Last night I was watching the Twenty20 IPL cricket match between Kolkata Knight Riders & Mumbai Indians and couple of strokes from Sachin Tendulkar really captured my imagination. I have been following cricket since I was a 10-year-old kid and never have I seen anything on a cricket ground like what Sachin did to the last ball of the eighth over from Chris Gayle. He had pre-meditated on that ball to scoop it over the keeper or the 1st slip. But Gayle being Gayle bowled it full & wide outside off stump and then came the mastery of the batting magician. He changed his stroke mid way and improvised to ‘reverse flick’ the ball past the short third man fielder much like a hockey player would yield his stick while maneuvering to outsmart the goal-keeper. Well, it’s more of a half scoop, half reverse flick shot in my book but couple of things stood out in that shot. Firstly, it’s his ability to adapt to the shot midway like he has done so many a times in his career; as we are used to hear that the great batsman, as he is, possesses at least two strokes for every shot in the book. Secondly, it’s the subtle reverse-cocking of his wrists to place the ball where he did. We all know how the wrist cocks when a right handed batsman flicks on the on-side but this was the exact opposite of that and hence the coining of this term ‘reverse flicking’. Well, I am not someone for neologism but there is so much buzz these days about shots like ‘Switch Hit’ that I couldn’t resist mentioning so.
Now on to the second shot which came on the third ball of the fifth over from Ishant Sharma. Ishant bowled a fast-ish bouncer over the over stump line and it was rising. Sachin simply ‘swiveled hooked’ it for six over mid wicket à la Calypso batsmen. His left leg was still in the air when the ball landed on the gallery for a maximum. Anyone having some idea about batsmanship, would tell you that the most difficult bouncer to hook is the one that has to be fetched from outside the off-stump.
So much have been said and written about the Twenty20 cricket being a young man’s game. While most of it is true, one would be foolish to write off class acts like Sachin. Before that game began Sachin’s T20 batting average stood at exactly 40 while his strike rate was around 112. While averages are not a true reflection of a batsman’s calibre in this format of the game, strike rates are a reflection of his ability to master this form of the game. After this game, his strike rate will be better (131.65) for it because of his 45 ball 68 at a strike rate of 151.11. And in my most humble opinion, in T20 great players have a strike rate of 150 & over. While I am sure Sachin will have his strike rate settled around there after he has played a reasonable amount of T20 games (he only played 15), the most important facet of this discussion is that ‘age is no barrier’ in cricket. I always thought Sachin is good enough to take India to an ODI World Cup title in 2011 on the sub-continent and I still hold onto that belief ever so strongly. More than anything, last night he has managed to discard off the few doubters in proving he ‘belongs here’ as well. That the reflexes are still holding sway and that the 16 year old kid of 1989 is not worse but better for it because of age. That’s the value of his class. That’s the value of his greatness.