Sachin The Underperformer?

On Hariprasad Poojary’s Facebook page, I came across a link to this article written by Kapil Dev on Sachin Tendulkar’s twenty years in cricket. Standing apart from the universal chorus of applause, Kapil Dev raises a dissenting voice. His contention is that considering the monstrous promise Sachin demonstrated in his teens, he has under-achieved over his career metamorphosing into a record-breaker than into a destroyer, more a Sunil Gavaskar/Boycott than Vivian Richards.

This article will generally be met with two types of reactions. Sachin fans will dismiss it off-hand with a smirk  reminding people of  the irony inherent in Kapil Dev criticizing someone else of playing for records when he himself dragged his career to beat a rather irrelevant record, in the process depriving the country of the best years of Srinath’s career (I of course do not blame Kapil so much as I blame the selectors for not showing the backbone needed to do what needed to be done). Sachin detractors, and that’s also a significant constituency, will get up from their seats and applaud Kapil for saying what is not politically correct to say right now.

To me however the article is most interesting not because of its criticism of Sachin but how, unintentionally and in a totally unexpected way, it is actually an indictment of Kapil Dev’s philosophy of batting, a philosophy articulated by this following paragraph where he describes what Sachin’s ideal of batting would have been, should have chosen not to be an accumulator of records.

In the same breath, I would have ideally liked to see him go from 30 to 50 in three overs and to go from 50 to 80 on any pitch, against any bowler in 5 overs.

This sums up, in perhaps the most succinct way possible, not why Sachin underperformed with the bat but why Kapil Dev did. While many of you are possibly rolling their eyes at this statement from a guy like Kapil Dev where he expects a single person to score at 6.67 an over, against any bowler on any pitch regardless of match situation what is true is that this is exactly how Kapil Dev used to bat. And it is because of this that Kapil, despite being ability-wise the best batsman among the great all-rounders of his era (my personal opinion), repeatedly underperformed in batting especially in comparison to Imran Khan (Test and ODI average of Kapil is 31.05 and 23.79 and Imran is 37.69 and 33.41) and it was precisely because of this attitude that he never became a transformational figure like Imran Khan.

Putting it simply, you could never trust Kapil to play according to match conditions. In many situations, his devil-may-care attitude was beneficial— most famously in the World Cup where his uncluttered approach to the game was more suited to our situation than a more studied calculating approach would have been. But in many equally crucial situations it was this “I am going to get from 30 to 50 in 4 overs” principle that spelt doom for his team—most notably in that mad swipe against Eddie Hemmings in the World Cup 87 semi-final and that ill-fated attempt at six against Pat Pococok which led him to being dropped for the Calcutta Test in 1985.

Similarly IVA Richards, against whom Kapil compares Sachin against saying Sachin had far more talent than Richards but could not destroy attacks like the former, also had his moments of madness, the most famous of which being the 1983 World Cup final. Richards also had the added advantage of being a member of greatest team of the time (and one of all time) who could support his style (it was said that whatever the West Indies batting scored their bowling could always get their opponents out for less) which Sachin obviously never did. In addition, Richards’ game fell away alarmingly in his later years when he lost his quickness of  eye and he did not have the patience, inclination or the ability to adjust his technique based on that and kept trying to play the same old way, with sad consequences for himself and his team [there was enormous bitterness in English County cricket when captain Peter Roebuck did not let Somerset renew his contract because of performance issues in 1987]

As a matter of fact some might say that this playing without any cognizance of match conditions is the ultimate expression of selfishness where your “personal style” overrides the interest of the team, something that Kapil was sadly many times guilty of. And it is precisely because of the presence of players like Kapil Dev that players like Gavaskar had to dig in and play out sessions, an act for which he was often criticized as being obsessed with records whereas  most of the time he was just trying to cover for his team consisting of “natural” strokeplayers and mediocre talent. For those who followed cricket in the 80s, Kapil Dev’s ODI career batting strike-rate , an astonishing 95.7 which in those days of much slower ODI batting was simply phenomenal (in today’s terms this would be equivalent to a career strike rate of say 135.0)  was fast and furious but it came with crashes, burn-ups, pit-stops, tears and much frustration.

To be fair to Kapil, he played cricket in a bygone era. The Indian crowd had lower expectations from the team,  the sport retained much of its amateurishness, there was little money, batting videos were not analyzed so thoroughly for patterns of vulnerability and teams were not as clinical as they are now. In that context, Kapil’s “hit out or get out” was par for his kinder-gentler times and as an audience, we loved his style more than the soporific potterings of that short guy with a white hat and a grim face, with Paaji’s arrival at the crease with a beaming smile creating the kind of euphoria only Amitabh Bachchan’s entry scene would generate.

However Sachin belongs to a different era in a way straddling the old era and the new age in a way no other cricketer currently playing the game does. As a matter of fact Sachin did start out his career as the destroyer that Kapil idolized. Some of his early memorable innings were punctuated by his desire to hit every ball out of the ground. But then around the mid 90s, he came up against his first great career challenge when he started getting out in very similar ways, essentially hitting the ball high in the air almost straight up, with a guy by the name of Fannie de Villiers posing more than a few problems with his variations of slower deliveries. It was around this time that I remember Sunil Gavaskar made the cautionary comment that good friend Kambli might overtake Sachin, despite the early start advantage Sachin has had.

This is when Sachin changed his style from the “score at 7 an over” to a more studied but still aggressive batting ethic punctuated by a furious start and then a gradual slowing down with strategic amped-up periods of batting. It worked to his benefit as the golden years of his career began. This lasted till  2003. Then in Australia, in the midst of one of his worst slumps, he changed his batting style once again scoring 241 runs almost exclusively without his booming cover drives and his thumps through the off-side—two of his most thrilling weapons. Even now, he scores far more runs by nudges through mid-wicket and paddles than in his prime where he would uncork boisterous drives, audacious pulls and flicks at a fractional error in length or line.

