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Tendulkar down but not out: Border

December 31, 2003

Allan BorderSachin Tendulkar is a bit down in the dumps, but he is good enough, is not an old man and has not lost his ability.

When I think of Tendulkar, I think of the age-old adage: form is temporary and class is permanent. He technically does not seem to be doing anything wrong. He is just finding different ways to get out. He has been playing a loose shot and nicking it; it is not as if he is playing and missing, which is the sign of an out-of-form player.

It is amazing how people who are in good form tend to miss out on really good deliveries. It is a subtle difference.

Every cricketer goes through such patches. If a coach can tell how to get over such a poor run of scores, he would be a much sought-after one. These are undefined areas. This is mentality, psychology and he is a bit down in the dumps. When I see him emerging from the pavilion, he does look low on confidence. The contrast is obvious with Rahul Dravid, who strides out confidently, for he is in good form and has runs under his belt.

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India was failed by its tail in the Melbourne Test. Being 280 for one, they had a chance to close out the match and series. Then this flaw in their line-up manifested itself.

Ajit Agarkar is a real bunny as far as the Australians are concerned even though among the Indians he enjoys a better reputation. He has been a stand-out bowler for the Indians but he needs to lift his batting. Anil Kumble is another who could do better.

It is a big ask to depend upon an 18-year-old to carry the lower half of the batting but as it looks to me, Parthiv Patel in time would emerge into a good cricketer. He can only improve and would take better care of the Indian tail in future.

India's tail must count if it is competing against the best sides of the world. It was the difference between the two teams in Melbourne.

India has also not been able to restrict the opposition either so there is a worry in bowling. You do not expect to concede 500 runs and win matches. But overall they have competed well.

VVS Laxman suffered two failures in the Test and I thought he had gone into his shell a little at the crease. He is naturally a free-flowing batsman and he does not have to bat like Dravid. This is what I could make of his approach. He has to back his ability and the process which got him so many runs in the first two Tests. If I was the Indian coach, I would be telling him to play his natural game rather than look to drop anchor.

Virender Sehwag is a swashbuckling cricketer but he had soft dismissals in both the innings. He holed out a full toss in the first innings and then flicked that catch to midwicket in the second. I am sure he too would be disappointed. Quality players should avoid soft dismissals regardless of how many runs they have got. Sehwag is a sort of player who appears casual. With such players you got to take the good with the bad.

India needs to avoid soft dismissals. A top team must not give in that inch which turns a sluice into floodgates.

India badly missed Zaheer Khan. Players coming through muscle injury need to be absolutely sure before declaring themselves fit. If there is even slight recovery to be made, the player should not risk it. He cleared the fitness test and all but doing it in the nets and doing it in the Test match are different things. When it comes to crunch situation and you are required for that extra effort, that little ignored recovery would cost badly. India risked him in the Melbourne Test; they will now miss him for the series.

Brett Lee was not his usual self and clearly he has some way to go to reach his peak form. He was not hitting his usual speed regularly and also went for runs. He is an aggressive fast bowler and wants his every delivery to yield a wicket.

India has to make careful choices in Sydney rather than go by its spin reputation. It is one of those drop-in pitches these days where there is a lot of grass cover. It would become slow and offer slow turn.

As I said before, India needs to go with its four best bowlers. Kumble needs to tighten up his bowling a little. It would be choice between Murali Kartik and a medium-pacer.

I am always fascinated by the tussle of a left-arm spinner coming over the wicket and bowling to left-handers in the rough. I have not seen him, but, apparently, he is a good bowler.

I am also a little surprised Ganguly has not used himself often or, for that matter, Tendulkar and Sehwag. He must look to maximize his resources.

Former Australia captain Allan Border is the highest run-getter in Test history with 11,174 runs.

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