Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Few Good Men

Sachin Tendulkar's 45th hundred was a delight to watch, and the master showed the same aggression and brilliance of his younger days that appears to be showing up increasingly rarely these days. So, when he was playing, I was hooked to the TV till his dismissal. His two sixes to spinner Nathan Hauritz were simply sublime to watch.

But there was absolutely no need to play the stupid shot that got him out with India just 19 runs away from victory. Knowing the fragile temperament of Indian lower order in crunch situation -- do you remember the Eden Garden collapse when Vinod Kambli went back to pavilion weeping? -- Tendulkar should have clearly avoided that shot. It is easier said than done obviously, but how many times do we see a brilliant innings from the master, and then players start behaving like little children running helter-skelter, which is actually quite comic to watch. They just can't think straight.

I thought Brian Lara had a phenomenal focus during "fightback" matches. Statsguru, a brilliant application on cricinfo, threw up a comparison between Tendulkar, Lara, Steve Waugh - that great stubborn Aussie - and Ponting. There cannot be a fair compairson because Tendulkar just towers over all of them in the sheer number of matches and hundreds he has hit. So, it is a bit unfair to do comparative percentages.

But, it is interesting to play the numbers game. I searched for Sachin's hundreds, and in how many did India win. Stats showed that he hit 45 hundreds in 435 matches, and India won 32 of them. Lara played 299 matches, hit 19 hundreds of them, and West Indies won 16 times. Steve Waugh played 325 matches, hit hundreds in three of them, and Australia won twice. (For Waugh, we will have to calculate how many times his captaincy and some of those 45 50s won matches for Aus.) Ponting has played 329 matches, hit 28 hundreds, and Australia won 24 times.

Another side stats this search revealed was that Sachin took almost four years to hit his first ODI ton, Lara took three, Waugh took ten (!) and Ponting was the fastest hitting a ton a year after his 1995 debut.

As I write this, India has lost the seven-match ODI series against Australia. That shot was too costly Sachin.
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