Now whether you call this adaptability of Sachin to his own changing abilities and to the changing paradigm of the game a sign of supreme selfishness or the ultimate testament to his genius is of course a matter of perspective.

Which brings up perhaps the most critical question. Assuming what has motivated Sachin has been a lust for personal achievement, has that so-called selfishness been detrimental for his side ? And alternatively has the unselfishness of Kapil Dev’s destroying style been beneficial for India? In other words, does selfishness always have to be bad for the team? I would say not. After all, eleven players striving for their personal bests a great team makes, as long as the overall goals of the team and the individual are not at cross-purposes with each other.

A similar charge of selfishness is often also leveled at Dhoni, being often criticized as someone who plays to stay not-out, as someone who intentionally does not play his big shots so that he can maintain his average. I frankly do not see the problem in that. Whether his calculated style of batting is borne out of the desire to inflate his numbers and get a better bid-rate at IPL or whether it comes from a desire to be a more effective batsman who does exactly what is needed and nothing more is moot from a purely unemotional perspective. All we should look at are his numbers and his win-rate. They tell the story and I am confident that he has been a far greater asset to his team in his avatar as a poker-and-runner than if he had tried to maintain his crowd-pleasing,six-hitting former “roop”.

Just as I am fairly confident that Sachin Tendulkar today is the Sachin Tendulkar simply because of the way he has adapted throughout his twenty years and that if he had tried to remain the destroyer Kapil Dev wanted him to be all his life, he might be today in the Big Boss house like one of his  prodigiously talented friends fighting for infamy with  a bunch of washed-out faux-celebrities.

76 thoughts on “Sachin The Underperformer?

  1. they are all doing it for iPods… as am I 😛

  2. Well said GB. I think adaptability is the most underrated quality of Sachin (GOD for me).

  3. For me, as a fan, i cannot ever view Sachin entirely objectively. It swings from one extreme to the other, until i realised that the best way to view him would be to do so as just a fan. My tribute to the man here

  4. great bong i love your writing style and i have been following you for quite some time now . Cant wait for your book to come out.May i Heb your attention please?

  5. I agree with you. I still remember that test against Pakistan, Kapil tried a rash shot and bowled by Imran Khan. India was defeated in that match.

  6. Top class incisive analysis

  7. Good to see u writing bout sachin too. u finally seem to have moved on and gotten over Dada. nice article.

  8. nice take and as always I have nothing to say 😛

  9. Anyone questioning Sachin's commitment for the team needs a therapist. November 18, 2009 — 5:49 am

    Right said

  10. Interesting point that you make here.

    Kapil is one player whom I have not see in his prime. So, I have to depend upon Star Classics/Youtube clips to revisit his bowling as well as his batting.

    I had a neighborhood aunty who is/was a big fan of him. As soon as he used to come to bat, she used to say “yeh faltoo ka time waste nahin karta. maara to sixer hi maarta hain(translated from Marathi)” 🙂 Guess, it explains much of what you are saying.

    On a sidenote, Srinath could have been one of the greats of Indian cricket. He came into his own very late probably during Ganguly’s captaincy. The number of times he used to beat the batsman was always surprisingly high.


  11. Beautifully written! Your argument is sound and unbiased. You involuntarily presented a methodology for disproving a theory: You presented Kapil’s theory, used Kapil’s own batting along with Viv Richards’ as examples disproving the theory (in terms of what would have happened if Tendulkar followed that model), you even isolated particular incidents in Sachin’s own career when this model of batting resulted in attrition, and finally presented counter evidence in the form of both Sachin and Dhoni.

    As much as I am someone of the same generation as you (getting my first taste of cricket around the 1983 world cup), who still is a big fan of Kapil Dev, Kapil’s model of batting would have spelt doom for Sachin. The very thing that stands testament to Sachin’s batting genius is his durability….his ability to adapt throughout his career while still retaining that aggressive streak.

    Incidentally, this is my first ever post on your blog, although I have been reading it for several years.

  12. what man, a below the belt hit to Kambli? he was good. anyway, Kapil the rustic talks out of affection. and perhaps wanting to take the discussion a step further in reaction to the media overload on Sachin 20.

  13. Ah Greatbong, what a good analysis. When I was just atoddler, I always used to hear my father swearing at Kapil for playing a stupid shot. This from one who always regarded as 6 an over being the bare minimum even in the early 90s!!
    At times people do not understand why Sachin does this or why he does that. Just accept it as it is because he knows better than us how to do it. If he fails he willonly improve. Some cannot do that and misconstrue it as selfish batting.

  14. Kapil should stick to promoting Rapidex english speaking course instead of criticising Sachin

  15. A very apt point you made was the fact that the game of cricket is analysed and dissected at its minutest level nowadays where we can easily analyze the various chinks in a batsman’s armor or the predictablity of a certain bowler to bowl low full tosses at the death …. In that way Sachin has evolved into a virtual superhuman

    A very cliched saying sums it up…. Survival of the fittest… and that’s what defines Sachin’s career

  16. Nice article, as always! But I actually agreed with Kapil’s comments: I thought it was a stylish way of complimenting Sachin – while everyone else is saying “wow this guy is fantastic”, Kapil is saying “Well this guy is capable of far more”.

    And there’s nothing wrong in saying that – it’s not as if Kapil is trying to belittle Sachin. He’s just talking about attitude. Sehwag fits the mould of what Kapil is talking about – if you are good enough then you can dictate terms, regardless of bowler/pitch/match conditions. I am trying hard to remember the last 200-ball 50 that Sehwag hit. Hayden was another such player, and so was Gilchrist, among many others.

    I have endured too many 4th innings (all Ind vs Pak, probably that’s why I vividly recall them), yelling at the TV asking the Indian team, including Sachin, to be more positive. As soon as Sehwag gets out, they shut down shop. And on more than one occasion, Sachin lost his wicket while being too defensive. I, for one, would much rather see him hit a quick 50 and give the tail a chance, than try to bat out time and fail with 12 runs in 85 balls or something like that.

    Kapil is the singular reason why Cricket is so popular today. His talent, combined with his aggression, changed the Indian team’s attitude and belief. More than Gavaskar, I think “Kapil is the secret to Sachin’s energy”, paraphrasing an old ad. 🙂

  17. In this context, it will be very interesing to see how Sehwag adapts during the next three years or so.

  18. Apt analysis GB ! No emotions involved. I guess, this is a very tough thing to do for an Indian cricket fan.

    Recently around 2006 and 07, sachin had actually ‘over adapted’ and had started looking like a pale shadow of himself batting only for centuries – Like the time when against Bangladesh, he scored 2 centuries in 2 tests but at a painstakingly slow rate, without a care of the world or the team.

    At that time, I seriously thought, this was the end of the master and he should say goodbye. But what a turnaround he’s had. Simply unbelievable and to judge at that time that he had this 175 inside him and was still to come would’ve been almost a funny prophecy.

    However, the only bad part about Indian crickers (and selectors) is they never know when to show the door to someone. Point in case – Kapil, Ganguly, Dravid! Just hope that Sachin doesn’t end up in the same league. It would be such a waste if he is more remembered for his lenghty out of form patch at the end of his career rather than the genius he was and still is.

  19. Hmmmm Hmmmm

    No matter what ppl will do, ppl will talk about it and find faults..

    No matter what the truth is, truth is hidden, bruised by all:)

  20. This was a great read Arnab. We have to admit though that we can only expect Kapil to write such a piece. I have always loved the guy – I was a big fan of Kapil the cricketer and he also has been a great source of entertainment when he opens his mouth (or the pen).
    Besides the points you and others above have already touched upon, did anyone understand what on earth was that age/burnout comparison with Nadia Comanecci? Christ, she was a female gymnast for crying out loud! What the…?

  21. All said and done, I feel the best way for a cricketer as talented as Sachin to play is – not for himself, not even for the country (its not war after all), but for the glory of the game of cricket. A genius is above mundane victories and defeats.

  22. Very provocative title … Inflammatory statement by Kapil Dev Nikhanj….. it is bound to raise the hackles of Sachin fans. Such seditious words have the potential to cause violent riots in the blogging world. LOL…j/k…. 😀

  23. Very well written. As stated by one and all, the perspective was very well etched. Kapil paaji’s statements were a tad strange, given that he completely disregarded the match situation, type of bowler and the pitch while expecting to Sachin to take the opposition attack to the cleaners (pray, is it expected in Test matches too?). What was sad about that article was the statement “the 140 ball hundreds are for the Rahul Dravids”. It sounded a tad condescending. Dravid, scored 12 ODI centuries, the slowest of which was scored at a strike rate of 83 (in a winning cause), and while he was no whirlwind, he still had his moments (those, that were put in some quiet, dark shadow by his gargantuan test career). But then, that’s paaji – shoot first, talk later, and something tells me that nobody is going to grudge one of cricket’s greatest all rounders a little lack of diplomacy

  24. Amazing article . Very well written. As someone had already pointed out , your analysis of the theory is indeed impeccable.

    I also remember sachin almost always getting caught at forward short mid-wicket to Fannie de villiers’ slower deliveries during the Titan cup and the pepsi cup at Sharjah.

  25. This was one of the most balanced articles that I saw on this subject…This deserves more applause since it was easy to slip into either territory…to that of the blind Sachin fan or the foolish sachin hater..

    Saying that, am still wondering why Kapil uttered such gloriously foolish sentences!!! Its even more saddening because we all still respect him for what he did in the 80s. I feel ‘jealousy’ might b a cause..not sure though

  26. yetanotheranirban November 18, 2009 — 8:42 pm

    very interesting read … however, as i was reading the piece and nodding in agreement all too often, the only jarring thought in my head while reading this was: Sehwag and Lara. Had read a great quote from Dada
    “The best way to know how Virender Sehwag’s mind works is to sit next to him in the players’ balcony when India are batting. Every few minutes he will clutch his head and yell, “Chauka gaya” or “Chhakka gaya”. That’s his way of expressing disappointment at somebody’s failure to take advantage of a ball that he thought deserved to be hit for four or six. That’s how he thinks, in fours and sixes”
    I do not think Sachin has underachieved in the slightest measure and outlasting your contemporaries at the highest level is an achievent in itself.
    Yet there is a slight regret in my mind and i think Kapil voiced exactly that. He is no Kapil or Sehwag yet how he started showed that he easily could be. I had watched the first time he opened the innings against new zealand live! I guess no one apart from Mark Greatbatch and Saeed Anwar had done someting even remotely similar to that earlier. It was as if Viv was opening the innings for India! He carried dead weights like Manoj prabhakar and Nayan Mongia as his opening partners yet india scored at 6 per over ! Sachin keeps reminding successive generations of cricket lovers from time to time why he is a force to reckon with. Yet he chose not to go the 6.67 way.

    It is sad though, that for almost a decade that followed, to me, Lara always seemed to be more aggressive than Sachin (taking more risks, not necessarily via the aerial route though). Sad because we had seen what he could do when he got the license to thrill.

  27. yetanotheranirban November 18, 2009 — 8:54 pm

    It would be interesting to see how Sehwags career pans out, hoping all the while that he never changes his current thought process (… just a scary thought to keep me awake, watching 11 dhonis pushing and prodding and india scoring 700 all out …. I would officially announce my retirement from cricket viewing for good 😦

  28. If you dont adapt with the situation, Pitch and Match Conditions you become ” Shahid Afridi”

  29. There is a very basic fallacy in your argument, which makes your whole argument worthless as it is based on false premise. The fallacy is that you ignore the very thing Kapil mentions numerous times in his article – that of Sachin’s talent. The fallacy is that you assume Kapil’s batting talent to be same as Sachin’s batting talent. That is not true, in fact Kapil believes that Sachin’s batting talent is greatest ever. Hence, there is a possibility that the destroyer mode would have worked for Sachin even though it did not work for Kapil. Pay more attention to what people write instead of gloating over your own intelligence.

