Sachin Tendulkar (right) scored an unbeaten 103 against England to guide India to an epic win at Chennai in 2008 © Getty Images

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

Sachin Tendulkar’s knock of 76 in the first Test against the West Indies ensured that India chased down the fourth innings target with relative ease on a tough pitch. He was measured in his approach when he walked in to bat in the final session of day three and opened up once he settled during the next morning. The much-awaited 100th century was not to be as Devendra Bishoo got through his aggressive mindset. But more importantly, Tendulkar’s knock put India on course to a hard-earned victory.

 

For years, one of the biggest criticisms leveled against Tendulkar is that he falters in the fourth innings whenever India have to save or win a Test match. The critics say that in “crisis” situations he fails to stamp his authority and that it is Rahul Dravid or VVS Laxman who save the blushes for India. It is true that the likes of Dravid and Laxman have played quite a few crucial knocks in the fourth innings. The contribution of the two stalwarts in winning several games for India has been immense.

 

Having said that, if one closely observes Tendulkar’s record in the fourth innings since the first Test against Pakistan at home in late 2007, one would see that he has played quite a few knocks that have helped India save the game or go across the line. His overall career average in the fourth innings isn’t very impressive, but the trend he has displayed since the year 2007 reflects his success at crucial junctures.

 

Here are the relevant numbers.

 

M

Runs

Avge

100s

50s

Highest

Overall

66

1515

39.86

3

7

136

Since 2007**

15

538

67.25

1

5

103*

 

** From the 1st Test vs Pakistan at Delhi, November 22-26, 2007

 

It is clear from the stats that Tendulkar has been more productive in the fourth innings in the course of the last few years last few years, compared to his record before the said period. Five of his seven last innings fifties have come since 2007 and the only hundred since then is that memorable knock at Chennai against England. The average is a mindboggling 67.25, which is brilliant for a final effort in a Test match. If you consider the consistency displayed by him in the last four years, the argument of him not performing disappears in a flash.

 

Prior to our period of consideration, Tendulkar had managed to play only a few memorable knock in the last innings of a Test match. His 119 not out against England at Manchester in 1990 won the hearts of millions as the then 17-year old saved the game for India. The whole nation felt his pain when he got out at 136 against Pakistan at Chennai in the year 1999. However, such knocks were scarce then but that has clearly changed now.

 

The knock that kick-started the successful trend came in the first Test against Pakistan in 2007, where Tendulkar scored a gritty 56 not out to take India home. The following year, when Australia toured India, he scored a vital 49 and spent valuable time in the middle on the last day to save the Test match. That knock kept Australia at bay and didn’t allow them to register a win. India went on to secure that series 2-0.

 

The 103 not out at Chennai will go down in folklore as it was poetically set for an emotional Tendulkar. He was eager to put in a special performance to pay tribute to the victims of the horrific terror attack in his home city. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir set-up the chase with great knocks up-front and the little master acted as a fulcrum between the top and the middle order. He stayed till the end, struck important partnerships with Yuvraj Singh and VVS Laxman and fittingly hit the winning runs.

 

His other great efforts include a half-century against Sri Lanka in August 2010 which ensured that India didn’t lose too many wickets in pursuit of 257. Laxman sealed the deal with a hundred, but it was Tendulkar who had walked in to face the initial problems. When Australia toured in 2010, he was at his best and ensured a 2-0 series win with a dominating knock in the final innings of the series.

 

Having discussed all the facts in favor of the great man, there would still be those people who would ignore these positives and pick out the odd failures to prove otherwise. It is all psychological as Arunabha Sengupta explained in his series of articles on this very website.

 

In the light of the statistics and the explanations presented, it would be unfair to say that Tendulkar doesn’t perform in “crunch” situations in particular the fourth innings of a Test match.

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 20-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)