While numbers do tell a story of Sachin’s greatness in the game of cricket, a lot more came packaged with it and mostly hidden to the untrained eye. Anybody who has played Cricket at a competitive level knows what it takes to be a good player. Having played in the college team and a rather unsuccessful attempt at the University level , I can write a thing or two about it.
In my previous article on Sachin i wrote about his duel with Wasim Akram, the mastercraft bowler, and the ‘transaction’ that would unfold between them in the blink of eye. Only that it would resume ball after ball , over and over again. This is something available now in the form of statistics i.e, number of balls played, number of runs scored, number of boundaries, average and so on.
What this does not reveal however is the effort a master bowler - absolute craftsman in his art, tried to cut him short in those many attempts. Anybody who has seen Akram getting 3 crucial wickets especially that of Lamb & Lewis in the final of the world cup in 1992 will testify. I mean what it takes a bowler to do at the highest level and at the most crucial of times to win you the world cup.
I am sure Akram would have put in much more than his usual effort when he was bowling at Tendulkar. His variations were too many ; the in-swinging and out going balls, the dipper, the snorter, the length balls and the ones that swung in late were all in his armory. He presented all these at a very lively pace which translates into a potent combination. He was the most lethal bowler of his era and made bunnies of several international batsmen. He had cheeka (Kris Srikkanth) practically for lunch breakfast & dinner during India’s tour to Pakistan in 1989
Sachin’s true greatness can be measured against this backdrop and how he got the better of Akram in this duel. This young man walked into a cauldron of human emotions bearing the expectation of millions of crazy fans and the weight of the entire team. Something like the gladiator walking into the Colosseum with people baying for his blood.
75000 plus spectators rooting for you at every turn, the weight of their expectations getting released with a roar in every boundary scored. On the other end the canny bowler much like the predator is measuring up with every trick in the trade and going for the kill. So much emotions and weighed by so much expectations. Plus the pressure of run rate and the target on hand.
Betraying his emotions and holding his nerve, he took to his crease with amazing grace & poise. He judged and dealt every ball and its cunning package. The length of the pitching ball, its trajectory, its pace, its swing……. all done and dusted in three-fourths of a second (the time lapse between the ball released from the bowlers hand and its moment of reaching the batsman's crease).
Ball after ball, over by over. Against the best in the game and at the highest level. Every ball was probably hurled at him with that extra effort. The opposition knew that he was the lynchpin and getting him out meant winning a psychological battle against the whole Indian team. In a India-Pakistan match this would reach hysterical levels.
Like in any competitive game, Cricket too embodies the battle of one-upmanship in a war of talents. There is a victor and the vanquished. Even in a contest between teams, there is always this undercurrent of rivalry between two players. Therefore this duel between Akram & Sachin embodied the pinnacle of two warring talents at its best
In summary it takes more than sheer talent to make a heap at the highest level. Ultimately numbers do speak for themselves , and that’s why statisticians are always a part of the game. But do they tell the complete tale? Analysts might make up a good story with numbers, but its only a tip of the iceberg.