Will Sachin find his Eden?

Fo­cus will be on an out-of-form Sachin Ten­dulkar when In­dia take on Eng­land in the third Test

Hindustan Times (Patna) - - SPORT - Ni­lankur Das

KOLKATA: An over-en­thu­si­as­tic Eden Gar­dens crowd had once re­pented chant­ing “we want Sachin”. It was 13 years back, just be­fore tea on the fourth day when VVS Lax­man and Sadagop­pan Ramesh were tack­ling a dreaded Pak­istan pace bat­tery of Wasim Akram, Waqar You­nis and Shoaib Akhtar.

The stands ex­pected the match to fiz­zle out into a draw and see­ing the great man bat would be more value for money. But Sachin Ten­dulkar was con­tro­ver­sially run out. Eden erupted and the re­main­ing match was played in front of empty stands. Of course, In­dia lost, the last time the hosts went down in a Test at the venue.

STILL HOP­ING

Come Wed­nes­day, not just Eden, the whole coun­try would want Ten­dulkar to fire, al­beit the ris­ing voice call­ing for his re­tire­ment. But hav­ing lost Sourav Ganguly and then Rahul Dravid and Lax­man in quick suc­ces­sion, the In­dian mid­dle or­der is vul­ner­a­ble. Chetesh­war Pu­jara, just seven Tests old, has been on a roll, but ev­ery­one saw how fast things could change when that did not hap­pen a sec­ond time in Mum­bai. Vi­rat Kohli and Yu­vraj Singh are the oth­ers in the mid­dle or­der. The three of them put to­gether have played 58 Tests, Yu­vraj 39 of them spo­rad­i­cally since his de­but against New Zealand in 2003. Eng­land see an open­ing there.

In­dia skip­per Ma­hen­dra Singh Dhoni surely re­alises the vul­ner­a­bil­ity. "Pu­jara and Kohli are do­ing a good job. We don't need to put pres­sure on them," he said. Soon he ac­cepted the fact that more than be­fore, In­dia are now heav­ily de­pen­dent on their open­ers, Gautam Gambhir and Viren­der Se­hwag. "…we would want them to per­form to­gether," he said at the me­dia con­fer­ence on Tues­day.

All of th­ese fac­tors and the calm­ing pres­ence of Ten­dulkar makes him far from be­ing re­dun­dant in this team, at this junc­ture.

The way Ten­dulkar has been dis­missed in this se­ries has shown a pat­tern. He had closed the face of the bat early to spin­ners and paid the price. Eng­land coach Andy Flower's ap­point­ment of Cam­bridge math­e­mat­ics grad­u­ate and teacher at Eton, Nathan Lea­mon, as the head of video anal­y­sis, has been par­tially re­spon­si­ble for solv­ing the Ten­dulkar mys­tery. Eng­land's success against him when In­dia lost the se­ries 0-4 last year was re­port­edly par­tially due to sta­tis­ti­cal anal­y­sis that showed he scored mainly on the leg-side be­fore set­tling down.

Even in this se­ries, it seems Eng­land are cash­ing in on the same ‘flaw’. Ten­dulkar was caught at mid-wicket off Graeme Swann in the first Test in­tend­ing to hit over long-on but clos­ing the face early. In Mum­bai, on both oc­ca­sions he tried to play Monty Pane­sar against the turn on the leg-side. He was bowled in the first in­nings. In the sec­ond, he was trapped in front.

To­wards the end of 2003, in Aus­tralia, Ten­dulkar had faced a prob­lem. Ea­ger to play through the cov­ers, he was re­peat­edly get­ting out caught be­hind or leg­be­fore. In the same se­ries, in Syd­ney, Ten­dulkar put mat­ters to rest with an un­beaten 241.

Con­nois­seurs re­mem­ber that 10-hour knock for Ten­dulkar’s dis­ci­pline. Not once did he play through the cov­ers. It re­mains to be seen whether he still has the mo­ti­va­tion and reflexes to do that again.

Sourav Ganguly be­lieves he can. Eng­land skip­per Alas­tair Cook says only a fool would write some­one like Ten­dulkar off. Eden wants to wit­ness an­other epic bat­tle, with the lit­tle master as hero.

Sachin Ten­dulkar tests his tim­ing un­der the watch­ful eyes of coach Dun­can Fletcher at the Eden Gar­dens in Kolkata on Tues­day. Ten­dulkar has been hav­ing a lean run of late.

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