Sachin Tendulkar – match-winner?
Sachin Tendulkar scored the final runs to achieve the target. He scored an unbeaten 103. He scored his 41st test century.
Sachin Tendulkar did NOT win India the test match in Chennai in December 2008.
Day 4, Evening Session: What if India’s most attacking batsman missed an attempted sweep to be hit in the front of middle and leg stump to then be given out LBW?
Day 5, Morning Session: What if India’s most dependable batsman (last 3 series not included) was caught behind off an outside edge early in the day?
Day 5, Morning Session: What if India’s most prolific run-scorer got an inside edge, that then deflected off the thigh pad, dropped to the ground, feebly bouncing to hit the base of leg stump, dislodging a solitary bail?
Day 5, Afternoon Session: What if the young but experienced Indian batsman looking to prove his test credentials saw one hit the edge of the rough, graze his glove and pop into silly point’s hands?
Day 5, Evening Session: What if…?
The first two happened, the last three did not. India won, chasing down the highest ever total to win in the fourth innings at home. Would India have won, had one or more of the last three happened?
The answer to that question holds the key to a debate that has raged for the most part of a decade and will likely continue for several to come. The one that goes “Sachin Tendulkar is not a match-winner”
This post is not set to strike a blow for either side of the debate. It aims to invalidate it.
Indian cricket fans are not strangers to capitulation. The Chennai test that ended yesterday is one of the very rare counterpoints to the list of abject surrenders that have happened over several decades of test cricket.
All of them followed a pattern. Of the 6 or 7 batsmen comprising the lineup, 1 or maybe 2, would set about the task in earnest, blazing away at the target or inching towards it, depending on style of batsmanship. The rest would be picked apart, mesmerized by the situation or beaten early in their innings. The 2 batsmen who turn up for the contest would get an unplayable delivery courtesy a wearing pitch and the challenge would end, well short of making significant contributions. The ensuing post-mortem would then hold its biggest batting names responsible for the defeat, Tendulkar, invariably bearing the brunt, as “the most talented batsman in the world to not win games for his team“.
Traditional Indian teams have been susceptible to one or two of several what-ifs. This one handled the four setbacks and kept batting in business-as-usual mode. Top teams find different ways of winning games. Match-winners, if defined as those that will win games while the other 9-10 on the roster do not turn up, do not exist. Such performances will always be aberrations. A search of cricket statistics to unearth lone 4th innings centuries (while other batsmen in the lineup score less than 50) to win will prove that point. Games are won by partnerships, and by more than one of those.
Yesterday’s win would rank in the top 3-4 Indian victories of all time. It took 4 batsmen making meaningful contributions to win the match. Sehwag (83), Gambhir (66), Yuvraj (85*) and Tendulkar (103*).
Sachin Tendulkar is not a better batsman today because India won the match. India won the match because their batting lineup showed backbone. And Sachin Tendulkar remains today, what he was the day before yesterday; arguably the best batsman the game of cricket has seen.