Sachin Tendulkar has been hitting the headlines recently, though for unwanted reasons. One is to do with his recent entry into his palatial bungalow in Bandra for which BMC is apparently not giving occupation certificate. The other is for Shoaib Akhtar and the other members of the Pakistani Cricket Team saying that Sachin was afraid to face Shoaib.
Thankfully, Sachin has not responded for it is really not worth responding to. At the time of launching a book, that too an autobiography by a colourful character like Shoaib, one would have always expected controversies; because controversies help you sell a book. Incidentally Shoaib’s book is ‘Controversially Yours.' Given the way the Rawalpindi Express moved into oblivion, I doubt many people would have bought this book if there were no controversies,
No doubt, Shoaib and Sachin’s confrontations are a part of cricketing folklore especially Shoaib’s devastating spell at Eden Gardens when with two consecutive deliveries he clean bowled the wall Rahul Dravid and unarguably the best batsman of this generation Sachin Tendulkar. If you watch on YouTube, you will realize what a bowler Shoaib was!
Needless to say Sachin returned the compliment in the World Cup in South Africa. Who can forget the slice over third man which went for a six.
The point I am trying to make is not whether Sachin actually shivered while facing Shoaib. The fact remains that when any batsman, however good, is facing a quality fast bowler there is bound to be butterflies in his stomach, some sort of nervous anticipation. Even when you are very well-prepared for an examination, you often have that tingling sensation in your stomach till the action begins.
There is a very interesting video on Caribbean Cricket called ‘Fire in Babylon’ which talks about the Cricket team led by the great Clive Lloyd. That West Indies team from the mid 70s to the mid 80s were arguably the best cricket team the world has ever seen, definitely since the time I started following cricket. The nearest comparison was Steve Waugh’s Australians and I think without any doubt Lloyd’s team would have annihilated them. Maybe Shane Warne would have caused some problems but for the record, the West Indians managed to beat India in India, and that too when the Holy Quartet were bowling.
I bought the DVD thinking that there will be lots of video footage of the West Indian greats. Unfortunately, it is more of a documentary and commentary but still gives you a perspective of the game back then. It also has interviews of David Gower, Geoffrey Boycott and Imran Khan on what it took to face West Indies fast bowling. Boycott in his inimitable manner describes the tension in the dressing room before one goes out to face the music literally. He talks about nervous cricketers and endless smoking by some of them just to calm nerves. David Gower recounts an incident where the next batsmen actually saw blood on the pitch because Gatting had his nose broken through the visor by Malcolm Marshall. In the words of Imran Khan, you not only needed to be technically perfect but mentally strong and courageous. All of them without doubt concurred that the Windies pace attack was out of the world and the team was exceptional. Sir Vivian Richards was the best batsmen of his generation, unfortunately for Gordon Greenidge, else he would have been revered.
The bowling attack was so strong that someone like Malcolm Marshall was kept out of the attack for a long time. Any tour of West Indies was strenuous and mentally exhausting and it left the players emotionally drained. The test of any cricketer was his track record against West Indies and many myths were broken because people who could bat in the feather bed wicket or home conditions came to naught when facing up to the West Indies pace attack. Reputations were quickly broken and destroyed.
In this context, I strongly feel that Sunny Gavaskar and not Sachin is the best batsmen that India has ever produced. His track record against the West Indies speaks for itself. One more reason why I rate Gavaskar a far better batsman than Sachin simply because no fast bowler has managed to hit Gavaskar anywhere on his body. On top, he faced all fast bowlers without helmet. Even on placid wickets, fast bowlers have managed to hit Tendulkar. All said and done, Tendulkar never really faced quality fast bowling except for few individual performers like Alan Donald or Glenn McGrath. People who remember the 1991 World Cup will remember how Ambrose sorted him out in one over.
As for Shoaib Akthar, Amul ads have captured the sentiment around well with its caption - "Tab bhi phekta tha. Ab bhi phekta hai.”