  30. very well said…. Love this article. having said that Kapil still deserves respect (only) because of the world cup win

  31. Analyst,

    Your advice would perhaps be more applicable for you. Please pay more attention to what I wrote. I said that Kapil’s ideal of “30 in 4” betrays his own philosophy for batting, a philosophy that most of the time brought grief for the team. This assessment was made totally independent of Sachin. My then point was that this philosophy did not work for Kapil and ultimately did not work for Richards either.

    Now coming to Sachin, my contention was not only had the philosophy of destruction not worked for anybody in recent memory, it had stopped working for Sachin around mid-90s.

    “there is a possibility that the destroyer mode would have worked for Sachin”

    No there was not. This is not what humble little me is saying but what Sachin himself realized, which is why he made a change to his game. This change was vindicated by his career going into its golden phase. Later on in 2004, keeping in mind his injuries and obviously waning reflexes, he felt he needed to make further adjustments which further toned down his aggression.

    My final conclusion was it is this ability to change and accept change is what makes him great. What makes him “destructive”.

    Thank you.

  32. OK…maybe we are both gloating…coming back to the discussion:

    “Sachin himself realized, which is why he made a change to his game”

    Where do you get this from? Did Sachin have a hear-to-heart talk with you? Or are you just being omniscient? At every persons life, whether that person is great or is a layman, there is a point where s/he has to take the decision of choosing between the risky and high rewards path OR the safe but low rewards path. In the case of Sachin, both paths were high rewards and so he chose the less risky one. Kapil is merely lamenting that very fact. That does not prove that Sachin would have been unsuccessful in the other path. He made a safe decision, just like everyone of us.

    There are many people who let go of their comfort zone and achieve the high rewards, I am sure you don’t need examples, you being a budding writer may become a good example of that someday. For Sachin, his comfort zone was rewarding enoug to a degree even greats can only dream of. Kapil’s point is if he had gotten out of that zone, he might have been even better than Bradman, who knows?

  33. Also, you said to me in your comment:

    This assessment was made totally independent of Sachin. My then point was that this philosophy did not work for Kapil and ultimately did not work for Richards either.

    Actually your assessment was not independent of Sachin. Read your own writing more carefully below:

    if he had tried to remain the destroyer Kapil Dev wanted him to be all his life, he might be today in the Big Boss house…

    So you believe Sachin was not talented enough to go through his rough patches against people like Fannie while keeping his style intact. Kapil believes he had all the required talent and then a lot more.

    Both are beliefs and one can never be proved to be more correct than another. Personally, I would tend to believe Kapil given his experience in cricket and as well as playing with Sachin over an armchair expert.

  34. @Analyst: Did Sachin have a hear-to-heart talk with you?

    Have you never heard Sachin talk after matches, in interviews, especially after his innings against Australia where he totally let go of his cover drives and punches…

    He definitely did realise that if he needs to score more runs, he needs to adapt and thats what he did. What’s this silly heart-to-heart question? Almost sounds gay.

  35. @Rakesh: “He definitely did realise that if he needs to score more runs…”

    OK, looks like you agree with Kapil and Ponting…thanks

  36. Yes Analyst. HP agrees with Kapil and Ponting. So do I. Except that HP and I dont find “scoring runs” to be a mark of selfishness/desire for records. By scoring runs at rates of scoring dictated by the pitch conditions, match situation and the state of his own abilities at the time, SRT has helped India to win/draw far more matches than Kapil Dev did with his trying to hit Pat Pocock for two successive sixes when we were trying to save a match against England in 1984. This is why I brought up Dhoni’s example. He also plays a rather unattractive game (and since I am not omniscient as you so kindly pointed out I do not say whether he does it for the benefit of the team or for himself) and I would say that by playing that kind of per-centage cricket he is of greater service to the team than if he tried hitting every ball for 6.

    And as for Sachin having a heart-to-heart talk with me, I have seen almost every Sachin innings from 1989 to 1999 (which was when I came to the US to do my PhD) and I have seen his technique change and this change happened right after his quarter-career slump . So no he did not need to tell me. I saw.

  37. As a further example as to why Kapil’s reasoning is wrong, at least in the context of modern cricket note the place where he says he would not have minded if Sachin had scored a thousand less runs but if he had 10 double centuries, a three-hundred and a four-hundred. In other words, Kapil’s ideal consists of a number of monstrously high personal scores even though there may be runs of low scores in between (which is why he doesnt mind if SRT’s career aggregate were to be lesser than what it is). However it is more or less universal consensus that in modern cricket, a person who scores 70,70,70,70,70 is preferable to the guy who scores 0, 300, 10, 40,0 since the focus in the modern game is less on heroism and more on consistency.

  38. GB, your assumptions are becoming far too many, where do you see Kapil or Ponting calling Sachin as selfish or just playing for records. Yes, people call him that but I don’t see anything in Kapil’s article indicating that.

    Regarding Sachin aving India win/draw more matches than Kapil, neither I nor Kapil disagree with that. What is up with trying to find faults in Kapil’s contribution in Cricket when he just made his point of view regarding Tendulkar known? That is so orthogonal to this discussion.

    Finally, what you saw says nothing about what Sachin’s decision making process in his head was. He decided to take route B instead of overcoming the obstacles in route A using his immense talent. That says nothing about his possibilities in route A had he stuck with it.

  39. Analyst,

    I presume I am not the only person who read the “Sachin played for records” as the subtext of the whole Kapil piece. Which is as we all know a selfish thing to do.

    “That says nothing about his possibilities in route A had he stuck with it.”

    Well as Kapil said the possibilities would have been that he would have scored a few less runs but made a 400 and a 300 and gone from 30 to 50 in 4 overs many times.

    Thats what I have been trying to tell you.

    It is this old-world “batsman as a hero” mentality that lionizes a 300 or a 400 and big shots “regardless of state of pitch or match conditions” which was the bane of Indian cricket during Kapil’s time and of Kapil Dev himself.

  40. @Analyst- How much cricket have you watched? In the 1996-97 season, no one could have hit Fannie. Not even Bradman. South Africa had a stunning fast bowling attack back then and Fannie was almost unhittable with his slower offcutters in the 96 Titan Cup. It is not possible to hit any bowler at will everytime. Are you telling me that its that easy to hit Wasim Akram, McGrath, or even Umar Gul in his 2020 form, day in and out at 7 rpo? I dont care how much talent someone has. Maybe once or twice. Depends on so many things- ball, format, pitch, match condition etc.

    Kapil was a great hitter of the cricket ball. But he batted in one gear. I agree with him in one sense though- that Sachin could have been more positive more often. But that ‘more often’ should have been almost always according to Kapil. That is where he is wrong. But I agree that he should have had more doubles and triples. Sachin too has many limitations. But his greatness lies in working around them. Injuries, reflexes, so many things…he never speaks about these things….we will only know if he discloses them in his autobiography. By Kapil’s definition of talent, I feel that Lara was a more talented batsman. But did he apply himself like Sachin often? Kapil also doesnt talk about form. I mean people go thru rough patches. Cmon.

    Batting is a balance between risk management and aggression. People develop personal styles. Allan Border scored 11k runs with just 3 shots. Batsmen adopt different strategies at different times. Say Sachin hitting Warne out of the rough in Chennai. Took Warne completely by surprise. Why has that not been repeated in all further battles? As the bowler adopted, the batsman followed suit. Thus the batting changed. Its a dynamic game, and he is a dynamic batsman. He adapted, and thus he survived for two decades.

  41. GB,

    i FULLY agree with the comments that you have made.

    in the by-gone era of kapil, gavaskar, richards and imran, it was all about individual brilliance. so we have had anti-climactic results from absulutely impossible scenarios. like kapil’s 175 in 130 balls (not exactly sure) when the side was at 17 for 5 or an imran’s 6 for 14 at sharjah or a viv scoring 187 in a total of 266 (considering the team was at 80 for 7 with holding on the other side). it was more about our bollywood where quality of acting was secondary to the individual style and iconic approach like rajesh khanna, shammi kappor and to a certain extent, amitabh bachchan. by that yardstick, most of amitabh’s movies of mid 70s are unwatchable today but we used to salivate while watching them in our teens. by that token gavaskar (though far more accomplished than many, as his 96 in bangalore proved or his 90 did in a cracking pitch in ahmedabad against the west indies attack baying for blood for world cup loss in 83) would be considered boring and selfish (i would say like a sashi kapoor or a sanjeev kumar of that time).

    today its all about methods, structures and success – where one needs to change his style to reach the desired results. i would really give huge credit to sachin for that cross-over and hence that longevity. thats the same reason amitabh has stayed on while others have not (rajesh khanna an example). and i do expect amira khan to stay on for longer than srk (for the same reasons) – it is the ability of an individual to reinvent himself by adapting to changing times that makes him THE LEADER in a pack of also rans.

    i have only one complaint against sachin (more as a fan), which i consider to be “one drop of chuna in a bottle of milk” – his inability to finish the games after putting immense efforts to turn them into winning situations from impossible scenarios. one school can be “what more do you expect him to do !!! are others there only for sucking their whatever ?”. in his generation, sachin can only be compared to Lara (hayden or ponting or inzamam are not there in my opinion) and in this aspect Lara absolutely took the cake. he never left it for the lesser mortals. even in hyderabad, i saw the best cricketing innings of my life so far but it left a bad taste in the mouth when he played that ludicrous misbah-ish shot for nothing, when the team needed 19 runs in 20 balls with 5 wickets !! why would he not tell himself that i should stay till the end, finish it off by taking singles and guiding the lesser mortals to safety…i remember him doing this twice – the two back-to-back tons against australia in sharjah in 1998.

  42. This is a pretty well constructed (and accurate) analysis of both Sachin and Kapil. Of course, plenty has been written about Sachin, and will be, with a lot of negativity thrown in. What I remember from the latter half of the ’80s is that whenever Kapil came on to bat, the elders in the house (and later me) would knowingly chant ‘Aayaram, Gayaram’ and most of the time, this was a moniker he lived up to. With Sachin, every time he gets out, even now, it is a shock to the system.

  43. Arnab, waiting to hear more from you after you have gone through Atherton’s article on Sachin & helmets today in THE TELEGRAPH. I know you will not miss it for sure.

  44. It is the biggest myth that Kapil kept Srinath out of the side for too long.

    A) In ODIs, Srinath was a part of the side even when Kapil was playing – so, no question of us losing out on his ‘best’ years.

    B) In test matches, Kapil was among our best bowlers on both the Australian and South African tours – in all these matches, Srinath played as well. The only series’, where Srinath did not make the test side, were the home series against England, Zim and Sri Lanka (when Kapil broke Hadlee’s record) – India won each series by blanking the opposition. Moreover, these were matches that were spin dominated and fast bowlers hardly got a chance to bowl more than 5-10 overs. Even in these limited opportunities, this is how Kapil fared:

    1. v/s England – avg of 19, SR of 44
    2. v/s Zim – avg of 44, SR of 102 (only one test match)
    3. v/s SL – avg of 25, SR of 48

    We also played two away series against SL and NZ – and Srinath made the playing XI along with Kapil.

    After that Kapil did play a single test.

    It is difficult to see how India was deprived of Srinath’s best years due to Kapil.

  45. “After all, eleven players striving for their personal bests a great team makes” — that sums it up. That’s what the Aussies do. That’s what the old Windies did. And that’s what SRT believes in, unlike the flashier Viru (who follows Kapil’s theory) whose flashiness (which is not a strive for personal best) lets down the team time and again (including today in the 2nd innings against SL). And GB, this must be a record of sorts: a whole article (and discussion) on batting but no mention of Ganguly??!! There, I did it!!

  46. Following is an extract from an article (lament) written by a writer who I respect a lot.
    “As cricket has become increasingly commercialized over the years, the overwhelming focus of those who play it has become “to win”, putting in shade the original intent of the game: that being to entertain. Craft has become slave to science as modern cricket has come to be dominated by “per centage” cricketers whose success is based on performing the basics correctly match after match, with minimal failure”.
    @GB, You wrote this article on the retirement of Brian Lara (April 22nd 2007). Irrespective of what Kapil said, there is an element of truth in the statement that SRT has played below his potential and has had trouble finishing what he started more often than not in the past ten years of his career. Lesser mortals (like Dravid or Sourav) are justified for not attacking the opposition (BTW, Sourav attacked way above the talent limitation he had. He could play the off side and only the off side and boy did he play the off side). But rarely, once in a generation god decides to gift a single sportsman with talent beyond imagination and if he decides to play like a lesser mortal, then you are bound to be disappointed with what “could have been” and lament how more and more cricketers are playing “percentage” cricket as aptly written by you.
    BTW, I’m not quoting your earlier article to prove you are contradicting yourself. It is wise and in fact takes a lot of courage for a person to change their opinion with time. I quoted it because; I could not have put it better than you did almost two years back.

  47. I think refuting Kapil’s arguments by saying that an explosive batting style didn’t help Kapil or India is wrong. Kapil’s main premise is that Sachin was capable of not leaving such an aggressive style. Infact Sachin did have this style for the first 8-9 years of his career. That is not to say that I completely agree with Kapil’s conclusions. But I confess that the idea of an unchanged Sachin does make for a delightful thought exercise for his fans, and so one can one find reasons to support it, as well as against it.

    In my opinion, I think Sachin did the right thing by mellowing down and reducing the reliance on him. Ofcourse he did this while realizing that the likes of Sehwag, Yuvraj and Dhoni can win matches on their own. At the same time, I know that once in a while he will produce gems like the Sep’09 final against Sri Lanka or this goose-bump-inducing 175. At the same time, he has managed an ODI average of 43 since 2004-end, almost the same as his 2004-and-before average of 45.

    Now that the team has fairly reliable and stable players (as opposed to the trashy team in the 90s), I do hope that once in a while Sachin comes out all guns blazing (especially when batting first) and reduces some bowlers to metaphorical tears.

  48. Kapil forgets how it was playing with his knee injury…. I am sure if Tendulkar did not have this stupid tennis elbow thing his average would have been different….

  49. I don’t know why this entire Kapil’s article is being taken in a bad light! Not for a second did he belittle Sachin. He simply said he is capable of lot more! And it can only mean a praise for the little big man… For whatever reason Sachin has played in a style that is comfortable to him. To wish he did things differently would not be any sin! Everytime Yuvi comes to bat, I wish he would repeat his antics against Stuart Broad! He might not do it, but the hell, he has ability!

    Interpreting Kapil’s statements as “Sachin plays for records,” is reading a bit too much! Like rest of the world, he too has sung paeans of Sachin and his batting. He just pictured for us a different kind of Sachin he would have liked to see… Not just the one we all saw!

    It so much better than the ass of an Englishman called Mike Atherton saying Sachin is not great because he has a helmet on. Just because someone avails of available safety equipment does not make him any less efficient. In fact, it makes Richards look stupid for shunning the safety gear. Incidentally, Mike Asserton also happened to interpret Kapil similarly. Greatbong, as much as I resent your comments on Kapil Dev for the article, I would love to read your review of Atherton’s comments. Please do oblige us in your own inimitable style. (For your reference, the article is available here:

  50. @Sriram,

    I hope you also noted a small thing from the same writer:

    I frankly do not see the problem in that. Whether his calculated style of batting is borne out of the desire to inflate his numbers and get a better bid-rate at IPL or whether it comes from a desire to be a more effective batsman who does exactly what is needed and nothing more is moot from a purely unemotional perspective

    In the article you quoted (the Lara one) I said that as someone watching the game, I would prefer an individual who plays cricket in an entertaining gung-ho fashion than one who plays merely to win. Of course if Sachin had played the way Kapil wanted him to (I doubt any human being could do so consistently for twenty years, no matter how much his talent, unless he is playing book cricket) I would have enjoyed it even more. But that remains a hypothetical—Sachin was also India’s No 1 batsman with the responsibility of seeing the team home in professional sport, which demands a clinically ruthless approach and I actually prefer, from a purely unemotional perspective, those who play the percentages and get their side victory. In that context, Sachin I am sure we will agree has shown way more flair than purely functional per-centage batsmen (I would put Ponting [yes] and Kallis in this category) and it is a sign of greatness that he has managed to maintain his craft while still being clinical, in essence combining the responsibility of Gavaskar with the flair of Kapil in a judicious, balanced whole.

    What Kapil is advocating and I have an issue with is a village-green kind of attitude to batting (scoring at 6.67 regardless of match situation and pitch), something that Kapil followed and which led to much grief.

    As to Atherton, his article is plain bile (unlike Kapil’s) and isnt worth trying to logically disprove.

  51. I re-read Kapil’s article. It is one not to be taken seriously in retrospect. He becomes nostalgic and in the process appears to be a detractor. I dont think that that was his intention. In 1994 WI-India test series, Kapil made his debut as a commentator with Shastri and Srikanth. He faded away as he always lacked the ability to articulate his thoughts. But he is a bloke who speaks straight from the heart. So what he is saying is that the wonderboy he has seen when he retired, that is the SRT of early 90s should have played on just like that. He did not take into account bowling strategies- Oppositions spent hours studying Sachin’s batting. So obviously they tried to bowl him lengths and lines which made it difficult for him to score. The bad ones still erred, the good ones dismissed him a lot of times. Its simple. He did not take into account the fact that even Sachin had weaknesses which were exploited later on, that he aged, adapted, no longer had the same reflexes,fatigue, had injuries which curtailed his shotmaking, eliminiated some shots, changed to a role as an anchor etc. But thats Kapil Dev. He spoke straight from the heart…saade dil se. When you do that, you only see the rosyness. Like what if he had batted like the Centurion innings all the the time, what if A rod would have batted like this year in all previous post seasons, what if L Siva continued to bowl like 1985 etc. What if Kapil did not lose his pace, or his outswing, or put his head down and played more gritty test knocks? What if he did not try to accelarate the way he wants Sachin to in the 1987 semis? Kapil Dev should know that many prodigiously talented players have performed under their possible limits. This includes himself. He was the best batsman of all the 4 allrounders. But he does not have the figures to show for it. Sachin Tendulkar played for the long run. He knew that maybe if he had been a bit more impetuous, he would have scored many more scintillating hundreds. But on average, in the long run, he would not not have had the figures that he has. That is optimization. And no one knows how much to optimize than the batsman himself. And no matter how great a batsman he may be, he cannot always dominate a bowling attack like he does on his best days.

