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February 5, 2002
Sachin - In the middle of thingsFaisal Shariff
What could I have done better?” asked Sourav Ganguly, jutting his chin out at the horde of the journos thirsting for answers after India ended up on the losing side of yet another close encounter, at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday.
Ganguly wants ‘time’ for his inexperienced middle-order to come to grips with the pressures of international cricket.
Time, though is evaporating like uncovered turpentine for the skipper and his team, as every successive defeat causes the alarm bells to ring out louder, vis a vis the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.
‘Inexperience in the middle order’ was the reason coach John Wright and skipper Ganguly both offered for the recent defeats in the ODI series. Wright argued that his boys failed to chase well, and its time they worked out the fourth, fifth and sixth batting spots in the line-up.
Recent results make one thing clear -- the team needs a pivot around which the entire innings revolves; rather than the best batsman (read Sachin Tendulkar) at the top of the order, on whom the inning hinges. Sachin Tendulkar needs to bat at number four in the limited overs version of the game.
True, the sight of Sachin Tendulkar walking out to open the innings with the 15 over rule in place is nerve-racking for opposite skippers, but therein lies a small window of hope for them.
With the notorious reputation of the Indian team to yield to the temptation of a collapse, the equation becomes pretty simple; get Sachin, put pressure and watch the Indian cookie crumble.
Imagine the thought of having Sachin Tendulkar walk out at number four after Virendra Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. And picture the fear in the opposition’s mind about the daunting task of solving the Sachin mystery midway through the game after surviving the Sehwag-Ganguly onslaught (lets admit that Ganguly in the ODIs is still worth his place in the side).
Sachin has hit some of the purest and most creative shots a cricket field will ever see over the years in the first fifteen overs and beyond, but its time that the awesome genius that he possesses challenges itself a little more and helps India finish matches without choking at the end.
The critical number four position must go to the best batsman in the side; Sachin is the best in the world. More than batting for all fifty overs (which he has done just once in 286 innings in Hyderabad against New Zealand – 186 not out) he would rather provide at number four the solidity and character to the innings.
With the coach and captain harping on the inexperience of the middle order and the failure of any of the youngsters to ‘put their hand up’ and want to be counted, it becomes imperative that Sachin Tendulkar parades his genius in the middle order and gives it the much needed direction.
The first fifteen-over rule does not matter for a man of his extra-ordinary ability. And though we might forever argue about the 30 hundreds he has as opener and a lone ton at number four, the fact is that the current equation demands him coming lower down the order and strengthening it.
Michael Bevan has for a long time now been considered as one of the greatest one-day player of all time.
‘It is one thing to blaze away on the shirtfronts of the subcontinent in the first fifteen overs of a game and quite another to chase 80-90 runs in the last ten’, quoted the Wisden Cricket Monthly last year.
Eleven thousand runs later, maybe Sachin Tendulkar might have just found a new world to conquer.
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