The Indian Angle: Tendulkar keeps ego at bay to scrape one of his ugliest innings

 

Eden Gardens

Sachin Tendulkar finds himself in unfamiliar territory. If he fails, he raises the decibel level of the cries for his retirement; if he scores runs, he gets the other side excited. It is a head versus heart debate that has been exercising cricket fans in India for a while now. His 76 at Eden Gardens will probably preserve the status quo since it has given both sides of the divide equal ammunition.

Just as great poets do not always write great poetry, great batsmen do not always play great knocks. Tendulkar's 318th Test innings spoke of struggle and pressure rather than fluency and dominance, but in the context of the day's play, it was crucial. It was only his second fifty this year, coming 10 innings after his 80 at Sydney.

Tendulkar was past 50 before he gave the first glimpse of the batsman with over 15,000 runs in Tests; for the most part he was the Tendulkar of more recent vintage, edging intended drives and occasionally misreading length. He could have been out to Monty Panesar a few times, or James Anderson, but luck formed a good partnership with his own resilience.

On an earlier tour, Tendulkar had been Panesar's first Test wicket. The bowler later got the batsman to autograph the ball for him. Tendulkar signed, and wrote "Never again". Yet in the last Test at Mumbai Panesar got him twice and, here in Kolkata, might have had him early because Tendulkar rarely presented the full face of the bat to the ball. It could have either taken the edge or sneaked through to bowl him, a manner of dismissal Tendulkar has made his own of late. At one point Panesar bowled to him with a silly mid-on and a silly mid-off.

Part of Tendulkar's relative success today could be put down to his refusal to let his ego decide. Asked years ago how he would bowl to Barry Richards, the great Indian left-arm spinner Bishan Bedi said, "I will attack him. I will play on his ego."

Panesar has spent enough time with Bedi to imbibe that lesson, but Tendulkar was not biting. He saw the close-in fielders off not by attacking them but by giving them nothing to do. In the end he scored only 20 runs off Panesar's 83 deliveries, an exercise in self-denial that was both subtle and effective.

Tendulkar glanced for four the first ball after tea from Steve Finn to complete his first fifty since January this year, 10 innings after his last one in Sydney. Relief and celebration followed next ball when he got up to his full height, met the ball on the top of its bounce and fired an uppish drive past cover point.

It was not the strokes he played but the ones he didn't that best describes his innings. A crashing straight drive off a medium-pacer and the rousing square-cut which leaves cover point wondering whether he should chase the ball or simply stand and applaud are the strokes that usually indicate he is in form. Neither was on show, but the 25,000 or so spectators (there are no official figures) would rather have had a scratchy 76 than a brilliant nine or 10.

At the end of the day, James Anderson, who became the bowler to dismiss Tendulkar the most number of times (eight), said his wicket was the big one. It is a long time since an international bowler has said that.

The Tendulkar conundrum, however, continues. For decades he was the man who united a nation, making irrelevant such markers as caste, custom, political leanings, gender and age. Now, strangely, he seems to be dividing the nation – the darling of millions faced with the gathering discontent of those same millions. Most of us, as we grow older discover how friends sometimes turn against us – but not on this scale and with such force.

Suresh Menon is editor of 'Wisden India Almanack'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003