This one was hard to watch. This one was different from the first-innings at the Eden Gardens. There Sachin Tendulkar set aside his pride for the sake of the team and his form. Today, in Nagpur, he appeared to sacrifice himself.
This is not about the ball that bowled him. That delivery from James Anderson would probably have dismissed most batsmen on this wicket. Virender Sehwag was already back in the pavilion, having been bowled in similar, though not identical, fashion.
This is about the eleven balls that preceded it. This is about Tendulkar accepting men around the bat with a spinner bowling and simply trying to stay alive. This is about Tendulkar allowing circumstances to dictate to him rather than the other way around.
At 59 for 2, India needed Tendulkar’s calming influence. Someone needed to show the team how to construct an innings, much like Alastair Cook did for England in Ahmedabad. Even with his recent struggles, the smart money was on India’s No. 4. If there has been one constant throughout his career, it has been Tendulkar’s ability to rise to the challenge. Whether it was coming back from injury or putting away the cover drive, Tendulkar has always been able to adapt and thrive.
His talent and stroke-making have always received due adulation, but it is his cricketing brain that has allowed him to rise to such great heights. Give Tendulkar a batting problem to solve and inevitably he will come up with the answer.
Yet today he allowed England to treat him like he was just another name on India’s team sheet. He seemed unsure of the pitch and the bounce and uncertain of how to tackle it. The intent to survive, even during his brief appearance, was clear. What was not was the approach. Perhaps his confidence has been affected. Perhaps all the criticism, all the clamour for his retirement, is playing on his mind - though he would never admit it.
Maybe someone needs to remind him that he is Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. That he knows more about batting than anyone else playing the game. That it is the bowlers who worry when he walks to the wicket because he has no weaknesses. Because right now, with the team in transition and on the verge of losing a home series to England for the first time in 28 years, India need that Tendulkar more than ever.