Tendulkar – enduring in both body and bat

By Veturi Srivatsa, IANS,

Four years ago, some cricket buffs proclaimed it was the end of the road for Sachin Tendulkar as an international cricketer, simply because they saw his batting averages falling fractionally short of his career statistics in both Tests and One-dayers during a particular stretch.

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Someone saw him batting in fading light of his career and another coined that obnoxious headline “Endulkar.”

They found the epithets fitting well in their highfalutin obituary references, and of course they wanted to say they were the first to predict his demise as a cricketer if he called it a day.

Now, his critics may look sheepish to see the born-again Tendulkar carving out his 50th Test century Sunday and looking extremely good to get four more hundreds in the next 12 months to complete a century of international centuries.

Yes, there have been spells when Tendulkar could not reach the bar he has set for himself and he needed some rest to rejuvenate himself. Yes, there was a time when he had only a couple of hundreds against Bangladesh to show. Yes, there was a spell when his overseas averages fell. Yes, there was a stretch when he could not cross the 30-run mark in nine Test innings.

In the cacophony of noises, some said he should quit ODIs. Some others felt he should gracefully bow out of Test cricket. Even his diehard admirers wondered whether the Great Man, in a desperate moment, might take a rash decision to oblige the herd baying for his blood.

Only Tendulkar and a few close friends and teammates of his knew that he was slowed down by his body’s wear and tear and was bound to come back with a vengeance. All those who visualised a post-Tendulkar era and the line of succession did not reckon with the man’s grit and determination. They only counted his 34 years of age, forgetting that Sunil Gavaskar hung his skull cap at 38.

Some of his peers went public advising him to go and telling him for good measure that things would get increasingly difficult for him with the body unwilling to cooperate. Tendulkar has tellingly proved that his body is not as fragile as some of those advisers who had to be pushed out.

Those who thought Tendulkar was keen on playing against Bangaldesh to resurrect his career may not know that he did not play very many Tests or ODIs against them and Zimbabwe. He only played seven Tests against Bangaldesh and nine against Zimbabwe and has not crossed the 1,000-run mark against them. Only against Pakistan (18) and the West Indies (16) has he played less than 20 Tests.

Tendulkar is nobody’s fool. He can think for himself. Nine years ago he told this writer in Harare that ideally, cricketers should get a couple of weeks off after every major tour. Invariably, he has been managing that rest to recharge his body.

He is so fond of the dressing room that even when he is not fully fit to play he wanted to be there to help his mates. The Indian cricket board had to tell him at least once that he can’t accompany the team on an overseas tour when he was not sure of his fitness.

Talking of his fitness, his detractors, which included some big names in the media as well as former Test stars, sounded a warning that his reflexes would not allow him to cope with the short, rising deliveries. How well has he stood up to the bullies of short-pitched bowling! He would not hesitate to take them on his body, as he did against Dale Steyn Sunday.

Come to think of it, he has scored seven centuries this year, the most he has in a calendar year. And it came against Bangladesh (2), South Africa (3), Australia (1), Sri Lanka (1) with still a Test to go before the year ends.

It only proves that his body can take anything – and his bat everything.

(20.12.2010-Veturi Srivatsa can be contacted at [email protected])