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Sachin Tendulkar – match-winner?

October 16, 2013

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.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. December 17, 2008 12:56 pm

    For the first time in his life and finally Sachin has finished a match.

    I suppose he’s finally put his mental devils to rest and hope to see him finishing more matches like Brian Lara. Though it’s a bit too late, but better late than never

    • December 18, 2008 12:23 pm

      mumbai, you completely missed the point of the post

    • sushant upadhyay permalink
      December 1, 2009 3:12 pm

      Did you follow what has been said in the post?

  2. Mukund permalink
    December 19, 2008 3:08 pm

    I love the dispassionate way in which you analysed this. I’m a big fan of Sachin, and yes, amidst all this gibberish about Sachin not winning many matches for India, there’s always a tendency to respond in kind. I think it’s an even greater disservice to the man to say that he’s proven he can win matches now. He’s got nothing to prove.

    Also, you said, Sachin is arguably the best batsman the game of cricket has seen. What about Bradman? I myself think Sachin is the greatest ever, simply because he and his runs meant a lot more to a whole generation of Indians than did the Don’s to Australia or his followers . Cricket-wise, technically, statistically, the Don might still be the premier all-time batsman, but Sachin goes beyond the realm of cricket, of numbers, and for that, in my book at least, he is the greatest.

  3. December 22, 2008 11:08 am

    Mukund, very well said. People tend to get embroiled in decimals in averages when debating quality of batsmen. What gets lost is the context. Steve Waugh played most of his career on a world-beating side, Brian Lara played his in shambolic sides although without the pressure to win like Sachin has had from the time he first took guard.

  4. December 30, 2008 8:29 am

    sachin is without doubt a great player. with all that pressure thats been on him in india its amazing what he has done.

    he does have an avg of 63 when india have won. and scored 15 100s, thats not a bad record either if you ask me

  5. December 30, 2008 9:33 am

    damith, its strange how so many non-Indian cricket followers have an awareness of the enormity of all that Sachin has achieved. I guess its true what they say about familiarity and contempt

  6. April 18, 2009 2:44 am

    I think, your blog was one of the most sensible and unbiased analysis of sachin. Don’t make Sachin a hero or villain because of the success/failure of the entire team. Sachin has always been cricket’s most revered individual. There is no accomplishment, that would change the fact.

    Brian Lara, though a great batsman in his own right. He never had to deal with a billion crazy fanatics. His innings were played with a side which is not expected to win every time they step on the ground.

    • April 18, 2009 6:28 pm

      thanks for the comment venkat. comparing batsmen across teams and time periods just doesn’t provide a fair picture. the pitches today are a lot flatter making some decent batsmen look great.

  7. saketh permalink
    September 5, 2010 7:43 pm

    nice analysis
    but can u say any match winner if it is so the player who won a single match without others
    i am sure that there will be no answer
    cricket is team game no single player can win a match without support of others
    we call the player who outscored the other plays and made a situation to win a match
    sachin does the same thing thatswhy we called him as sachin match winner

    he proved many times but on those days he lacks support from others so india lost the match

    hence i wont agree that sachin is a match winner
    in many matches he scored more than half of the runs but the other 10 men fail to score remaining thats why this arrangement exists
    some examples are
    test againsti newzealand in wellington (1998)
    test against pakistan in chennai(1999)
    ODI against Ausis in shajrjah(1998)

    • September 6, 2010 12:12 pm

      saketh, you’ve hit the nail on the head by saying that a match-winner can’t be defined as someone who wins the game single-handedly without assistance from his team. if you read my post again, i’m in fact saying he’s been a matchwinner all his career and hasn’t gotten the credit for it.

      in sachin’s specific case, if his team-mates in various situations had put together 25-30 runs, India would’ve won those games. therefore the failure of his teammates is what has given his detractors the opportunity to say that he doesn’t win India games.

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