Cricket

Can Tendulkar keep his tryst with destiny?

INFLUENTIAL STARS: India's cause would be well served if Sachin Tendulkar plays at his masterly best, while Dale Steyn and Angelo Mathews would be expected to deliver for South Africa and Sri Lanka.  

On the biggest stage in the cricketing world, a galaxy of players will stride forward while nursing a burning passion deep inside to win the ICC World Cup and add gold-dust to their legacies.

A few players will have a bigger impact on the manner in which their teams proceed once the tournament commences on February 19. A random look at the game-changers....

SACHIN TENDULKAR

It was perhaps pre-ordained that except for Sir Don Bradman's average of 99.94, Sachin Tendulkar would possess every possible batting record in the game's history.

Tendulkar's resume is not complete though as there are two summits that he is yet to scale: Brian Lara's unbeaten 400 in Tests and the exhilaration of being part of a team that won the World Cup. The first peak is not impossible to scale for a man who has defied the march of time so far, but the prospect of traipsing past the second challenge is entirely dependent on his and the team's form.

Since 1992, Tendulkar has been part of five World Cups and he has witnessed diverse spectacles — melt-downs in 1992, 1999 and 2007 and the last-stage heart-break in 1996 and 2003. Already the drumbeats have echoed across the nation. ‘Do it for him, get the Cup,' is the refrain.

Amidst all this speculation over this probably being his last World Cup, Tendulkar has remained inscrutable. In Bangalore now for a mini-preparatory camp, Tendulkar is solely focused on the tournament and that meant book launches and an awards function were skipped. Ironically the books were about him!

While anointing Tendulkar as one of the leading lodestones of the World Cup's latest edition, there is no loony sentimentalism at work. In his last 10 ODI innings spread over 15 months, Tendulkar has scored 635 runs at an average of 79.37 with the peaks being the poignant 175 against Australia at Hyderabad and the unbeaten 200 against South Africa at Gwalior.

Batting's leading exponent has obviously turned the clock back but whether he and his teammates can make us whisper 2011 in the same breath as 1983, will be known over the next few weeks.

ANGELO MATHEWS

Angelo Mathews may lack the halo of Tendulkar and the menace of Steyn but there is no mistaking his malleable ability; both as a batsman and as a bowler that will help Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara strike a balance with his team composition.

Mathews, the big-hitting lower order batsman and the crafty bowler, has been a handy player for Sri Lanka over the past few years. He has the ability to clear the ropes with minimal fuss and that comes in handy during the Power Play overs.

As a bowler, he remains a crafty operator. Lacking the extreme pace of Lasith Malinga, Mathews makes up with subtle variations and even peddles the slow bouncer to unsettle batsmen.

In ODIs, the all-rounder has scored 702 runs with a strike-rate of 83.07 and has grabbed 27 wickets with an economy rate of 4.63.

The bits-and-pieces players have always been critical to Sri Lanka's progress and the 1996 champion has a proven multi-skilled player in Mathews. The all-rounder struck a winning 77 against Australia at Melbourne in November and has largely shown the ability to stay calm under pressure.

Sri Lanka is the only co-host to have won the World Cup, though at Lahore in 1996, and players like Mathews have to fire if the Emerald Island is to nurse its dreams of a repeat act.

DALE STEYN

Speed and swing on sub-continental pitches are generally considered to be as elusive as water in the Sahara Desert.

It is an overwhelming stereotype that gets reiterated every year but in 1983, Malcolm Marshall did knock down Sunil Gavaskar's bat at Kanpur and many bowlers ranging from the great Kapil Dev to England's Neil Foster at Madras in 1985 have found their share of swing that destroys batsmen.

Yet the pitches do become props that boost the batsman's self-esteem while the fast bowler who bends his back will find some purchase.

Clear danger

Dale Steyn is indeed a clear and present danger for batsmen all over the world and it is a threat that was amply visible in the recent ODI series back home in which the South African, along with his seam partner Morne Morkel, stifled the Indians.

South Africa won the series 3-2 and Steyn's eight wickets at an economy rate of 3.7 runs per over, along with Morkel's 12 at 3.7, proved too strong a stumbling block for the Indians.

Steyn has evolved over the years and his mix of speed and swing can test all batsmen.

A year ago at Nagpur, Steyn destroyed the famous Indian batting line-up with a match-haul of 10 for 108 in the first Test.

Interestingly on March 12, Steyn will be back at the venue as India and South Africa will clash in a crucial World Cup game.

Along with Morkel, Steyn has forged a potent bond and his ability to knock out opening batsmen will be critical to South Africa's march in the tournament.


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Printable version | Jan 24, 2022 5:21:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/Can-Tendulkar-keep-his-tryst-with-destiny/article15444182.ece

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