It used to be a pleasure to watch Sachin Tendulkar bat, the joy of witnessing the shots that flowed as he took the attack to the bowlers, constantly challenging them to maintain line and length under fire.
At the moment it's painful to witness his prodding and poking as he seeks to eke out his 100th century. Whereas he took the attack to a top-class leg-spinner in Shane Warne and won the battle of Chennai in 1998, he fiddled with a trundler like Marlon Samuels and the steady Devendra Bishoo in Kolkata.
In his prime, those two West Indies spinners wouldn't have been able to contain Tendulkar. He wouldn't have allowed either a minute's peace with his quick footwork and more importantly, an attitude which exuded, “No bowler shackles me”.
It wasn't just Warne, he challenged all the best bowlers. He especially enjoyed antagonising the metronomic magician Glenn McGrath. At times, he deliberately provoked him into bowling aggressively, a frame of mind from which McGrath derived the least success. So why is Tendulkar suddenly allowing a trundler to tie him down?
It was quite revealing the other day to read where Tendulkar felt he couldn't forgo a practice session to rest because the adoring Indian public would blame any failure on indifference. He’s always appealed as an attention to detail person when it came to batting but I could never understand his desire to hit so many meaningless balls in the nets. Most of the class players I've seen practiced diligently but never excessively.
This was always a major point of difference between Brian Lara and Tendulkar. Lara cared about his batting and thought very deeply about the process of making big scores quickly but he wasn't obsessed by practicing his skills. He was also able to enjoy his life away from the field, whereas Tendulkar, again, probably not wanting to give a demanding public a reason to criticise him, has lived the life of a monk. It's difficult to say how much a demanding and clamouring public has affected the way Tendulkar batted over the years. However, there's no doubt that he's sacrificed personal satisfaction for success.
One of the more incredible aspects of Lara's career was the way he batted in the same manner throughout. It's hard not to wonder how much of the conservative approach is Tendulkar's desperation to record the milestone for his own satisfaction and what portion for his fans. For once, Tendulkar should try forgetting his fans and play in his preferred style.