Tendulkar feels force of gravity at last

It has been the strangest of times in India. The capital has endured its coldest winter in more than 70 years. Delhi-ites have awoken unbelievingly to find frost on their cars. Some have considered the veneer to be snow and constructed full-stop-sized snowballs.

Yet the weather has not caused the deepest chill across the nation, nor the greatest consternation. That was provoked by the national icon, Sachin Tendulkar, whose batting in the Tests against Pakistan suggested he had frostbite in his hands.

When the England tourists arrive in Bombay tomorrow, they will find a nation contemplating that the Little Master may, at the premature age of 32, have become a servant to time. For the first time since he came to public consciousness by sharing a 664-run stand with his future Test colleague Vinod Kambli at school, non-believers are coming out of the caves.

Since then, he has been the most spoken-about, analysed cricketer on earth. Every element of his life has been scrutinised by his followers. But the one thing that has never been questioned is his ability. Until now.

Judgement came quickly to this circular story. It all began in Karachi in 1989, when the prodigy played his first Test despite not being old enough to drive. He was hit on the helmet that day, as he was on 1 February in the old port city as India succumbed tamely to their fiercest rivals.

The blow, delivered by Shoaib Akhtar, has been interpreted as a decisive, Hastings moment, when one side's leading figure suffered a missile to the head. Yet it was the manner of his dismissal which was most disturbing. An inswinger from Moham-med Asif collected off-stump and left Tendulkar symbolically down in the dirt on his knees.

Not everyone helped him get up. "Sachin is undecided about whether to attack or defend. That he was playing half-cock when he was bowled in both innings proves this," says the former India captain and coach Ajit Wadekar. "He is no longer the star performer of the team and this has taken away from Sachin his self-importance and brought upon him a pressure that only a player in his position undergoes."

Treacherous headlines such as "Endulkar" have appeared. A more uplifting "Endurekar" was spotted after his 39th one-day century in Peshawar on Monday. But even on the North-West Frontier there were strange signs that this was not the same Sachin. He used to be the one playing all the shots as everyone else fitted round. Now the reverse applied. When he was given out lbw he gestured uncharacteristically to his glove.

The dichotomy is that against England Tendulkar must knuckle down and graft, which was never part of the design. The differences seem imperceptible until you get to his average of 20.10 in the past six Test innings.

He is not old, but they have not been normal years as he continues to transport a burden only Atlas understands. He is neither a totem for Indian cricket nor even its sport, but of life itself in the largest democracy. The exemplar of world-class India, if he fails, many of the billion think they have too. So there is a national crisis of confidence.

"Tendulkar carries a weight of collective expectation to the crease that few can comprehend," Greg Chappell, the India coach, says. "Bradman would not have had the weight of expectation every time he went out to bat. You can't just look at his statistical record because that's not even close to summing up what he is and what he has done.

"He has been the great hope of this country for 16 or 17 years. Because India, as a team, have not been as successful as other teams over the years, the expectations of the nation have tended to shift on to the shoulders of an individual. You try carrying the expectations of a billion people every time you go out."

Sunil Gavaskar knows the feeling as his predecessor. What he does not understand is the swift rush to bury. "It's particularly sad in our country to see the eagerness to pull down a player who has been a great servant of the game and who has given so much joy and pride to Indians all over the world," he says.

There has been no breast-beating or florid self-justification from Tendulkar. That is not his style. He is waiting for the temperature to change. A pleasant early summer is forecast for Delhi, but how much Indians enjoy the elements will largely be down to one little man.


After making his Test debut at 16 in 1989 he has scored 10,386 runs in 129 Tests at an average of 56.14, with 35 hundreds.

In 17 Tests since April 2004 he has scored 927 at 40.30, a decent record, but that includes 284 runs in two Tests against Bangladesh. Take those out and he has 643 runs at 29.22, with one century.

Before that, he was prolific in consecutive Tests against Australia and Pakistan, scoring 495 runs without being dismissed.

But in the previous calendar year, he had made 253 runs at a paltry 19.46 - with no hundreds.

He has been troubled by an elbow injury since July 2004, and was out for six months until last October.

Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable