IPL cricket: Why is Sachin Tendulkar so harshly judged as captain of Mumbai Indians?

The most revered cricketer in the world is Sachin Tendulkar and if anybody tells you differently, he (or she) should be lowered head first from the top of the Eiffel Tower, have his (or her) ears tweaked, nose tickled with a feather and  knuckles rapped with a sledgehammer.

Usually, there is more tortuous punishment for heresy, but since India was born out of non-violence (never mind Harbhajan Singh planting his palm smack on Sreesanth’s chubby cheek in the first edition of the IPL), the offender could be let off after that and fed a purgative to cleanse his system of such outrageous thoughts.

In India, of course, Tendulkar is not only revered but deified. He is master, lord, master-blaster, god, little master… you can choose the most euphemistic description without fear of reproach or dissent. Everything fits right. Yet, there remains one area where his stupendous record falls short: when it comes to captaincy, god becomes all too mortal and questions are occasionally asked, even if in furtive tones.

It is borne out by Wisden, and from anecdotes real and apocryphal, about how some of the game’s greatest players were somehow never brilliant captains. Hammond, Sobers, Richards, Lara, Botham are a few names that come readily to mind: their captaincy record pales in comparison to their other feats. Is it because they expect every player to perform to the same high degree that comes so easily to them, and are therefore impatient of lesser mortals?

But while I agree that Tendulkar’s record as Test captain falls short of the extraordinary standards he has set otherwise, I think this assessment is also a tad unfair because he is also judged by a different yardstick from other players. For instance, in Saturday’s match between Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals, Shane Warne, considered the Wizard of Oz in matters of tactics and man-management, conceded 212 runs to Mumbai and even lost the match, but came out unscathed as captain; Tendulkar, having won the game, however narrowly, had darts of doubt thrown at him.

Life’s not fair, even for the world’s best, best-known, most loved, richest cricketer. I doubt any captain on Saturday could have done much to thwart Yusuf Pathan’s onslaught at the magnificent Cricket Club of India. When a batsman scores 100 runs off just 37 deliveries, a captain can at best wring his hands in despair and pray.  Tendulkar did more: he ran to his bowlers to guide them, cajoled his fielders to put in more effort — did so much work in fact that he ended up being fined for slowing down the over-rate.

None of this could faze Pathan however. With four wickets down for very little, and chasing a daunting 213, Rajasthan looked down for the count till the tall and strong Pathan opened his powerful, imposing shoulders and started hitting the ball with such frequency and such long distances that it seemed the parameters of a cricket field needed serious and rapid revision.

In the end, Mumbai won by a whisker, a mere four runs, but Pathan it was who won the awe and admiration of everybody, including the mighty Tendulkar. He has come nowhere near a Test match and last year lost his place in the one-day side. His batsmanship still appears one-dimensional. Make that two: slam-bang. But in the Twenty20 firmament, Pathan is the game’s fastest rising superstar.

In 2008, when the IPL began, he came cheap; at a little more than $100,000. Come next year, when all players will be up for sale again, the buzz already is that he will be a Multi-Million Dollar Baby. Want to know more why the IPL holds so much fascination for almost every cricketer in the world?

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Dhoni salutes bowlers for memorable victory

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Thursday doffed his to his lion-hearted bowlers for scripting the home team’s dramatic series-levelling win over South Africa in the second Test here today.

Jubilation

An ecstatic Harbhajan Singh is followed by teammates as he takes a victory lap after picking up the last South African wicket. Express Photo: Partha Paul

Dhoni said getting seven South African wickets in the final session of the opening day tilted the game in his team’s favour and even though the side missed Zaheer Khan — who had strained a leg muscle — today, the likes of Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra shouldered the extra burden and delivered the goods.

“The bowlers were really great. The wicket did nothing on the first day. It was not a turner as such but Mishy (Mishra) and Bhajji (Harbhajan) bowled really well,” Dhoni said after India beat South Africa to level the series and retain their number one Test team’s status.

“Today we didn’t have Zaheer and the bowlers bowled really well. We had lost one day’s play and today we did not have Zaheer. We desperately wanted to be on the winning side because of the amount of effort that the three bowlers put in today,” he said.

“Mishra bowled really well. It was good to see Ishant (Sharma) bowling with rhythm and pace and bowling in right areas. Bhajji too was brilliant. There is so much pressure on him ever since Anil Kumble retired. Every time he walks out, people expect him to get 3-4 wickets,” Dhoni said.

Dhoni, Harbhajan give slip to police

  _MS Dhoni ,harbhajan_

Indian captain M S Dhoni and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh gave some anxious moments to the police here when they left the team hotel without informing them.

Yuvraj Singh also went out declining an offer to have security personnel with him. Police said they were not amused at the “irresponsible action” of the players and have prepared a report about the “security violations” made by them.

Yuvraj Singh was the first to leave the Taj, the team hotel, and drove out.

Yuvraj, who belongs to Chandigarh, went out in a Audi bearing a temporary registration number of Haryana from the hotel in Sector 17 and returned a couple of hours later, police said.

Later, Dhoni and Harbhajan also followed suit and left the hotel for a brief period without informing the security.

A senior official said it was mandatory for the players to inform the police out of their movements.

“First Yuvraj left and when we told him to take a security official with him, he outrightly refused. Then captain Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh also left their hotel without informing,” Chandigarh’s Superintendent of Police (Security) H S Doon said

Dravid dropped, Sehwag comes back for Australia series

Indian captain M.S. Dhoni in Chennai to participate in the selection committee meeting for the upcoming India-Australia matches in Chennai on Thursday. Photo: PTI

PTI Indian captain M.S. Dhoni in Chennai to participate in the selection committee meeting for the upcoming India-Australia matches in Chennai on Thursday.
Former India captain Rahul Dravid was dropped while opening batsman Virender Sehwag made a comeback to the 15-member squad for the first two One-Day Internationals (ODI) of the seven-match series against Australia.

The opening match of the series will be played at Vadodara Oct 25 and Nagpur will host the second game Oct 28.

The national selection committee that met here Thursday at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium decided to call back medium pacers Munaf Patel and Sudip Tyagi in place of fast bowler Rudra Pratap Singh and spin all-rounder Yousuf Pathan. Out-of form fast bowler Ishant Sharma retained his place.

Yuvraj Singh, who is still suffering from a knee injury, has been selected and is expected to play in the first match.

“The selectors were advised that Yuvraj Singh will be fit to play on Oct 28. It is possible that he may be able to play the first match also. The decision on the playing eleven for the first match will based on Yuvraj’s fitness test on Oct 25,” said N. Srinivasan, secretary of the Indian cricket board.

The squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain-wicketkeeper), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Shrama, Amit Mishra, Munaf Patel and Sudip Tyagi.