With every other day comes an article on Sachin Tendulkar and his genius.
While many stop by and echo their love and respect for him and his commitment to this great game, there are others who always cry fowl, saying that he is an overrated player; a player who never wins enough matches for his nation; a player who plays selfish cricket only to accumulate runs and records; a player that plays for money rather than his country. (Sachin played the entire IPL this season and skipped the Caribbean tour.)
Though I completely believe that Sachin places country above anything else, I will leave discussion for later. The focus now is on why people call him an overrated player who never won matches and never performs when it matters the most.
There will be examples given of Lara’s superb 153 against the Aussies, with only Ambrose and Walsh to support him, and that of Laxman’s 281, which—even according to me—marked the renaissance of Indian cricket and Dravid’s ton in the Adelaide.
No arguments: These innings of Laxman and Lara are undoubtedly two of the very best ever played on a cricket field and the two—along with Dravid, Ponting, and few other Aussies—are truly great match winners.
The point which triggers argument is that other contributions are so easily forgotten.
Forgotten, sadly, are Sherwin Campbell’s neat hundred in the first innings of that test and Walsh’s "five-for."
Forgotten, again sadly, was Dravid’s superb support and Harbhajan’s "seven-for," including a hat trick. (Sachin Tendulkar claimed the key wickets of Steve Waugh and Damien Martin.)
This is not to take away anything from the two artists, but to show that Cricket is simply a team game and not an individual one.
In fact, what is to be considered is the match-winning knock or spell—a knock or spell that might have not won the match (maybe not even saved it), but was something that the player gave his all for.
That will make comparisons more meaningful and will give due credit to the player.
Importance of First Innings
Point to be noted is that first innings make the test while seconds complete it. Every ball is important, and the matches are won by the team which wins more sessions.
A combination of individual efforts leads to better team performance. Whilst there is added pressure in the second, a superior performance in the first only means less pressure in the second.
So, the first innings should be given equal importance as the second if not more.
Every run counts: if made earlier, need not be made later.
Support of the Team
Whilst the limited-overs version can be considered a batsman-dominated game, the longer version can be won only if the bowlers can 20 wickets or so.
There are cases in which batsmen Ashraful and Chanderpaul scored wonderful tons but ended up on the wrong side of the result because they did not get enough support from the bowlers or co-batsmen.
Had those innings been played by a member of the Windies team of old or the Aussies of the 90s- 2000s—which had a superb bowling attack to seal the win—wouldn't it have been considered a "winning knock?"
Where Sachin Tendulkar Stands After Considering the Above Points
If a hundred does not help the team win the match, does that mean it’s a meaningless one?
If he scores more runs than the total of the rest of his mates, just because they couldn’t handle pace and bounce on the fastest pitch in the world, is it his mistake?
If a knock of 117 as a 17-year-old kid in the fourth innings could only save the test and not win it, does that make it less significant?
If he didn’t score in the finals of the World Cup, does it make his steady half century against the Aussies, shielding Gambhir from top-quality bowling less important?
No, I am not even referring to the hundreds which were scored in a losing cause (one ended up in a tie).
If a fighting hundred under immense pain and with little support against one of the best bowling attacks was not good enough to win the match, what else is? (Needing 271, India was struggling at 82-5 when Sachin played this gem. He got out when 17 were needed with three wickets, but ultimately the team fell short by 13 runs.)
Then what if we consider the 175 at Hyderabad, the 169 at Capetown in '97, the 155 against the same opposition 5 years later, the 143 against the Aussies in 1998 which helped India qualify for the finals, the knocks in Sydney test which was lost due to baffling errors by the umpires.
The list goes on.
I am not writing this to prove that Sachin is a better batsman. No, that was already certified by the best bowlers the world had ever seen. And what the rest of the world says counts little.
The actual point to be noted is that a player cannot win matches alone with no support from his teammates.
And a run is a run is a run is a run.
Lets put it this way: Lara, Dravid, Laxman, Steve Waugh, and Ponting have played many match-winnings knocks whilst Sachin Tendulkar played many more "match-winning" knocks that actually did not win matches.
At least he gave it his all.