Players matter but team matters more

Published on Apr 03, 2004 12:31 AM IST

At one end of the scale was an astonishing individual achievement, something to cherish and celebrate, writes Pradeep Magazine.

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At one end of the scale was an astonishing individual achievement, something to cherish and celebrate. At the other, there was something even rarer -- a bold statement of changing times where individuals matter only as long as they have a collective identity and their personal aspirations can be sacrificed at the altar of the team's interests.

At Multan on Tuesday, Virender Sehwag, with his brutal, lethal, unorthodox batting broke the 300 barrier, something an Indian had never achieved so far. Salute the individual and celebrate the feat. But by the end of the day's play something much more meaningful happened: An Indian captain sacrificed an individual's interest in pursuit of victory.

What made that decision even more significant was the fact that, that individual happened to be Sachin Tendulkar. Such was the cascading affect of that stunning decision that the players in the team could not believe it was happening and the maestro himself chose to air his grievance in public.

One can understand why public sympathy lies with India's greatest living star, more so when they realised that Tendulkar himself was unhappy with what was done to him. Not only was he denied an opportunity to score his fourth double hundred but he was also denied the satisfaction of having scored a double against arch foes Pakistan.

What a pity! How mean can a captain be! What are a few minutes more in a game that is played for more than 1800 minutes. True. But what worth is a hundred, a double or even a triple hundred, if it does not help a team win. Words not mine. One has heard these words spoken by each and every Indian batsman whose big knock has failed to help his side win. Even the great Tendulkar has said this many a time and the last time one heard him say that is as recent as the Rawalpindi one-dayer, where he made a hundred but India still lost.

That is why it came as a surprise that Tendulkar, of all the people, expressed his displeasure at the declaration that left him stranded six runs short of a personal record. One can understand the disappointment but for a man who has kept himself away from any sort of controversy over the last 16 years, such a reaction is a bit odd.

Knowing the man, one is sure, he must have not realised that by expressing displeasure he is stirring a hornet's nest, especially in a nation that is obsessed with personal milestones and sees intrigue in almost everything  and nothing.

He is too big a man to belittle himself like this. Knowing his commitment to his craft and the team, he should be the first to realise that his team is trying to change many old perceptions. It is team that is playing with a new focus, the end goal of which is to make a serious effort to win.

In this new order, individuals do matter but the team matters more.

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    Before I come to the point, a bit of a preamble is required. Even at the best of times, the relationship between those who perform and those who write and pass judgments on them is tenuous. And at the worst of times, it is tense and edgy. Over the years, both have generally learnt to live with each other and not cross the line between being downright rude and extra respectful, writes Pradeep Magazine.

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