Sachin has finally retired ! 200 Tests , 100 Centuries , Maximum Runs , humble & down to earth , a great guy loved by all – All of this is true and unquestionable. Thank you Sachin for what you have done for Indian Cricket.
But what I question is the mad sycophancy that one has seen in the last few days culminating in the Bharat Ratna. Yes its true that he started his career in 1989 and over the last 24 years has grown with the generation that can be called the free economy generation. So he and a few Bollywood Khans are probably the only symbols that one can associate as mascots of India over the last 25 years.
I am going to analyse this rationally – because if you wear the emotional hat then you just join the crowd in the frenzy.
I belong to a generation that grew up seeing Sunil Gavaskar and I still remember him all of 5.5 Feet standing up to the WI tornadoes Marshall , Garner , Roberts & Holding – without even a helmet in the early years ( he later got a skull cap) and smashing them away. Few may recall that in his very first series in 1971 he scored 774 in the fast pitches of W Indies. Once Gavaskar & Vishwanath collapsed India collapsed. He played against the best bowlers of the world – not just the fearsome W Indies but Hadlee , Imran , Botham , Lillee , Thomson …. .I have seen Marshall and Imran at nets – they are so fast that all the batsmen see is a red blur whiz by.
Those were also the days when the pitches were not batsmen friendly – the ball swung and nipped & bounced. Almost all the pitches were unplayable. The protection was sparse and yet Gavaskar delivered match after match – and when he ended up at the pinnacle with an average of 51 + in Tests he retired at his peak graciously.Or compare this with the body-line series when the batsman had no refuge. The Question that comes to my mind is – If Gavaskar or Sobers had played in the Sachin era with the current bowlers and current pitches for 200 tests would they have not fared at par or better than Sachin ? The question I post is – In a game like cricket can you really compare and say X was the greatest when the conditions are never the same.
On skills , competency & attitude – Sachin scores highly. But for those who are avid cricket fans – Azhar, David Gower, Dada, Zaheer Abbas and even Laxman had the silken touch – their timing was sheer class. It was a pleasure to watch them play. When it comes to memorable innings I will always remember Kapil’s 175 not out against Zimbabwe and Gavaskars 221 not out at Oval – but I am trying to remember one Sachin innings that is etched in my memory. Yes Sachin has played many memorable innings with amazing shots – but he is not in the best in class when you compare him with the above. And not many of his centuries have helped India win matches.
Lets also look at Dravid – the gentleman from Bangalore. 164 Tests , 13288 runs , Average of 52.31 ( Sachin 53.79) – he is right there, just a notch behind. Sachin unlike Gavaskar was lucky to have great batsmen in his team – Sehwag gave the start , then there was Laxman , Saurav and Dravid to support the innings. I don’t recollect Saurav , Dravid , Laxman getting even 10 % of the accolades and send off that Sachin has got – Dravid at least was 90 % as good as Sachin. And Dravid the gentleman that he was did not drag on to round off his statistics ( Sachin 100 Centuries & 200 Tests does make even the best of fans feel like he dragged it on a bit too long for the perfect statistics). Add to this Rahul Dravid started his career in 1996 – 7 years after Sachin and if one were to compare the two between 1996 & 2012 it may be interesting to see if Dravid nipped Sachin on run aggregate & averages. And finally he was also a amicable guy liked by all and a good captain.
Even closer many have started comparing Kohli to Sachin stating that he will soon surpass Sachin. The angry young man seems to deliver whenever India has been in trouble. Kohli has over the years shown that he revels in India’s run chases. All his 11 hundreds batting second have come in an Indian win. He has been involved in as many as six 300-plus successful run chases and has scored centuries in five of them. On both the occasions in this series when India chased 350-plus targets, Kohli’s swashbuckling hundreds have been the common factor. Statistically speaking he is the fastest man to score 15 ODI hundreds and the fastest Indian to score 4000 ODI runs. Kohli became the first player to amass 1000 runs in the last three calendar years in ODIs i.e. 1381 in 2011, 1026 in 2012 and 1033 in 2013. En route his 115 not out, he also became the first batsman to record five successive innings of fifty-plus twice in ODIs. He had first achieved the feat in 2012.
Yet again an indication that with the no of matches being played and the batsmen friendly pitches – batting today is a lot easier than 20 years back. When you compare Sachin with Ponting , Kallis , Lara , Sangakara – the sad truth that emerges is that if all of them had been allowed to play for 200 matches they probably would have better statistics than Sachin. But Cricket Australia and most world Cricket bodies do not operate like BCCI.
Lets take one more point on leadership. If one person comes to my mind who embodies passion and leadership its Kapil Dev. His self belief and passion was so high that he took a team of underdogs to be world champions. Totally unexpected – leading from the front. Sachin in his 24 years delivered us one World Cup and I am not sure if he was among the lead architects or if this was more a Dhoni , Yuvraj and gang deliverable. Sachin’s record as captain is not at all good – he was Captain for 25 Tests , won only 4 , Lost 9. In ODI he captained India for 73 ODI’s , won 23 & lost 43.
I like Sachin – he is a great player , he is simple , honest and loved by all…..but would Sachin himself have wanted this sycophancy. When a Kumble says – “Sachin threatened my bowling” its just carrying it a bit too far. Does it not put him in a spot when he meets his team mates Dravid, Laxman & Saurav, Kumble the next time. And the vote hungry UPA – did they shoot the gun too fast. We are a country with a short memory , once Kohli starts piling runs the way he is , will the country not forget Sachin in a few summers ? If Sachin – then did Gavaskar & Kapil not merit the Bharat ratna ? Doesn’t a Ratan Tata who changed the lives of millions deserve this more. And V Anand who has been a world champion for so many years. Why not Amitabh Bacchan who has entertained millions !
In a recent leadership discussion at our company I had nominated a few people from a great team for the annual awards – the team leader immediately came and said I want to nominate team awards and not individual awards. He was right – Sachin is great , but at this moment we need to say that the gang of 4 were the best India has produced and they made us a great team. Not just one individual.