Let’s leave it to the Little Master

ESPNSTAR.com columnist R Mohan reckons a very different Sachin Tendulkar will be on show in the Test series against England.

Sachin will either regain the roaring form of old or if he is not firing well enough to live up to the high standards he has set for himself, he will bring his retirement date forward.

The chances are the Little Master will dig deep into his batting technique and come up with a solution to satisfy, most of all, himself.

His Ranji Trophy century against a Railway attack may not mean much except that Sachin has found a semblance of form again in terms of getting through early uncertainty and building an innings in the first-class sense. If he did strike more sixes than is his wont, we can blame it on the run machine having evolved into in this age of three formats.

The one technical weakness on display may tend to worry long-term Sachin watchers. He is getting bowled more often as we saw in the Tests against New Zealand in which the fast-medium men were breaking through his defences and getting the ball to crash into his stumps. Sachin is certain to have studied the reason why he is getting out so often in this manner.

Apart from slowing reflexes, it’s clear as daylight that Sachin tends to play a little more across the line than he used to in order to beat the fields set more and more straight for him to cut out his scoring areas, which in these days of video analysis is par for the course.

Even in his prime, he had this problem of the fastest bowlers finding ways to cut the ball into him between bat and pad to bowl him, Allan Donald being a leading example of a bowler finding that chink in the armour.

Knowing how Sachin re-fashions his technique to fight the odds, it’s on the cards that he will find a solution to it in this season’s home Tests, beginning with the four against England in what is being billed as the ‘Revenge’ series after the whitewash in the Old Blighty.

It was not so long ago that his colleagues were carrying Sachin on their shoulders symbolically around the Wankhede Stadium on keeping the promise that they would win the World Cup for him and now the cry is for him to leave the game he loves so much.

The sequence of being bowled continued even into South Africa in the course of the unhappy campaign of defending champions Mumbai Indians in the Champions League. But, then again, the tendency to play across is more prominent in T20 cricket. Some captains have started employing very straight fields in order to force Sachin to go across the line, which trap he may have been falling into because of the desperate need to score off every ball in T20s.

It should surprise no one if Sachin takes his game back to Australia eight years ago when he even gave up the cover drive in the course of building long innings with a measure of obduracy. In his famous Sydney innings in which Laxman outshone him in the matter of gathering runs without having to abandon his stylish ways, Sachin showed what he can achieve when he makes up his mind that he is not going to surrender his stay at the crease.

The manner in which he plays spin these days reminds me of how Viswanath used to look at the crease in the course of his great batting career. The ball would hardly rise an inch off the ground, whether a stroke was being played or the ball was merely being defended. There is no greater sign of maturity in a batsman than to play spin with consummate authority on wearing wickets.

The chances are that the England attack, with or without Steve Finn, who can be expected to trouble Sachin with the height from which he delivers balls that move off the seam, will find  a very patient batsman who will wear them into the ground by cutting out the risks and playing in the V, as the cricketing expression used in the old days to perfectly convey where a batsman had to play in the first class game to make his runs with the least risk. Yes, a different Sachin will be at the crease this series.

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