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A prized gem called Sachin

November 25, 2003

If asked, it is doubtful whether Sachin Tendulkar would rank his innings on Tuesday at the MCG against the Victoria  Bushrangers among his top 100 trips to the middle.

Maybe not even in his top 200.

For the record, Tendulkar came in with India in trouble (like that is something new); he blasted his way to a half-century off 65 deliveries. Lacing that innings with hooks and cuts and pulls against the short stuff, he raced to 80 and he got out -- all this against an attack the home side had kept deliberately weak, to ensure that India goes into the first Test somewhat on the undercooked side.

Yet, papers Down Under spent much column acreage detailing an innings they hail as a masterwork. And perhaps herein lies the magic of the man -- what we in India take for granted and even criticise (there is, for instance, more than one mail in our inbox just now, asking why is 'making a fuss' over an 'ordinary' Sachin innings), others who do not have the luxury of inhabiting the same soil as Tendulkar view as prized gems, to be collected assiduously and treasured for ever.

In its match report, thus, The Age, Melbourne, says the Little Master "hit the ground running to give Australia a sneak peak of what to expect this summer". By way of curious aside, Australia always sets itself out as different from the rest of the world. What better exemplar of that trait than the fact that the natives are looking forward, in late November, to a "summer" of cricket!

Ron Reed in The Daily Telegraph looks at what makes Tendulkar special; he argues that while the likes of Matty Hayden, Ricky Ponting, and even Steve Waugh might dispute Tendulkar's rating as the world's best batsman, there is still "something that bit special -- that extra buzz -- about watching Tendulkar in full flight".

Cricket writers the world over do tend to wax lyrical when faced with an SRT special; Greg Baum of The Sydney Morning Herald could well lay claim to title of poet laureate in this regard if judged by this piece in which he juxtaposes the sounds of Tendulkar hammering the Victorian bowlers into bewilderment against the drilling and riveting and thudding sounds of construction work on the new northern stand of the MCG.

A Malcolm Conn article in The Australian has a depressingly familiar headline: Sachin stars as Indians crumble; the article itself suggests that Tendulkar was 'the glorious centrepiece' of a display by the tourists that suggests that there is nothing new and exhilarating about this Indian side away from home.

Chloe Satlau, discussing the tour opener in The Australian, takes a similar tack, suggesting that Tendulkar's brilliance aside, Australia's first look at the latest touring side from India was an underwhelming experience.

The man of the moment has been quoted in most of the media reports, the similarity of quotes suggesting that they were gleaned from a post-game media conference. 'I am here,' Tendulkar is quoted by the BBC, among others, as saying, 'to enjoy the game' -- an interesting variant from past tours, when he had gone to Australia bowed under by the weight of a nation's demands and his own expectations. If, in fact, Tendulkar means what he says, that he intends on this latest tour to shrug off those largely self-imposed burdens, things could become quite interesting.

Amidst this floodtide of praise for Tendulkar, Michael Horan in The Advertiser shifts the spotlight to where it is equally due; his article headlined Inness makes a meal of Indian fare pays tribute to the bowler who took on a full-strength Indian batting line-up and made it wilt.

A sour note was provided by someone who has, in the recent past, made it his business to curdle the milk of human kindness. Bishen Singh Bedi is being extensively quoted, by Robert Craddock in The Herald Sun and others, as saying the Indians are pampered and greedy; that Sachin has lost his hunger for the long innings and is now capable only of producing little cameos... and so on and on.

What to say -- Bish even a few years earlier was characterised by passion, balance, and a lovely sense of humour. But of late, the man appears to be pre-occupied with all manner of perceived injustices, not least the fact that today's players are making far more money than his generation dreamt of. A steady diet of sour grapes seems to have left its mark on the once legendary left-arm spinner. More is the pity.

In passing, a minor controversy is brewing thanks to the demands of a politically correct age. Per an article by Nabila Ahmed in The Age, Melbourne, a booklet titled Cricket for Chicks, which on the face of it seems to be an irreverent way of publicising the game, has landed itself in hot water with the PC brigade deeming it sexist; while the likes of Australian women's team skipper Belinda Clark suggest that those who don't see the humour need to get themselves a life.

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