(Published on Mar 30, 2007)
In the fallout from India’s early demise at the World Cup one of the major decisions will concern the future of Sachin Tendulkar.
Before anybody else makes a decision on what will happen to Tendulkar, the player himself has to have a good long look in the mirror and decide what he's trying to achieve in the game. At the moment he looks like a player trying to eke out a career, build on a glittering array of statistics. If he really is playing for that reason and not to help win as many matches as he can for India then he is wasting his time and should retire immediately.
When you think that for a decade Brian Lara and Tendulkar went head to head in a wonderful battle of stroke play to establish who the best batsman in the world was, they are now worlds apart in effectiveness.
Lara’s quick-footed tip toe through a terrific innings against a good Australian bowling attack when the rest of the West Indies top order succumbed easily was in direct contrast to Tendulkar's stumbling effort in the crucial Sri Lanka match.
The amazing thing about Lara’s brilliant career is the fact that he hasn’t changed his style at all over 17 years. This is a credit to his technique and mental strength, as the aging process generally makes a player more progressively conservative. Tendulkar hasn’t worn as well; his last three or four years have been a shadow of his former self.
His double century at the SCG in January 2004 was a classic case of a great player really struggling. He came to the crease out of form and despite amassing all those runs and batting for in excess of 10 hours he was no closer to recapturing his best touch than he had been when he had started out. It was a tribute to his determination but it was a sad sight to see; there are enough average players around so that you don’t want to see a classy one reduced to that level. Tendulkar hasn’t been as lucky as Lara; the Indian batsman has suffered a lot of injuries in this period where his play has deteriorated and there is nothing that melts your mental approach quicker than physical handicaps.
Lara has been relatively free from injury and he certainly doesn’t have the weight of numbers riding on his shoulders that Tendulkar does. However, the population of the Caribbean might be small but they are extremely demanding.
Despite all the fuss and the odd controversy that has surrounded Lara’s career he has remained himself; as if to assert -- this is my game and this is how I play. For whatever reason Tendulkar hasn't been able to maintain his extremely high standards for the last few years and unless he can find a way to recapture this mental approach he’s not doing his team or himself any favours.
If Tendulkar had found an honest mirror three years ago and asked the question; “Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the best batsman of all?” It would’ve answered, “Brian Charles Lara.”