The fortunes of the Indian cricket team have long since been associated with the form of Sachin Tendulkar. For as long as one can remember, whenever India has had a big match coming up, the pundits have all agreed that it will boil down to the performance of Tendulkar. If Sachin Tendulkar clicks, India has a chance.
But here at the ICC Champions Trophy, India have won three consecutive matches and have reached the final of this twelve-nation tournament, but Sachin Tendulkar has had very little, if any, role to play.
Tendulkar got out cheaply against both Zimbabwe and South Africa. In the match against England, he remained unbeaten with nine as India overhauled the target of 272.
What's the reason for this indifferent form of the great player in such an important tournament? Perhaps he has not had a fair chance to come and score the runs as Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly have been quite impressive at the top of the order. Maybe he is not so comfortable batting at the number four position since majority of his 33 one-day hundreds have come as an opener. Perhaps he is just bored with all this surfeit of cricket.
In the Natwest one-day series in England recently, Tendulkar scored two hundreds---one each against England and Sri Lanka-coming in at number four in the batting order. So that should mean number four is fine with him.
Captain Sourav Ganguly has not even given a thought to this lack of runs from Tendulkar. Now the team has so many young performers that even if Tendulkar does not click, there is still a good chance of the side winning.
In the opening match against Zimbabwe when Douglas Hondo ran through the top order, Mohd Kaif came in at number 7 and scored a century. In the next match against England, both the openers -- Sehwag and Ganguly -- blasted hundreds and no one else was required to do much. In the semi-final against South Africa, Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Rahul Dravid all performed and Tendulkar was not missed all that much.
"I'm not at all concerned about Tendulkar's form. He is such a great player that I'm sure he will produce something spectacular in the final," said Ganguly.
Of course, Tendulkar is a great player. But he is not accustomed to the spotlight not being on him. He has been the centre of attention in Indian cricket for very long now. But here he has had to remain somewhere along the sidelines, with youngsters like Sehwag and Yuvraj hogging all the limelight.
Will this urge of being the pillar of Indian batting spur Tendulkar in the final on Sunday? Will the great batsman produce another century in the most important match of the Champions Trophy? Or will Sehwag once again overshadow the man he copies so much?