The man who has supposedly become too old to move his feet, sloth enough to leave his gate increasingly unattended, managed to hold his ground even as three of his colleagues had their woodwork rattled.
Sachin Tendulkar was at it again — a role he has performed for the last 23 years; rescuing India from crisis, steadying the ship, tiding over turbulent waves and steering the side to calmer waters.
Once again he came in with the innings in shambles, the openers dismissed and the score on 12 for two. He was unbeaten on 71 as India finished the day at 182 for three. A tale told so often that the marvels have been reduced to mundane — these pitched battles, carried out to drag India from the brink of disaster into the realms of safety ever so often, go blissfully unnoticed.
Indeed, with his presence at the wicket Tendulkar has ensured a fairly strong position by the end of the day. And accordingly, very few will remember that there was disaster looming large as he had taken his guard. The moronic myth that he never performs under pressure will continue. When he plays well the blackest of clouds are soon blown away, and the Indian innings is bathed in sunshine, washing away the dark memories of erstwhile crisis.
Of course, he may get an excellent delivery on resumption on Sunday morning. With his dismissal, India can soon be down to 236 for seven. And then confirmation bias will yet again ‘prove’ to baiters that he fails in a crisis.
As he nonchalantly flicked Moises Henriques to the fence, Allan Border exclaimed in the commentary box with genuine bewilderment, “You want this man to retire!”
Yes, the thought-scape of the Indian cricket fan often befuddles logic.
It is way more important that there are definite signs that the master is getting back to the peak where he has perched for over two decades. If there have been demanding questions asked of him in recent times, he has started to provide answers to the same.
A masterpiece in the making?
On Saturday, deliveries did probe for the signs of mortality that has dogged him in recent times. There were fuller length deliveries that dipped in, early in the innings and all through the afternoon. Tendulkar presented the full face of his bat, demonstrating a poise that seemed ominous by the end of the day. The drives flowed — classic, vintage and effortless. As anyone who has followed his career over the last two decades knows — the day the drives drip with the sweetness of timing, something special is on the fare.
The unbeaten 71 marks one the most composed outings the master has had since the Australian tour. There had been a sketchy half century against the Englishmen at Eden, but this innings has all the indications of being a genuine masterpiece in the making.
Other than that one occasion of padding up to a Nathan Lyon delivery, he has hardly looked troubled. The bowling has been milked for runs, the crisp drives appended by some neat deflections and placements. Runs have been picked up with a serene calm, without the scratchy anxiety of the past few innings. The turn and the swing have been negotiated watchfully, but with a flow that is always a sign of great deeds around the corner.
The MA Chidambaram Stadium of Chennai has witnessed some of the greatest epics essayed by the genius of Tendulkar — from the 165 in 1993 as a 19-year-old prodigy, several gems in the late-90s and early 2000s as the undisputed champion of the world, to that sublime match-winning effort of 2008 during which he seemed to have attained a spiritual summit of batsmanship. This innings seems to be well on the way towards becoming another chapter in his never-ending saga of wonder.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)
First Published: February 24, 2013, 9:21 am