Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, Rayudu gets to bat at No. 5, and even Sathish, just returning from the ICL, has a clearly defined role: if he gets 15 or 20 in quick time at the end, and does little else, his captain seems quite happy with him.

Bravo and Pollard occasionally get the No. 3 slot to allow themselves to rediscover form, but I think the best move of all has been to put Ryan McLaren in the side and, in doing so, freeing Lasith Malinga to play the role Tendulkar likes him to: bowl after the new ball and at the death. It helps that McLaren can bat, and indeed the Mumbai Indians now have three allrounders in crucial areas and a floater in Sathish. McLaren doesn't mind bowling up front and that allows Malinga to bowl no more than one over early on, leaving his captain with enough options at the end.

Tendulkar's challenge, though, will be to keep his team hungry game after game. Sometimes a winning streak can pose a leadership challenge; players can become complacent, start believing they merely need to turn up. Already against the King's Xl Punjab they looked ready for the picking and only just scraped through against the weakest side (who are a story in themselves). Hopefully that was a wake-up call for Tendulkar, and if it was, much good will come out of it.

Leading Run Getter as on 11th April 2010

Sachin Tendulkar shored up Mumbai Indians yet again with his fifth half-century of the IPL which all but guaranteed Mumbai a place in the semi-final and took him to the top of the run-charts in the tournament. He has also hit the most fours in IPL 2010.

Sachin Tendulkar had gained the Orange Cap in the IPL for the first ever time when he went past Jacques Kallis’ 310 runs in the tournament so far. Tendulkar got to 311 runs when he had reached an individual score of 11 off the bowling of Shalabh Srivastava in the fourth over of the innings. Earlier, Jacques Kallis held the Orange Cap with 310 runs. Kallis has been dismissed only twice in the tournament so far.

(The Orange Cap is given to the cricketer who scores the most number of runs in the tournament at the end of it.)

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