March 18, 2012

Match gifted to celebrate Tendulkar’s 100th ton?

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood

How to classify the Asia Cup encounter between hosts Bangladesh and defending champions India at Dhaka on March 16, 2012? Was it the most memorable day for Indian cricket when Sachin Tendulkar completed the much awaited 100th international ton? Or was it the most shameful of days when succumbed to the minnows?

The majority of the people as well as the common sense say that a win-win situation was created by the stakeholders to let the Little Master reach the milestone which was haunting him for over a year.

Tendulkar did get the 100th hundred but at the cost of yet another match. Whether it was by design or by default the bottom line was that the team lost the game. As a newspaper highlighted in its report, it was his 25th century having come in a losing cause.

This is not to suggest that whenever he scores a hundred his team is going to be the second best on the day but there are valid reasons to prove the point that his centuries have not won matches for India.

Have a look at his last three centuries for example. The Indians were humiliated by Bangladesh at Dhaka when he scored his 100th century. India had lost to South Africa at Nagpur during the 2011 World Cup when Tendulkar amassed his 99th hundred. In the same competition India’s match against England at Bangalore was tied after he scored his 98th ton.

There are many people who believe that Tendulkar plays for himself rather than for the team. After all it can’t be mere coincidence that India rarely wins when he scores heavily. He has not been in the business of saving Test matches either for a very long time.

His records are unlikely to broken but it’s for the analysts and the statisticians to work out exactly if he has caused more damage to the team or has helped it. Wasn’t his latest century as forgettable as many of those that harmed the team’s interest?

It was an ordinary innings by his high standards. It was a patchy knock that cost his team immensely. He was not on top of the bowling at any stage and when he tried to make amends he was scalped.

It was the easiest of pitches to bat on and the outfield was very quick. The runs were there to be taking against a friendly bowling attack lacking fire or intensity. But it became much too obvious that the basic purpose of the proceedings to let Tendulkar get to his landmark.

Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina, in mercurial touch, kept on providing the strike to Tendulkar rather than going after the bowling to post a big total. The master batsman was unable to dominate the Bangladesh bowlers and even his 100th run reflected nerves and uncertainty.

The low-key celebrations that followed had conveyed the message to many people that things were manipulated to ensure the 100th century. The refusal of the Indian batsmen to attempt quick runs in the death overs with wickets in hands dropped hints that the plan was not to set a daunting target for the home side. As was being anticipated in the knowledgeable circles Bangladesh did reach the target later in the evening.

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