By Boria Majumdar
A batsman’s form is as good as his last innings. While this statement is a cliché, it is also a given fact of life in contemporary cricket with impatience driving us all, cricket fans and analysts alike.
Consider the cases of Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting. There’s a cry around the world that Sachin isn’t in form and that the pressure of the 100th hundred is getting to him real bad. While the latter is true to the extent that we, the media, are relentless in reminding him of the ton every time we see him, the first fact just isn’t correct.
Sachin scored a 90 in the last Test against the West Indies in Mumbai before leaving for Australia and followed up with a 73 in Melbourne and 80 at the SCG. At Perth he got a dubious decision in the second innings and it was only in Adelaide that he failed to get going. And anyone who has seen him bat at Melbourne and Sydney will agree that he looked as good as any other batsman in the Australian team, if not better. He was easily the best Indian batsman on view in the first two Tests.
Moving on to Ponting, there was much talk before the Test series whether Ponting should be persisted with. The champion proved the critics wrong with a hundred and a double hundred in the four Test series.
In fact, it was Ponting and Clarke’s brilliance with the bat that really shut India out of the series after the Indian bowlers had picked early wickets in almost every innings. With an average of 100 plus in the series, Ponting, it seemed, had done enough to put all debate of retirement to rest.
However, he hadn’t taken into account the impatience of the contemporary fan, men and women who aren’t willing to brook any failure. Four lean games in the CB series and he is faced with the same question yet again- is it time for Ponting to give up the 50 over format of the game? Or it is perhaps time to rest him for a while to give youngsters a chance?
With cricket being a 365 day affair in our world and with teams hardly getting a respite from the rigorous schedules they have to contend with, it is only natural that even the greatest will have temporary lapses in form. A few failures here and there are sure to happen with fatigue eating into the bodies of these men day in and out.
Rigorous travel schedules and back to back matches make it extremely difficult for the players and even the fittest of youngsters suffer frequent injuries. Barring David Hussey and Gautam Gambhir no batsman has been consistent in the CB series, which explains the open nature of the points table half way into the competition.
Does criticism affect legends like Ponting or Sachin or do they just brush impatience aside knowing things will change with one good innings? While it is impossible to suggest with certainty that they do get affected, there is reason to suggest that there is enough in the criticism to make things more difficult. It is impossible to close out the media completely and friends and relatives who have access to the players’ also get affected by the negativity surrounding them. They in turn pass a little bit of it on to the player even if inadvertently.
For us in India it is of paramount importance to keep faith in Sachin and just be a little patient.. All of us have suggested how best to get to his 100th hundred- that he should attack, play freely, shouldn’t get bogged down etc. The truth is none of us have scored 99 international hundreds, the highest ever by any cricketer ever.
So it is Sachin who knows how to get to the magic figure best. We as fans and well wishers will obviously want him to get there as soon as possible but a little extra time taken to get there shouldn’t be perceived as the end of the world. For Sachin and Ponting too are human as we all are and they are due to make a few mistakes at least.
Patience, it is time to state again, is a virtue that we all need to imbibe as cricket fans and analysts and enjoy every bit of Sachin and Ponting that we get to see before us. For these are legends who will never again come to grace the 22 yards and every sight of them is to be savored.