  52. Kapil isn’t looking well enough.. Whatever qualities he wants in Sachin is present in Sehwag.. Why does he want one more Sehwag? let Sachin be…

  53. Well said GB. For the most part of the 90s, the fortunes of the Indian team in every match flourished and died with Sachin’s stay at the crease. The expectations on Sachin’s shoulders everytime he walks out is part of legendary folklore now.
    Even after Sachin had 25 hundreds in ODIs, every time he played the cover drive the heart skipped a beat; something that doesn’t not happen when any other batsmen fail.
    The kind of standard Sachin had set is nonpareil and when something is so lofty beyond reach I don’t know how can it be judged as underachieved or overachieved.

  54. Very well put Great bong! you help me keep my faith in Sachin going strong…Thanks

  55. Excellent analysis. Absolutely spot on.

  56. @Vishy
    This image of Atherton shit-scared facing a bouncer (and of course wearing a helmet) might make you feel happy.

  57. 43 centuries and 30000 runs! need i say more!!

  58. Excellent analysis. Agree with you 100%

  59. Ganguly on Cricinfo!!!!
    The world does not make sense anymore!

  60. After reading this article and all the interesting comments, I feel immensely happy that I’ve never been able to understand so profoundly what Sachin’s batting is all about! To me, apart from his talent, his greatness lies in being a thinking cricketer who has successfully carried the weight of expectations of millions of Indians on his able shoulders and not-so-able elbow. That itself counts a lot for people like us, who whould rather watch a Sachin dig his heels in and save a test match for India (and in the process rustle up yet another ton). While leaving the bravado for the likes of Sehwag and his clan to provide the dollops of entertainment. God bless Indian cricket.

  61. @GB,

    I agree with what you are saying, but the only point is that Cricket is a game and its meant to entertain. Sachin might not have played for 20 yrs and scored all of 30,000 runs he has done, but India might (I repeat, “might”) have won more games than we did in the time he did play for his country. A defensive, smart, innings gives you a defensive total to defend. A attempt to attack as per percentages, taking into consideration SRT’s talent, would have given the Indian team more opportunities to WIN. I’m conceding that if he had attacked he would have scored lesser runs than he has done, which might not be true.

    Until Sourav started captaining India, we did not look like a threat to a B team in AUS or ENG with the same Sachin Tendulkar in the team. When Sourav became captain he attacked and it all changed. The greatest thing about the change was that he created the belief in a bunch of young guys that attack works. We as a team have it in us to attack. If Sourav had played it safe, maybe he would have scored a few thousand more runs (Maybe had more friends at cricinfo)and won fewer number of matches. If Sachin had attacked as a player and as a captain, who knows how many more Dhonis, Sehwags,Bhajjis and Ishants he would have given the belief to attack and believe that they can win.

    I’m not disagreeing with you, I’m just saying there might have been a different Sachin, an inspiring one who scored 10,000 runs.

    Let me try to explain using you as an example. I have read quite a few funny, entertaining, correct blogs. But I don’t check them once a week. I check yours every week for any new article because you attack. Every time you talk about a subject you attack, and that kind of conviction comes only with self belief. I don’t agree with some of your opinions but I respect them because they are said with conviction. I wonder what could have been if SRT backed himself and attacked. If he had done that would the statement that “He had to play the way he did because the team would have collapsed otherwise” necessarily true? I have more faith in his ability than to believe that if he had attacked he would have averaged 6.7.

    I love Sachin Tendulkar and I’m so proud he plays for my country. I can watch his backfoot cover drive, his on drive and his forward defensive push to a good length ball for hours on end. I only lament what might have been if the man did not decide to buckle down somewhere along his career…

    And BTW, I refuse to agree with you that Ponting plays without flair (Kallis I agree). I think thats unfair. He attacks and attacks with flair and with devastating results most of the time.

  62. It’s been said before that what defines champions is not how well they can play on a good day but how well they sustain themselves when the going gets tough.
    A devil-may care Sehwag or Kapil may have great days, produce great innings at times and be celebrated for the entertainment they provide – the real heroes are however, those who don’t play to be crowd favorites – this is really the only kind of selfishness a sportsperson knows (records are no good if in public memory you are a villain). The great thing about Sachin since 2003, when his so-called golden period ended has been his willingness to slug it out, to look ordinary and yet stick around for the sake of the team – a quality I suspect he found very well reflected in another champion of his era – Rahul Dravid.

  63. One of the crapiest analysis of greatbong till date.You got the whole thing wrong. There is a third kind of die hard sachin lovers like me who want sachin to be the utimate incomparable batsmen. Like i love your blogs and expect better blogs from you everytime 🙂

  64. “if he had tried to remain the destroyer Kapil Dev wanted him to be all his life, he might be today in the Big Boss house like one of his prodigiously talented friends fighting for infamy with a bunch of washed-out faux-celebrities”

    The post was nice and interesting but the end seemed somewhat harsh and judgmental on Kambli. I can’t help but feel sorry for him and am saddened by the weird thought that if ever read the above lines it would leave him a much broken man.

