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Sachin and the T20 format


I will be honest. I am not a fan. Don’t get me wrong, I am not going to flip channels if I chance across it, but I refuse to skip my lunch for one. Yes, I am not all that impressed with this latest mutant of that most laid back of a once-upon-a-time English game.


For me, it is just sad to see batting greats, the indomitable gladiators who have conquered everything there is to in the cauldron of cricket, hang their heads in shame if they happen to shoulder arms to a peach that pitches just short of length, in line with the off-stump and moves away, ever so slightly. Takes skill, people. And courage. Artists with the willow who used to display such supreme judgement are reduced to caricatures who are expected to swipe and poke at anything in leather. Miscues to the third man and French cuts have been legitimised and heavily patronised in cricket’s latest lexicon.  The ‘straight elbows’ and ‘getting behind the line of the delivery’ are passé.  That, along with many a charming cricketing tradition seems to be heading to extinctsville in a blitz of dilscoops and switch hits.

Okay, so now that the premise is firmly set, allow me to expound on why Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar should skip the T20 World Cups (but wait, didn’t we just have one before this month's edition?  Pakistanis won it no? Before they all got sacked. But I guess the open bus celebration was cancelled. In Pakistan. For obvious reasons.) Well, I guess you can call it a World Cup because Afghanistan participated, among other things.

There is a lot of clamor for Sachin to reconsider his decision from former greats and the great unwashed alike. Some are even browbeating him into make himself available for selection and not shun his “national duties” by working up the old jingoism. Well, the racket for Sachin to return to national colors in fast-food cricket is understandable, and to an extent, justified. At 37, Sachin is just refusing to come out of that most purple of patches he has hit. The carefree abandon with which he plays these days is just an absolute joy to watch. But that in itself does not warrant a forced enlistment.

Was he not clear from the very beginning? Evidently Sachin did not see himself fitting into cricket’s latest abridgement.  He probably discounted it in 2007, along with the rest of senior citizens in the squad, but his logic was unflappable in 2009- that he did not want to disturb a winning combination. But personally, I believe Sachin Tendulkar is beyond it. Or to be a little more bigoted, T20 is beneath him. Okay, so he wants to play in the next IPL. But not even the most Texan of cricket lovers would equate IPL to cricket. It’s a decent impostor and at times does pass for cricket, but it’s nowhere close to the genuine item, really. Sachin’s motivation for playing in the IPL could be anything from a lucrative retirement plan to tinkering with a format he has never taken seriously.  

Remember when a rag-tag bunch of youngsters, after a very strange tour of England, went to SA to play in the inaugural T20 World Cup? Remember when Dhoni, flowing mane and all, lifted the trophy that sent a grateful nation into unprecedented hysteria? Remember the irreverence? The brashness? It was in keeping with the format.  I would like to believe that Sachin’s stand is because of the fact that he refuses to display the impertinence T20 demands, while donning the national colours. He respects the game too much to do to it what the switch hitters are doing to it.

There is another rationale that only devoted practitioners of Sachinism can relate to. This conjecture is purely fan-speak and nothing to do with the Great One himself. T20 has arrived a touch too late for him. There is not enough time left in the game for him to notch up those records.  It just wouldn’t fit with his Test/ODI stats. It is quite conceivable that those numbers are here to stay. To achieve what he has, consistently over a period of two decades, will certainly take some doing. Until that happens, some of us want to be able to go back to those record books, and return with contented smiles. Sachin is at peace with his decision of being the Gary Sobers of T20 cricket. Let’s let him be.

The author is an Indian Cricket fan from Hyderabad.

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