Life beyond Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar's retirement, the start of the Ashes in Australia and India's tour of South Africa in December- the cricket world has never had it better. From the highs of the Wankhede to the combativeness at the Gabba and finally the series in South Africa that will answer a lot of questions about India's post Tendulkar scenario, brand cricket is at its best at the moment.
Tendulkar's retirement is still being talked about and will remain a constant talking point till the master receives the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour, in January. The Ashes on the other hand is all set to grip the Australian public imagination leading up to the new-year. The Boxing Day Test at the MCG and the new-year Test at the SCG are real high points of the Australian cricket calendar. So much so that it almost a matter of ritual to attend these games and have breakfast at the Taverners on the morning of the match. The India tour of South Africa on the other hand will answer a host of important questions- has the Indian cricket brand taken a hit post Tendulkar and how good are India's next generation stars? Do they have it in them to take on the world's number one test team in alien conditions and can they stand up to the Dale Steyn test?
To the Ashes first. With a 130 year old history, the Ashes will definitely go down as one of world sports' foremost rivalries. Played for the urn, it brings out the best in the players and churns out reams of newsprint and multiple spools of television programming.
Catherine McGregor has put it really nicely, "No other sporting rivalry so captures the imagination of the majority of Australians as a Test cricket series against England. This rivalry preceded the birth of the Australian Federation. It dates from 1877, though the term Ashes was coined in that immortal satirical obituary in The Sporting Times in the wake of Australia's upset victory in a single Test at the Oval in 1882.
So shameful was defeat by the colonial bumpkins considered among the English press, that mock obituaries proliferated. But that of The Sporting Times achieved immortality. Ever since, the contest between the coloniser and the colonised has been for those mythical Ashes. In a young nation it is a tradition of considerable antiquity. It predated air travel, the use of the telephone, television and originally pitted a precocious derivative settler society against the greatest Empire since the Roman legions entered Gaul in a polite form of rebellion that only occasionally shed blood."
It is against this backdrop that legacies are scripted and reputations are made. Will Michael Clarke ever rise to the ranks of Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting as leader? Is the Alistair Cook led team one of the best English teams of all time? Finally, do home conditions really matter and can the English retain the Ashes for the third consecutive time?
As the Ashes are played out down under, a young Indian team devoid of a 24 year old national habit will travel to South Africa to take on the world's foremost Test team. It will be difficult no doubt but this Indian side with some feisty and pugnacious batsmen in their ranks does have the potential to stand up to the challenge posed by Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander. Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the order, Cheteshwar Pujara at Number 3, Virat Kohli at number 5 and Rohit Sharma at number 6 are all playing to build on reputations and credibility. They have done exceedingly well in the recent past and this is their final step to achieving greatness. Success in South Africa will elevate them to the pedestal reserved for the game's greats and make them into real success stories for future generations to emulate.
Finally to the number four position. As the second wicket falls we will for a fleeting second make the mistake of expecting the master to come out. He will no more. That, more than anything, will be the challenge for India's new number 4. Can he make the position his own? There's little doubt he is being asked to do the impossible. At the same time this is his best opportunity. Adversity brings out the best in a performer and the world will wait to see if India's new number 4 rises to the challenge.
As I said at the start of this piece, cricket has rarely had it better. What a period of action it promises to be!
Re: Life beyond Sachin Tendulkar
Always found it hard to train: Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar, who retired from international cricket after the second Test against West Indies last week, revealed he found it difficult to train. Known for striving for perfection, the former India batsman is the only one to have played 200 Tests and score 100 international centuries.
Tendulkar led by example not only on the field but also during training sessions, where several young cricketers have spoken of the senior batsman's attention to detail. However, Tendulkar has been a lot more candid after retiring, and admitted he ran "for the heck of it."
"I believed I could just pick up the bat and I should not worry about running laps and all that. I didn't really enjoy doing all those things but I knew that without all those things there was no survival. I had to do it so (I would) just run for the heck of it," Tendulkar told TV channel.
A smiling Tendulkar, training hard with his India and Mumbai teammates was a usual sight across several grounds in India and abroad. Despite owning almost every batting record in the book, the 40-year-old hardly missed out on optional practice sessions and was among the first to hit the ground rolling.
Training patters in Indian cricket have changed since 1989, when a 16-year-old Tendulkar made his debut against Pakistan. From proper uniform to various fielding drills and games of football, Tendulkar rode through the revolution and was even a keen participant with his far younger teammates. However, the former India captain said that for him, running hard had to have a purpose.
"I always thought that, you know, if I'm running then I should be scoring runs. If I'm not scoring runs then what's the point of running?
So I thought playing different sports was the best form of training because I like playing tennis, I like playing badminton. I like playing table tennis, a bit of football. You know, all those things and while doing that, if I'm running I don't mind," Tendulkar said.
Tendulkar once again reiterated how important the 2011 World Cup victory was for him. He had come close in 1996, when India had to concede the semi-final to Sri Lanka after crowd trouble at the Eden Gardens and 2003, when Sourav Ganguly's side lost to Australia in the final in Johannesburg. On both occasions, Tendulkar was the leading scorer in the tournament and had expressed dismay at missing out on the coveted trophy.
"It's difficult to live up to people's expectations. There comes a time that you have to figure out what is it that I am capable of, what is it that I want for myself... my dream was to win the World Cup for India. We came very close to winning in 2003, we lost in the finals.
"I thought there was another chance for us in 1996 when we lost in the semis. And finally in Mumbai, the World Cup was actually in my hands and that is what I wanted. When that actually turned into reality, life was different."