Nagpur. Kuala Lumpur. Now, Belfastpur. Ok. Belfast.
Three cities as different from each other as chalk and youtube.com. But each of them having one thing in common. In all three places Sachin Tendulkar has scored innings over the last two years that took us back to his younger, bolder days. And confused us.
For months, you see a scrappy version of the young Tendulkar. You see a rock star that has cut out the energy and the pomp and who only does unplugged now. You start believing that his best – at least his flamboyance – is behind him. You start believing that he should quit before his lustre fades.
Then he slips in a vintage knock. Or two, as he did in Ireland over the last few days.
In the opening match of the 2005 season, India took on Sri Lanka in Nagpur. It was Tendulkar’s first match in six months after having been sidelined by tennis elbow. He played a fiery, nostalgic innings of 93. His fans smiled. “He is back,” they thought.
Then Tendulkar went back into a shell.
Kuala Lumpur 2006. The DLF Cup against the West Indies. Tendulkar had entered the event with form and health circumspect. But he surprised us, like he had done in Nagpur, with an innings rich in adventure and runs - a 142-ball 148 which was his 40th One-day century.
And now this. Two 90-plus efforts against a difficult opponent like South Africa in seaming conditions like Ireland. These arrived in the aftermath of perhaps the most disappointing stretch in his long career. Tendulkar’s failure at the World Cup, especially the blob in the must-win match against Sri Lanka, had convinced even his admirers that perhaps the time had come for him to retire.
What now? How are we supposed to feel about Tendulkar? Should we be reasonable and not expect him to play the way he used to now that he is 34? But then, if he could play like that in Nagpur, Kuala Lumpur and Belfast, surely we are right in expecting him to have played that way in the World Cup?
It will help if Tendulkar himself explains the mystery of his once common, now sporadic displays of attacking batting. He has responded with defiance whenever he has been asked about the defensive approach he has generally adopted in the latter half of his career. “This is how it’s going to be after years of wear and tear and injury,” has been the gist of what he has said. But he has never addressed why, if he can be strokeful once, he refuses to be anything but that the next game.
Think about it Sachin. In the meantime, we hope for the good times to continue in Sunday’s game.
Long lost brothers?