Why should he be, anyway? Obvious with Tendulkar so close to the mark, he would be bound to get it some day or other; this test or the next. His getting the landmark or not would not really alter the context of the match and this is a line of thinking that has become popular among Indian fans very recently. I am not shooting in thin air about this; it is not as if I went and took a straw poll in Hyderabad but I have a lot of friends / collegues with whom I talk cricket every day and I base my opinion on what I hear from them. Some people love him and some hate him; but his 10,000th run is not as important to them as the result of the Kolkatta test is. That is a good sign.
I read an article in the Indian Express today - by Harsha Bhogle - about not getting fixated with Sachin's 35th ton etc. It was a very sensible article; nothing mindblowing about it coz it stated what many of us think. However, I was surprised at the direct way of writing this politically incorrect truth. The link is here - http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=66701. What made me like this article more than I would generally (if not for this I might have dismissed it with a sneer) is the reference to ESPN-STAR. Harsha is among the team at ESPN-STAR who r always at the forefront of leading the hosannas for SRT; they just don't praise him; they worship him and woe to those who even appear critical of him. I remember in a series in South Africa some years back when Sehwag was new in the team (he played his first test in South Africa and scored a ton if I remember correct; SRT too scored a ton in that match ... the Mike Denness series, if u still need some memory refeshing), there was this program after the first ODI where SRT scored well and a caller from India asked the experts on ESPN-STAR if Sehwag should open regularly for India instead of Tendulkar (Sehwag was fresh from his exploits in Sri Lanka and SRT was coming back from injury, I think). I think Gavaskar seriously risked his life that day by listening to the question - he went blue / red / purple, his blood pressure soared and he was almost biting back swear words as he answered the caller. He didn't answer the caller as much as rant and rave about "people wanting to replace a match winner like Tendulkar ... who has 30 odd hundreds ... blah blah ... Sehwag has just started his career and how can someone compare him to Tendulkar ... some people have no idea of cricket ... they just want to comment for sakes of commenting ... blah blah blah". I don't know if it was the same match or a different one where Ravi Shastri (also on ESPN-STAR) made a comment about Sehwag not being fit to tie SRT's shoelaces.
Fit to tie his shoelaces? Fit to tie his phucking shoelaces? The man has scored a lot of runs and no doubt is a great player but he is only a cricket player, for god sakes. How can someone degrade another human being by wondering if he is fit to tie SRT's shoelaces? Is Shastri fit to tie SRT's shoelaces? Is Gavaskar worthy enough? Tell me, I really want to know.
The caller was probably some middle class cricket fan from India (calls were charged locally, if I remember correct; they re-routed the calls to the studio in South Africa) who works a regular 9-5 shift every day and enjoys sitting back and watching SRT / Sehwag etc play great cricket. Does he deserve to get that kind of answer for a simple question - should Sehwag open in place of Tendulkar? Just coz Sunil Gavaskar has made 10,000 test runs and is called the "little master" and Ravi Shastri was once the "champions of champions", they can run their mouths off at anyone who dares comment on cricket and differs from their opinion about darling Tendulkar?
I remember Harsha too was in the commentary box at this time and he looked totally bewildered by the emotions showed by Gavaskar (as I said, I don't remember if Shastri said his comment in the same match or the next ... it was in the same series, I remember) and was speechless for a couple of seconds before making a very weak comment about "very strong sentiments here from Sunny" and quickly going to the next caller.
Man, that was a massive rant from the Chuckster and I just might avoid my next stroke coz of releasing that pent up frustration. What I basically wanted to say was - I liked Harsha's article more because of his comment admitting overdoing it even at ESPN-STAR. Hats off to Harsha for that comment.
Personally on the 10,000 run landmark, taken as a form of achievement over his career, it is something to be proud about, even for Sachin haters. It takes bloody hard work to score 10,000 test runs and all of us who have struggled to score 50 in galli matches would testify to that. However, to glorify Tendulkar's cricket of today (as in the last couple of years - comments like "he IS a great player" and "he IS a naturally attacking batsman and "he IS a genius, no doubts about that") on the basis of that mark would be foolhardy. The man who made most of those 10,000 runs disappeared from public view a long time back, leaving behind his shadow. Praise the man, not the shadow.
I felt sorry for SRT today, though I am nowadays usually on the "SRT sucks" bandwagon. I wasn't always on the bandwagon ... four years back I could close my mind and answer "Sachin" when asked about the most exciting batsman to watch (even if you compare him to the Sehwag of today; frankly the difference in class - if not the rate of scoring - is massive). Today, following the commentary on Rediff, I was reminded of how beautifully SRT could play when he doesn't try to restrict the drives that flow so naturally from his blade. Yes, he was still playing and missing and he didn't do that some years back. However, "positive" cricket seemed to have disappeared from his lexicon and today's play made me wonder if he had re-discovered it? He has scored many runs even in the past couple of years but frankly, if he scores them the way he scored that 240 odd in Australia, I rather watch Batista power bomb Triple H through a table as part of the WWE telecasts (man, u should watch those shoulder muscles on Batista ... I dunno if u know Brock Lesnar, yeah the guy who left the WWE to join the NFL and is nowadays considering returning to the wrestling business coz he didn't do so hot in the NFL ... well, this Batista looks like he could fight Lesnar on equal terms and I can't say that about most others).
As I said, I was enjoying the style of play from Tendulkar today and was looking forward to his getting his 35th hundred - believe me, playing the way he does nowadays, I couldn't get excited even about his 50th - in a manner befitting Sachin Tendulkar. Hey, u know what ... that thing about not finishing matches and not scoring when required etc etc etc .... here was a chance to kick that theory into the dustbin too with India requiring an innings here that would give them a lead big enough and fast enough to force a win.
Alas, Steve Bucknor, in his 100th test (25 too many, in my opinion) gave him out when there was - to quote a comment from a website I surfed - "space for a hord of elephants to pass through". That too after SRT had appealed unsuccessfully three times for bad light. Cruel cruel way to get out and if this doesn't get a lot of flak in the media in the next coupld of days, nothing will. I am looking forward to seeing SRT's facial expression in replays when the decision was given - in the press conference, obviously he will talk about "these things happen" etc. I still remember the LBW given by Bucknor (again, bloody Bucknor) in Australia in the first test and SRT's rection to that one. I remember writing in one message board I frequent the following (just searched for it ... had a hard time finding it too) - "SRT's dismissal was superb to watch ... of course it was not out .. there is no doubt of that even though he didn't offer a shot ... but when u see the replays, u see SRT cool and collected knowing he is not out ... then absolute shock as he realizes he has been given out ... his mouth almost fell open with shock ... and then he just tucked his bat under his shoulder and walked. Reading some of the comments about his gentlemanly conduct etc, one feels the media is going overboard with the praise part ... but when u watch the same on TV live ... it really is awe inspiring."
I read this funny article someplace about today's decision by Bucknor - http://www.sportnetwork.net/main/s119/st69107.htm - I think Mr. Bucknor is going to get a very heavy backlash, specially if we lose the test. If we go onto win, I am sure everyone will forget it.
Anyway, SRT and Dravid did a great job today after the bowlers had brought India back into the game. Even yesterday, I hadn't lost hope simply because I knew that like India, Pakistan too could capitulate and that is precisely what happened. I don't understand one thing and maybe someone can explain that to me - what is Ganguly's problem with providing Kumble and Bhajji some close in fielders; forward short leg, silly point, slip and leg slip? I know it opens up spaces in other places but hey, our spinners are not that bad that they will keep getting hit in those spaces? Specially a leg slip for Bhajji who turns it across the batsman in such a way as to bring the leg slip into play ever so often. What is the big deal anyway??? I don't even think it is a matter of "good captain" and "bad captain". How does the simple matter of putting fielders around the bat not occur to the captain but occurs to every commentator, spectator and Chuckster?
Anyway, with Ganguly in one never knows what he will do. It was a brave decision to walk out knowing SRT had already complained about bad light etc; he could so easily have sent in a night watchman. But being brave does not necessarily equate to runs scored and Ganguly must work hard tomorrow. Dravid is a machine and will keep going on and Laxman is an enigma who can score a ton or a five with equal ease; so basically there is only Ganguly between Dravid and the tail (I know I know ... some would say Ganguly is part of the tail but that is a bit harsh ... heh heh) and we still have a lot of work to do. India has to make Pak chase an excess of 350 in the fourth innings; I would have loved to say 400 but it might take too much time and if Laxman doesn't score a lot, I really don't expect too much from Ganguly (though I am willing to be pleasantly surprised ... I remember the Headingley test on our last tour to England where Ganguly hit a ton ... repeatedly came down the track to hit the bowlers, playing to score fast). India has to play positively tomorrow and declare around tea with a score of 350 to chase; enough to keep the Pakistanis interested and yet tentative coz it is not a small number. If they don't declare by tea, it will be very hard to get the Pakistanis all out on the fifth day, even with the pitch going bananas. 5th day pitch reminds me - even the 4th day pitch won't be a delight to bat on and that is why someone like Laxman is so crucial; he can just negate the evil in the pitch by his ease of batting. People are talking of Laxman being on the hit list of "can be dropped" players but I don't think so. I know he scored a zero in the first innings but when u get out on the first ball, I really think u cannot blame the batsman. He has just come in; he is yet to get adjusted; anything can happen in those first few deliveries and if something does, then basically it is bad luck. Laxman had that bad luck in the first innings but I don't think Yuveraj or Kaif are really challenging him right now for a spot ... in my book, no way.
Two holidays to come and cricket to watch ... damn damn damn, I would have loved to watch SRT live when he was playing those flowing drives. Damn u, Bucknor. However, I do have a lot of work to be done tomorrow; not related to office but related to being married ... ;-) ... I hope it doesn't interfere too much with my cricket watching.
Damn, this has been a long post. To end it, let me post a news item u might or might not have seen yet. Apni Sania Mirza has received a wild card to play in the Nasdaq Open in Florida from March 23 onward. It is a tier-1 event with all the top names like the Williams sisters, Sharapova etc etc etc in it. Oh, and an Indian named Sania Mirza will be playing there too. Feels good to take all those names in the same conversation ... heh heh. Actually, two Indians coz Neha Uberai (cousin of Vivek Oberai .... sister of Shikha Oberai who is the next highest ranked Indian player after Sania ... while Shikha is qualified to play for India in the Fed Cup, Neha the younger sister still is not eligible ... so I guess she cannot call herself an Indian player either) is also playing that event courtesy a wild card.
Wife is out of station so gotta eat outside. I ate out for eight years (including three years in a hostel while doing my post grad) but the past couple of days have been the first since marriage that I had to go to some lousy hotel to get food. Nice change but two days later, I am already looking forward fondly to eating wife-cooked food again. I will never tell her again that the salt is less or the chappatis hard ... damn, I love her so much.
Cheers for now