Friday, 4 January, 2008

Sublime Genius and the Master Class

There was a time in late eighties, when Boris Becker likened the centre court at Wimbledon to his own backyard. Anyone would, given his fantastic record there. Dilip Vengsarkar spoke of rolling the Lords pitch and carrying it back to his hometown, Mumbai, after notching his third consecutive century in the Mecca of cricket. Sunil Gavaskar was so enamored of Port of Spain, that he dedicated a whole chapter – Trinidad, I Love You – in his autobiographical account, Sunny Days.

Sydney Cricket Ground would certainly hold a similar place in the hearts of VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar.

Sublime genius
There have been very few 'Stylists' in Indian cricket over the past 75 years like ML Jaisimha, GR Vishwanath, Mohammad Azharuddin, to name a few. Outside India, I can think of only handful of players in last three decades or so, who could be called thus. David Gower, Roy Dias (Sri Lanka) and Mark Waugh spring to the mind immediately. All these players batted with such grace and finesse that they transcended the clichés used to describe their stay on the batting crease.

Even by their majestic standards, VVS Laxman stands tall, a cut above the rest and in a class of his own.

On the second day at SCG, he showed why he is the most elegant player and an impeccable timer of cricket ball. Every ball that he caressed with his magical willow, seem to suggest that there is much more to batting than just proper technique and diligence. How else could one play a ball, wide outside the offstump, to the mid wicket fence with a simple flick of wrist? Or the one pitched up, anywhere behind the bowler to the cover region? He makes batting look so ridiculously easy that lesser mortals could be excused for thinking it as all about padding up and walking to the crease, with a bat in hand.

To talk about the match situation and analyse his innings in this post would be doing a disservice to his genius. We will leave it for some other time.

But I would like to quote the Moghul Emperor Jahangir, who when so enchanted by the beauty of Kashmir valley, exclaimed:

Gar firdaus, Ruhe zamin ast, Hamin asto, Hamin asto, Hamin asto.
(If there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here).

In cricketing parlance, if there was a great exhibition of batsmanship; it was on the second day at SCG.

Then again, one can say that for most of 'VVS Laxman special' innings!

The Master Class
Welcome back, Sachin Tendulkar. You could not have chosen a more appropriate venue to signal the return of the 'original' little master.

It was the same venue, where you hit a patient double century, four years ago. (Such woeful was your form prior to the 'Steve Waugh farewell' test, that captain Saurav Ganguly took an unprecedented step of batting at number 4 in the second innings of Melbourne test, ostensibly to shield you!) That double ton certainly helped in ending the unusually long drought of runs you were going through, but it also left behind a trail of defensive mindset, which you carried over for next four long years.

The sight of Sachin Tendulkar playing a Dravidesque innings was something, many of your fans, including yours truly, could never digest.

Whether it was your injury, or the larger team plan, or something else, we would never know, but you were stubborn in refusing to let your old avtaar take over. Although we had an occassional glimpse of aggression, like in the second test against South Africa at Durban, it was never quite same as in the series opener against same oponents, six years ago.

Still, much against our hopes, we were hoping that you would come good in Australia, the ultimate place for a cricketer to succeed. It was also to be your last hurrah in the land of World Champions. Your form in England was a good indicator to that. Even more heartening was the intent you showed in the practice match, preceeding the Boxing Day test. MCG kept the hope flickering. And Sidney Cricket Ground finally saw your reincarnation.

Gone was the tentative plodding and poking, replaced instead, with a full authoritative face of the bat, both in attack and defence. The lofted shot, which you so effectively used against the great Shane Warne in 1998, was back and so was the upper cut, way over the third man. More importantly, out went the paddle sweep, which had forced you into holding back those glorious drives and square cuts, under the false pretext of safety.

This is the Sachin Tendulkar we know, we love and have grown watching with.

Thank you for these memorable moments, Sachin. It has been a previledge watching you bat at the SCG.


scorpicity said...

Whoa CG... that was some tribute. Apart from ganguly's 150 the last time around, have very faint memories in what happened then... thanks for jogging it back.

Golandaaz said...

It is interesting that you would link Wimbledon and Becker when Wimbledon itself has flirted more with the Borgs, Samprases and now Frederer. But indeed Becker and Wimbledon, VVS and Sydney, Azhar and Eden, Vengsarkar and Lords are standout relationships for they brought out the best in these players. These were places that transformed these otherwise adequate sportsmen into super athletes.

Ottyan said...

VVS- sublime genius-absolutely.
CG, excellent tribute.

Soulberry said...

Something very special is reserved for a select few, and Laxman's choice is Australia. He refuses to dilute his affection for Australia and by distributing his riches to one and all.

But it isn't as if he is a churlish miser or a possessive lover...other teams too have had a chance to enjoy his wizardry.

Straight Point said...

excellent tribute to both masters...

but though i am bigger fan of sachin...l liked and enjoyed more of VVS century...

i todays world of power hitting and batting he is sooo different...he hits the ball as if there is life in it and will get hurt...and ball to reciprocate his generosity and runs towards boundary almost in enjoyment...!!!

scorpicity said...

CG, you gone missing?

CresceNet said...

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Cricket Guru said...

Thank you all for your comments and good words.

1985 was the first time I saw Wimbledon and Boris Becker was etched in my memory forever. His rivalry and contests with Stephen Edberg was something we friends always looked forward to. I don't know the reason, but we also hated Ivan Lendl and were very happy when he failed to win a single championship at Wimbledon or when he failed to overtake Jimmy Connors in retaining his top seeding for the longest duration! :)

Thanks for reminding Azhar/Eden Garden combo.


I may stretching it a bit too far, but as parallel to VVS in tennis, can you think of anyone better than Ramesh Krishnan?

I just pictured the cricket ball leaving VVS' bat and racing merrily to the boundary. Somehow, it was an animated version. Let your imagination run wild. It's funny

Vidooshak said...

CG --- The Mac of tennis was much more of an artist than Ramesh, but Ramesh was up there too.

Thanks for constructing this excellent post. You are good, real good at this.

Cricket Guru said...

Thanks, Vidooshak.

Good to have you on CaAT.

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