I've seen it before and, boy, isn't it great to watch? Those were my sentiments when Sachin Tendulkar presented a gem of an innings before an appreciative New Zealand audience. Sure, the home crowd does want the home team to win but it knows enough about sport to understand that seeing a genius at work is a rare sight. Without having the anxiety of an opposition player eager to get him out, or of a coach hoping that he doesn't, I reflected on what set Sachin apart.
Sure, the boundaries were cruelly short and the New Zealand bowlers bowled badly enough to deserve that fate but what made Sachin Tendulkar's batting special was his deftness of touch. In a power game, he innovates and improvises and does not merely bludgeon the cricket ball. Far too often, even during my time with the Indian team, Sachin's ability and genius has been questioned. On Sunday, we saw the danger of writing off a genius because the gifts he possesses might not shine as often as they do but, when they come to the fore, everybody else seems mortal.
Unfortunately for the Indians, Sachin is not going to be part of Game Four thanks to a bruised muscle. The extent of damage is not known but I am sure the Indians are hoping that he is well mended for the Test series.
After his superlative knock, Sachin said that the current batting line-up was the best he has ever played with. I would have to say that this line-up has more firepower than its predecessors, including the one that took India to the final of the 2003 World Cup.
There are match-winners right through the batting line-up, with Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and, of course, Sachin, all capable of turning a game around. The strike rates of these guys, which are pretty stratospheric, will bear me out.
More significantly, there is a positive aggression in the side, which makes everybody want to take the team across the finish line instead of leaving it to others. However, all is not perfect for the Indians on the field. Their fielding in the first 20 overs was pretty appalling, and Gary Kirsten and his boys would know whether this was a case of complacency. For a side to achieve a high level of consistency, it has to maintain the intensity with both bat and ball.
For the Kiwis, they must find a way to make early inroads into the Indian batting. They need to take two-three wickets so as to put some pressure on the middle order, otherwise the next game might see them lose a chance of at least squaring the series. Gameplan