  65. All I would like to say is that if Sachin had played like Kapil wanted him to we would have had one more Virender Sehwag thats it – Dangerous batsman who can score either 300 or get out on 0. And then as aptly put by the Greatbong, India would not have been in such a position as we are now.

  66. Kapil, post his retirement years has shown an incredibly poor ‘shot’ selection, when it comes to his views and choices. From taking up the chairmanship of the doomed to fail ICL, to comments that are invariably at odds with the public mood, he seems to be on a diffrene tplanet half the time. An obvious factor is the fact that he could never uite be the superstar off the field as some of his contemporaries like Gavaskar and Shastri became.

    And yes, for all his carps, he has caused more than his fair share of frustration for his fans too. And let’s face it, in his times, an India win was rare enough to be cherished , even if the series scoreline read 2-1 or 301 or 4-2 or whatever. Today, a series scroeline on the wrong end is never acceptable to fans here. And Sachin has played no small role in changing their expectations. Give him credit for that at least.

  67. gb -> analyst.
    “Your advice would perhaps be more applicable for you”

    are we witnessing the writer snapping at someone who made a harsh comment?

  68. Arnab,
    While your cohort grew up in the Sachin years, mine is a decade older. In those days Indian cricketers puzzled (spinners), charmed (Sunny/Vishy/Pat etc) and once in a while delivered. And then came along Kapil Dev, who banished a few things forever. He showed that to tackle pace you not only need technique but also raw courage. Next he showed that you give as good as you get. In his debut series in Pakistan when Sarfaraz Nawaz treated his as a tailender during the Sahiwal ODI, Kapil waited for the next test in Karachi when he first carted Sarfaraz round the park and then sent down an entire over of whupaxx deliberately not taking him out so that he could toy with him. Imran didn’t learn the lesson and still with his Nawabi elan carried his attitude to India until in the Chennai test one evening, Kapil smashed hooked an Imran bouncer for a six. Kapil was a vastly more versatile bowler and performed stock and strike with equal application. I have seen him share the ball with Venkat all afternoon, tirelessly grinding down WI, building enough frustration in them to strike the next day and skittle them out. The man had heart and soul, and never once gave the idea of having anything but the team on his mind. Yes he and Sunny did not get along at one time, and yes they have put it behind them and are best of friends today.

    So when Kapil talks of the kind of batsman SRT could have been he has a point.

  69. A Sehwag today is feared more by the opposition than SRT…oh, am sure you can provide all the sound bytes in the world about SRT being God and all that.

    Kapil, without belittling SRT, said what is actually quite true. And like someone mentioned above, until Ganguly came the same SRT did not do too much to win matches for India on a consistent basis.

    Gavaskar paved the way initially by building up the Indian psyche. He knew we may not be able to win matches as we were really short on quality bowlers, well until Kapil Dev at least, but he ensured that we lost as few matches as possible. Much later, Ganguly led a young team to blv we can win too. SO maybe, just maybe, India should be thankful to Gavaskar and Ganguly for teaching us not to lose first, and then win.

    SRT for all his talents, has not lived upto his potential in Test matches. Someone can look up the numbers on his second inning scores and match it with the results of the Test matches.

    Of course, in One day’s he has been spectacular…intermittently, but still India did not win too many series or championships..for someone who is considered to be God…that definitely is a shortcoming. And if you look at the number of times India has played in the Finals of a major championship…it was certainly a collective effort from the team…I know..I guys will mention Sharjah (prolly one tournament that was won by one man alone)…but what else?

    Well he has all sort of records to his name..but yet, he has under-achieved IMHO.


    PS: Using the number of overs must equal to so many runs by Kapil to deny the truth in his write-up is kinda not seeing the larger picture.

  70. Great Bong, Excellent unbiased argument..wanted to write about the adaptability of sachin when all my friends spoke about his slefish attitude..But reading through this post made me realise that I dont have to do that.. There is a link that I can forward them to..

  71. Dead thread, yet…

    Good points some, GB, but I fail to see how Viv’s style ‘ultimately failed him’. Viv averaged 50+ in tests IIRC and 47+ in ODIs, while not losing any opportunity to dominate attacks. Your comment about his shot selection in ’83 smacks of revisionism, in my opinion. Comparisons are ultimately futile, but a million journeymen like Roebuck (who’s been apologising for his gaffe of late, albeit sheepishly) cannot tarnish Viv’s legacy and standing. For those who have only seen Sachin bat and not Viv, well, they have no bloody idea what the man was about – not to take anything away from Sachin, but he is yet to have the kind of intimidating presence Richards had (except for a period in the ’90s). True, Richards was part of the greatest side of all time, and that has to be factored in.

  72. @Nanda Kishore

    Could not agree more about Viv. I was watching that innings of 189 out of Windies’ 272 against England with Eldine Baptiste and Michael Holding for company. He was a merciless hitter, but man did he hit the ball straight.

    Then that anecdote … Dean Jones was in his early days and had to stand at Short Leg with Viv batting. Deano is visibly shaken by the prospect, but Sir Viv turns around and says – “Don’t worry kid, I won’t hurt you. I am going to hurt that maan in the staand.”

    Anyway, to be fair Sachin has been India’s greatest performer and he has handled better quality bowling than most contemporary greats (even Ricky Ponting). On the other hand, his Test record is only marginally better than Rahul Dravid who started playing 7 years after him. Even so, he is the leading getter of MoM awards in Tests for India (in number, second to Kumble by a shade in percentage). Here is a link:

  73. @Rahul

    To win Test matches, you need bowlers who can take 20 wickets. How often has India had that sort of a bowling attack. If you see the link I posted in the last post, in the list of players with the highest percentage of MoM awards in a Test Match, 4 are bowlers / bowling all-rounders and the fifth one is a batting all-rounder. The memory of Kapil Dev that I have was this swashbuckler who’d stand and deliver (but too often get out like Sehwag does).

    An I’ll be surprised if you really believe the opposition fears Sehwag more than Sachin.

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