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Tendulkar finding his groove
December 04, 2006
India doesn't need to worry about Sachin Tendulkar.
He showed on Sunday that he is beginning to find his groove finally. There was more than a glimpse of his true class; he came out wanting to spend time at the crease and a few of his shots were more than a veiled threat to South Africa. The message would not be lost on the hosts.
It would be harsh if his innings is held up as a failure or too slow for the wicket was doing a bit in the morning and it needed a skillful player to survive. He just bided his time with discipline. He rode through the tough period and a few of his shots, be it over extra covers against the spinner or down the ground against Jacques Kallis, bore the hallmark of the little champion. His ability to pick up the length and hit through the line is still uncanny.
Thus, there would be more than just a few eyes looking at the four-day game at Potchefstroom with interest. Tendulkar would be watched closely for the master is showing signs of return to form. I am sure he would try to make the most of it, as would be a few other Indian batters, and get ready for the Test challenge.
Tendulkar is just about beginning to show why he is everyone's favourite batsman, his ability to take on the pressure match after match, year after year, and by remaining the fulcrum of Indian batting. He still bears the most responsibility and perhaps rightly so for he has that genius factor which most, including his team-mates, don't possess.
In my several years of international cricket, Tendulkar remains the best batsman I have ever bowled to. It's been a pleasure to bowl at the master batsman even though one hasn't always emerged with credit from the engagements. There have been Steve and Mark Waughs, Mike Athertons and Brian Laras, the best of the very best but Tendulkar, to my mind, has been the toughest. He is in a different category for unlike the Waughs and Athertons, he is also very pretty to watch.
You do sense a chance against somebody like Lara for he gives you a charge and discretion can get the better of him. The most impressive thing about Tendulkar is his temperament and how quickly he sizes up the length. His eyesight, footwork and the range of strokes all possess the hallmark of a master. No less impressive is the pressure he soaks up for being an icon to masses of humanity in India.
Dinesh Mongia, to a lesser extent, was also eye-catching and I can't believe the man is being sent back home.
India desperately needs a left-hander at the top of the order for that is the surest recipe in forcing the bowlers to adjust their line and length. Sending him back after the one-dayers looks a poor option. He has looked compact and somebody who wouldn't give away his wicket in a hurry.
India could feel disheartened at how its bowling came unstuck in Centurion but it was a flat deck and they have done enough in the series to hold their head high. There were also not enough runs on the board to defend. They must take it as a bad day on what otherwise has been an excellent series for them. Injuries to Munaf Patel and Ajit Agarkar have also not helped their cause.
Finally, it was good to see the change being effected about which we have been clamouring for long. AB de Villiers was excellent at the start of the innings and he took so much pressure off Graeme Smith. He was classy, dominant and too much for the Indian bowlers in conditions unsuited to them. Everyone in South Africa is hoping that the fine opening stand would allow the home top order to turn the corner.
India's tour of South Africa 2006: The Complete Coverage
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