Friday, February 15, 2008

Who's the best puller of them all?

Ayaz Memon on Adam Gilchrist:

"Quick of eye and reflexes, he can adjust in a nanosecond to play off the front or back foot. He is orthodox in the sense that he drives through the line, but he is otherwise a tremendous improviser. I also rate him the best cutter and puller in contemporary cricket."

Hard to refute that 'best puller' tag if you have seen Gily play, and even harder if you search cricinfo for photos and find pics like this and this.

But one man will raise his arm in protest, and when he does I will think over a second and decide to support him with pics like this and this and this. And to prove that he too always played the shot bloody well, this. Not convinced yet? Judge it yourself.

Monday, February 11, 2008

An unsolved mystery called Sachin Tendulkar

Accepted Sachin is still not 35. But then he is playing international cricket for over 18 years. He has carried injuries for extended periods of time. Biggest of all, 3 years back he had started believing that he cannot play in that old unfettered fashion at this stage of his career.

Then where is Sachin's present batting coming from? He has been facing Brett Lee the best quick bowler in the world for over six weeks now. With every passing week Lee has sought to comtinuously upgrade his bowling standard. It came with a growing sense of being the leader of the current Australian pack. But Sachin?

Will you believe that the Sachin we are seeing this season is an avatar of the same man that was supposedly some way down from his peak in the last Australian trip of India, even opting for omission of some of his most productive shots from the repertoire for survival at the crease? He is four years older now. But amazingly he looks much better on this trip than he did in the earlier one.

No batsman, not even a Lara and a Gavaskar, has been as comfortable and yet as positive against genuinely hostile quick attacks this late in his career. Sachin looked completely at ease facing a charged-up Lee today. Sample these two shots off Lee today - straight drives on either side of the bowler off consecutive deliveries. [Please pardon me the terribly shaky video work there; I could barely put the camcorder on when those replays were being aired on telly]

I was immediately reminded of Aravinda de Silva's brace of boundaries against Shane Warne in the 1996 World Cup finals during 'The Innings'. Like Aravinda's twin fours, Sachin's couple of fours today came across as a stamp of supremacy from a batsman in complete control of his game, a batsman who instinctively realises himself approaching the prime of batting prowess and zeroing in on a zone where no bowler can expect to get away unscathed from him. Improbable though it may have sounded even 6 months earlier, Sachin Tendulkar is once again putting his name up on the secret list of unsolved mysteries maintained by top bowlers even as Ricky Ponting's poser is facing a serious challenge from rookie Ishant Sharma.

Are we witnessing the effects of some magic drink that Sachin laid hands on? Maybe the truth is far simpler: perhaps Sachin has had a new dawn somewhere deep down, as in the song 'Roo-ba-ru' from the movie "Rang De Basanti". He may have done a reality check on his, well, 'residual' capabilities as a batsman and found them to be a lot better than he imagined. Maybe that is why Sachin has a renewed belief in his special talent and is on his way to reclaim that "bowlers' nightmare" status he willingly conceded over the present decade.

Any batsman in the second half of his career surely faces a great degree of difficulty in re-discovering form after a slump. Needless to say, terrorising bowlers once again in the 19th year in international cricket then takes considerable doing. Even if you are born Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.