January 16, 2021
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'Sachin Is Cricket's Kohinoor'

'I was sitting in the stands and watching Tendulkar unfold his genius. Time and again I thought, has there been a better batsman I have watched in my life? I couldn't think of anyone, not even Viv Richards'

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'Sachin Is Cricket's Kohinoor'
'Sachin Is Cricket's Kohinoor'

Here I was sitting in the stands and watching Sachin Tendulkar unfold his genius. Time and again I thought, has there been a better batsman I have watched in my life? I couldn't think of anyone, not even Viv Richards. Tendulkar is cricket's "Kohinoor". Nobody comes remotely close.

Tendulkar looked a man possessed in this match. I have never seen him field with as much aggression as he did on Tuesday. Normally not the one to show his emotions on the field, he was reacting wildly to mis-fields and throws off his bowling. I think the clips of those moments should be preserved for posterity. His eyes were glowing and he was even shouting mouthfuls. It was as if he wanted this game to be the best of his life. Saurav Ganguly must have sensed this rare mood of his top man for he gave him those extra overs.

Tendulkar's genius was apparent in the way he made the adjustment in his batting and that's why he is Tendulkar and not Virender Sehwag. While Sehwag doesn't make any attempt to understand the bowlers' strategy and bats in the same gear, Tendulkar sizes up the situation instantly. He was constantly coming inside the line and working the ball on the onside, most of his fours came in the mid-wicket, square leg or past fine leg with those delicate flicks off his heavy bat.

A pure genius. He proves his peerless ability in every second or third match he plays. And he has been doing it for 14 years. We are very fortunate to have been born in the same era as Tendulkar and watched him in action.

Good as Tendulkar was, I am concerned with Pakistan's near-inability to defend a total as big as 330. They played this game with six bowlers and still nearly came unstuck. What is more damning is that the Indians were chasing the runs under lights which is not the best of time for a batting side. If anyone of the regular batsmen, Yuvraj Singh or Rahul Dravid, had stayed till the end, Indians would have been 2-0 up at this stage.

I think Shoaib Akhtar could be having fitness worries. He is not bowling as well as he can. He is not able to use the new ball the way only he can. The wicket though suited Mohammad Sami's skiddy style of bowling to the hilt.

Shahid Afridi was Pakistan's obvious hero. He should always be played against India. The feeling in the Pakistan camp is that Indian bowling comes under pressure against Afridi. I spoke to him before the game and he said he was pumped up. He showed us exactly why.

The Indian bowlers didn't have the pace or bounce to force him on the backfoot. The only reason you can succeed against Afridi is if you can push him on the backfoot. That's why he should always be played on the sub-continent's slow wickets.

He is not picked to play abroad because he could look awkward against bouncing deliveries. I also liked the way he was willing to go for his pull or hook shots against the Indians. It's a new facet of his batting and it's apparent he has worked on it during the days spent in wilderness. He also took the wickets of Saurav Ganguly and Yuvraj, not easy to do for a leg-spinner against left-handers.

Pakistan did well enough to cut down on wides and no-balls in this game. It was a critical difference. There were 22 leg byes in the extras for sure but that's a different matter.

I felt though they goofed up in sending Moin Khan up the order. They should have sent Shoaib Malik instead, for he is little under-utilised in batting. Abdul Razzaq's position is perfect, he is one of world's most dangerous batsmen in the final overs.

As things are shaping up, any team which makes less mistakes would be winners in this one-day series. Pakistan's bowling is superior to India's and their batting has got 300-plus in both the matches they have played so far. To me, Pakistan is now the favourite.


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