Following the match yesterday on Cricinfo, I got the feeling I was watching a baton being passed. VS and ST were phlegmatically taking apart the South African bowling & even as they went about their business, the cricket fan's emotional wagon wheel came full circle for me.
Sachin's batting has reached a level of sublime where one is left with no words, just sighing admiration. There was a time when his batting was described with adjectives like brutal, explosive and the spectrum of others basically implying destructive force. For the fan, there was Sachin's successful innings or there was the t.v off, ennui and much wringing of hands. Of course, this was largely in the LOI's. Test match cricket was a different world in the early 90's. Sidhu was a decent enough opener but his partner was usually whoever drew the short straw on the morning of Day 1. Then there was Manjrekar, who had very nice technique but this funny notion that he was batting at nets all the time. Even the ball despaired on reaching his bat for he would stifle it into travelling about 2 inches. If he was having a bad day. On a good day, the ball would turn back in mid-air and everyone pretended they loved the game. Azhar, Jadeja, Mongia and Prabhakar, when not attending interesting calls on the telephone, might just make a match of it. Certainly Azhar, he of the magical & mysterious wristy technique, remains the biggest tragedy of the match-fixing hoopla. And then there was Sachin, who may have played with more freedom, if the rest of the batsman could be depended on. Guffaw.
So, he reserved the majority of his savagery for the LOIs. Never mind Australia at Sharjah. Everyone and his uncle knows that he gave the bowlers diarrhoea. Never mind his overall awesomeness either. No, the match that always makes me smile is the one against Zimbabwe. Remember that chap, Olonga ? Remember him getting ST out in one game ? Remember his stats in the next game ? 4 overs for 41 runs. It was molestation. Sachin still does give bowlers a fright every now and then, but he's reached a level where the surgery is under anaesthesia. He is now clinical. And how.
There was a point when the heart would physically hurt when ST got out. Watching the match yesterday, I realised that, while there will always be a wince-inducing twinge (for which cricket lover can be a child of the 80's - 90's & claim immunity) when that happens, the punch-in-the-gut feeling effect has been taken over by Sehwag. And let me tell you, fan of today, you are god-damn lucky he's there to make you claim you love test cricket. Because that man is a test-batting juggernaut who seems to be getting to a point where only he can get himself out. Pertinently, in many a fan's mind, he owns the adjectives describing destruction now.
But here's the thing. VS (no taking any credit from him whatsoever) can make the bowlers cry for their mummies, safe in the knowledge that Dravid, Sachin & Laxman (and Ganguly) are waiting their turn at bat. Read that line again. Let the weight of those 3 names sink in. And then tell me VS worries about getting out.
Today we have the luxury of Sehwag & Gambhir (probably the best opening pair in Cricket) at the start of the innings. They in turn have the luxury of RD, SRT & VVS to follow. There's a point in that somewhere, but it's implied.
On more than one occasion, I have blogged about our fortune in being of an age when the mind is still in top form & experiencing the keen pleasure of revelling in the names of our top 6 batsmen. I know that the likes of Sachin & his genius, Dravid & Laxman, their exquisite technique, temperament, good nature and discipline will never grace Indian cricket again. The changing trends of the game will finish off the purity of technique and the poetry of the arcing blade meeting ball, caressed to perfection. I'd like to think Sehwag knows this too as he plays with the joy and fury that we have come to know so well.
Song for the moment: Sultans of Swing - Dire Straits