Old guards deliver the goods at the crunch

Old guards deliver the goods at the crunch

Cricket: Tri-series: Sachin, Dravid show the way for youngsters

PROUD POSSESSION: Mahendra Singh Dhoni holds the Compaq Cup on Tuesday. AP

For long, India have been harping about youth but truth to tell, it’s the old guard that has delivered more when it has mattered the most. The veterans’ contributions are overwhelming in Tests, but it’s not as bad as it’s made out to be in the shorter format. The young legs may have added extra zing to the side, but without the class of the experienced players, more often than not, it has resembled a fancy car without its engine.

It was a funny coincidence that just when Dravid’s recall was being termed as a retrograde step back in India, there was an almost unanimous call to axe the 40-year-old Sanath Jayasuriya from the Sri Lankan side. While Jayasuriya silenced his critics with a blazing 98 against India in the tri-series league match, Dravid, without being extraordinary, emerged unscathed with two useful knocks in his first one-day series after almost a two-year hiatus. 

It was, however, Sachin Tendulkar who once again held fort for the ‘oldies’ with his 44th one-day hundred here on Monday and proved age is just a number in cricket.
Batting for the so called 30-plus brigade, Tendulkar emphatically stated they don’t need anyone’s advice about their game. “There are ups and downs in everyone’s career. (But) Having played for so long, we do know when things are going right for us and when they are not. So we don’t need anyone to tell us what we should be doing. We are responsible cricketers and when we represent our country, we don’t go there to lose. You do fail sometimes, but it’s not for the want of effort,” he remarked.

Tendulkar continued: “I don’t think it (age) has any relevance here. Eventually what you do is all that matters. How much you contribute to the team’s success and also how much value you bring to the side. To me these things are more important. As long as you enjoy the game and win matches it should settle the issue.”

Tendulkar, for long, had been carrying the cross around his neck for his perceived inability to finish off matches for India. Mind-numbing that his numbers are both in one-dayers and Tests, the maestro had been pilloried for not doing the job on big stages.

A glance at the records, however, shows that the avowed view is nothing more than a myth. Few cricketers have scored as many runs as Tendulkar has in the finals and fewer have finished on the right side of the result. From the Desert Storm he scripted in Sharjah in 1998 when he pulverised the Australians to the latest century against Sri Lanka in the tri-series final on Monday, Tendulkar has left his indelible mark on some of India’s finest wins.

For the statistically inclined, Monday’s was Tendulkar’s sixth ton in a tournament final and India have won all those six matches.

With 1833 runs, the right-hander is also the highest run-getter in finals by some distance. After playing a stellar role in India’s maiden tri-series win in Australia early last year with scores of 117 and 91 in the best-of-three finals, it was once again the 36-year-old who won a multi-nation tournament for India. In between India lost a triangular series in Bangladesh and the Asia Cup in Pakistan and both the times Tendulkar wasn’t in the squad. Monday’s win in Lanka in a tri-series comes after the 1998 victory over the hosts, again scripted by Tendulkar (128) in the company Sourav Ganguly (109).

Tendulkar’s critics often compare him to Brian Lara, highlighting the West Indian’s ability to win matches single-handedly, but the numbers suggest otherwise, at least in one-dayers.

The left-hander has just one century and two half-centuries in his 17 final appearances, a poor record by the genius’ standards and certainly an unfair comparison.