“The viewers have got no interest in what I've got to say because they switched off four or five hours ago.”
That was Kevin Pietersen reacting to the slow and low Nagpur pitch, which yielded 199 for 5 in 97 overs on the first day. The odd ball kept low but staying at the wicket wasn’t difficult – scoring runs; hitting your shots was. It, in Pietersen’s opinion, made for boring cricket.
Then came the Indian innings and honestly, you couldn’t switch off for even a second.
Anderson started the innings by slipping one onto Gautam Gambhir’s legs. The left-hander helped it along to fine leg for a single. India were away but sadly, they were never running.
The next ball was fired down Virender Sehwag’s leg-side. The ball was swinging and Matt Prior completed a nice one-handed take to his left.
Then Anderson went back to the top of his mark and started running in again – this time he managed to get his line right. It was a length ball but it swung into the right-hander in the air and off the pitch. Sehwag, perhaps bizarrely, played inside the line, his feet didn’t move and he heard the death rattle.
The ball had hit the top of his middle stump and for a moment, he stood still. It was a good ball but somehow, some part of India hopes that India’s greatest match-winner attaches a greater price to his wicket. As he walked back, India were reduced to 1-1.
This time Sehwag didn’t turn around and say, ‘This is how I play.’ In the eyes of many, the right-hander’s ability to stick to his guns no matter what is his greatest strength but then again, it is also his greatest weakness.
Gambhir and Cheteshwar Pujara steadied the ship but when the opener departed after edging the ball outside the off-stump, India were in deep trouble. In walked Sachin, the crowd applauded and the fielders closed in.
Players around the often talk about how much they respect Tendulkar but their words and their deeds don’t match. On twitter, @sidvee said: Aila! Squat-and-bowled kind of pitch.
And then it happened. The ball seamed in, it kept low and Tendulkar did the squat and he was gone – looking at the toe-end of the bat. And at the same time, a million tweets went viral, they all seemed to ask one thing: The end?
On television channels, the headlines were all about Tendulkar. ‘Tendulkar fails again,’ they said. ‘Tendulkar bowled again,’ they screamed at every viewer. ‘Anderson gets Tendulkar again…’ and again and again.
But honestly, the bigger worry for India should be the way in which Virender Sehwag is failing. The right-hander turned 34 around 54 days back while Tendulkar is going to turn 40 in April 2013. Rahul Dravid (also 39 when he retired) and VVS Laxman (almost 38 when he retired) were also part of India’s greatest batting generation along with the above two batsmen.
So in many ways, Sehwag – the youngest of the lot -- was expected to be link between Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and the younger generation; the man who could pass on the message and the lessons. Honestly, Tendulkar’s survival seems to be a matter of time now but losing Sehwag will hurt India far more.
In matches won, Sehwag still averages 56.90 (40 matches), in drawn matches he averages 59.69 (33 matches) and in matches lost, he averages just 34.35 (in 28 matches). The numbers just illustrate how important he is to India and that is why India needs him to find his true self even more than it needs Sachin to come good.
Sachin might be our obsession but Sehwag wins matches and helps India win matches. If he keeps failing, India's future seems pretty grim indeed.