Sunday, Dec 14, 2003
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After losing a vital toss, Sourav Ganguly marshalled his inexperienced attack well enough to restrict the rampant Australian batting line-up to 556 under difficult circumstances. Ponting was the only one of the Australian top-order to go on after having made a start but he made it count for himself and his team.
An undermanned pace attack looked like being punished for a huge first innings total before the veteran Kumble showed his experience, and justified his selection, by persevering on the unhelpful pitch to keep the pressure on. His clever variety tested the middle order before he ran through the tail for a well-deserved five-wicket haul.
India's top order undermined a courageous bowling effort. Sehwag and Chopra wasted a bright start by contributing to their own dismissal with some loose shots. Tendulkar succumbed to his own demons rather than great bowling for another disappointing failure while the captain lost his wicket in the most galling of mix-ups with Dravid.
The good news for Indian cricket fans is that Sachin Tendulkar has not lost his talent. He has just lost his way. If he can regain his composure and his focus he will make Australia pay in this series and he will make many more runs for his country in Test cricket over the next few years.
Tendulkar looks to me like a man who is struggling to overcome his own doubts and fears and is consumed by anxiety that usually ruins focus and concentration. What exactly is concentration?
Concentration is the ability to focus on the important things at the right moment while blocking out the rest. Some things are more relevant than others at different times.
If Sachin has a weakness in his armoury some would say it is against quality fast bowling on the bouncy wickets of Australia. If that is true it doesn't make him Robinson Crusoe! Quality fast bowling on bouncy wickets at one time or another has troubled all good players.
As the pre-eminent batsman of his time Tendulkar is always targeted by the opposition and has been tested on innumerable occasions. He has come out on top more often than not and his successes have usually carried India's fortunes with them.
Perhaps the pressure of feeling he has been on his own has finally caught up with him and is preventing him from getting into the state of mental relaxation that has allowed him to make so many runs in all forms of the game.
Few of Tendulkar's predecessors have played as much one-day cricket as he has and few, including Bradman, have had to endure the pressure of mass adulation at home as he has.
The fact that he has endured the adulation, and the pressure of expectation of one billion fans, and has been able to maintain his equilibrium and his passion for the game is a great credit to he and his parents who obviously set an excellent foundation for him.
He cannot last forever, so I make every effort to see him bat whenever I can for he is a rare gem, the like of which does not come along very often. Like all other fans I have been disappointed with his brief innings so far in this series but I expect to see him make some big scores before the series has concluded. He just has to get out of his own way to allow it to happen.
India's fortunes for the remainder of this tour will no doubt parallel the vicissitudes of the Little Master's fortunes. What he must acknowledge for his own mental well-being is that he does not have to do it all by himself.
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