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HindustanTimes Thu,31 Jul 2014

Cricket Columns

Desire to dominate made him
Ian Chappell
December 25, 2012
First Published: 01:26 IST(25/12/2012)
Last Updated: 10:17 IST(25/12/2012)

Former opening batsman and journalist Jack Fingleton titled his book recalling the 1948 Australia's tour of UK; "Brightly fades the Don."

While Fingleton describes (Sir) Donald Bradman's exit from cricket thus, Sachin Tendulkar's announcement that he's retiring from just the ODI form of the game conjures up thoughts of a title; "Sachin fades slowly."

Tendulkar's ODI career will be memorable for many things; becoming the first man to reach the double-century mark, scoring many more runs and centuries than anyone else and fulfilling his dream by playing in a winning World Cup team in 2011.

Right attitude
However, the thing I remember most was his attitude. At his peak he was prepared to dominate any bowler and there were plenty of very good ones in the game.

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In particular, I recall him going after Glenn McGrath a couple of times, working on the theory that the lanky quick was at his most vulnerable when provoked.

Tendulkar deliberately hit him back over his head early in the innings and when McGrath retaliated by delivering yorkers and bouncers, the little master knew he'd achieved his aim.

Taking on the best
It was this desire to dominate bowlers, not just any old trundler but the very best of them, which epitomised his batting for much of his career.

There were times when this urge waned and it appeared he was nearing the end but then in 2009 he went on another remarkable spree of batting dominance.

In a 12-month period he scored three centuries at better than a run a ball, remarkable not just for the skill but also the stamina.

As an aging player in the crucible of 50-over cricket, to score 163, 175 and then 200 is a superhuman feat and a tribute to his desire to continue playing at an elite level.

The 175 in the Hyderabad heat against Australia was a mammoth knock in a losing cause but it was a sign of even better things to come.

In Gwalior, he reached the batting pinnacle of the format; the first man to score a double century and in doing so, he conquered South Africa and Dale Steyn, one of the best fast bowlers in the world.

It was this desire to achieve what no one else had done, to conquer the best bowlers that made him stand out as a batsman. It is these urges that keep driving him on now, as a Test player only.

Tough call
Tendulkar's decision to retire is hard to fathom. If it's done with a view to prolong his Test career, it may be a forlorn hope. He's only played a handful of ODI games since the 2011 World Cup final and yet he's still struggled in Test cricket.

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It's a wonderful gift to have that urge to be the best, to dominate the opposition, and it has provided great entertainment for millions.

The difficult part for a champion is knowing when those instincts are a thing of the past and what's left is a mundane struggle.


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