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Its’s Now Or Never For Tendulkar
Mega Star Aims To Claim Elusive Winners Medal

By Orin Davidson
Without a major title to highlight a sparkling career, Sachin Tendulkar has one last chance to make himself God of all Indian sportsmen in the current Champions Trophy series.

India are hosting the competition for the first time but it will be the final chance for Tendulkar to help his country win a global title at home.

In the World Cup - the biggest of all tournaments India hosted it twice, in 1996 and 1987, only managing semi-final finishes on both occasions.

Tendulkar was majestic in the last staging in 1996, scoring a phenomenal 523 runs from seven matches, but it remains an individual achievement. It did not bring his country the World Cup.

The next Cup will be staged in India in 2011, but by that time Tendulkar will most likely not be around, so he has to make the most of the next big thing to the 2007 World Cup — this year’s Champions Trophy.

And there will be no room for slip-ups.

Tendulkar will need all the support he did not get in the 1996 World Cup to satiate the millions of Indian fans who will demand nothing less than a title triumph in the last big competition for the great majority, who will not see him perform again in such mega events on home turf.

Given the magnitude of the occasion the mega-star batsman is not likely to disappoint anyone. He has the temperament to perform on the big occasion and this will be the grandest of present day occasions, for him simple because the Champions Trophy is being staged in India.

The question is whether he will get the necessary support from the likes of Rahul Dravid, Virendra Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Mohamed Kaif, Dinesh Mongia and the rest of the batting cast and bowling lineup.

Make no mistake about it, if it boils down to a batting contest with any of the Group A opponents, India will be more than a match for any including Australia.

Tendulkar has always produced the goods at home, especially against the world champions even if he is now 33 years old and just off a long injury layoff.

Dravid is a proven class act - there are no ifs or buts about that. He has scored runs against all opposition in all types of difficult circumstances.

The only drawback is whether the pressure will get to him as captain in his first major assignment at home. In the West Indies he did very well when it mattered most during the Tests towards the end.

After failing with the bat in the One dayers which India went on to lose, Dravid stood up to everything West Indies had to offer thereafter, with a number of crucial half centuries and one vital ton to guide India to a gratifying Test series win after 36 years in the Caribbean.

He has the potential to get the job done, regardless of the team’s failure in Malaysia.
But, more important than the contributions of the two big names, the supporting cast has to show up.

It is vitally important Sehwag assumes his proper place at the top of the innings with Tendulkar. His aggressive nature is tailor-made for the shorter form of the game and when he gets going, Sehwag could destroy any attack. But he needs to develop rhythm in his innings which is easier for him with the freedom to attack during field restrictions early in the innings, and against the bowling at its quickest. With him not being a batsman of much footwork, the Right- hander from Delhi finds himself most vulnerable When having to build his innings on defense, most often after the slow bowlers are on.

When he batted down in the order in Malaysia, the runs dried up as a result and predictably India failed. Coach Greg Chappell must realize that over-experimenting with the order could backfire like it did in the DLF Cup which should force him to retain the status quo here onwards.

He has tried Dhoni and Irfan Pathan among other past gambling moves in the opening slots, but it means nothing if the success is not attained in the big tournaments.

Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh endured tough times in the West Indies and Malaysia, but they can produce the goods at home on familiar pitches and similar weather. The onus will be on Chappell and company to up these players’ motivational levels by giving them the confidence to repeat come up big like they are accustomed to on home turf. On evidence in the DLF Cup, Mongia seemed a wasted talent these past few years, although possessing the temperament for high level competition. He must be given a starting place to give the batting that extra edge.

Should this order perform to expectations the bowling will only require a 60 percent performance to take India all the way.

With regard to Munaf Patel, it should be realized by now he has done enough to earn the strike bowler mantle and it is a forgone conclusion he would hold his own. Harbhajan Singh is now serving justice to his enormous potential at home and away. These days the Indian authorities do not have to prepare tailor-made pitches for him anymore as he could produce all on his own in both forms of the game. As for Ajit Agarkar, another paceman good enough to be in the Test team, and Pathan they only need to maintain their roles as support bowlers to give their country the best chance of attaining that elusive goal.

In a recent interview with the Hindustan Times, Tendulkar said everything else in his life including his family and businesses usually take a back seat to cricket. “In 1990 we met for the first time and yes, then she didn’t know A, B, C of cricket,” he said about his wife Angali. “But 17 years is a long time to learn. She understands the game completely now and is very involved. In fact, more than my skill being put to test when I bat it is her nerves that take the strain. She gets really tense and can’t move; she doesn’t even drink water or eat while I am batting. She has played a momentous role in my life and I can’t imagine an existence without her. She is the only one who understands me, she knows when I am stressed, when I am happy or when I am disappointed and knows just what to do. I share all my thoughts with her since she is my support system. Coming second to cricket? I think she has tolerated it all. She is a gold medalist pediatrician but she’s given up her career for me. It’s not easy handling the pressure that comes from being my wife, handling the home front since I am always traveling, bringing up the kids... She has never complained,” the player reportedly explained.

Such testimony says a lot about Tendulkar’s extreme dedication to his profession especially in the modern era where English players and others have to be given time off to witness the birth of their children. On his two children, the master batsman knows he has a long way to go to make up for when he eventually draws the curtains on his career. “Sara will soon be nine and is quite mature, never complains. But Arjun is not yet seven and often gets upset. Each time I have to go away he becomes quiet, or doesn’t talk to me normally,” the batsman stated.

Now at 33 years old with four World Cups and two Champions Trophy competitions under his belt, Tendulkar knows more than anyone else, that the time to break the drought of the missing winners medal is now.

And there is no better place to hang it around his neck than at home in Mumbia, the city of his birth.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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