Sunday, 18 March 2012

The 100th Hundred: It had to happen this way

It had to happen this way. One year of mounting hysteria. A team that climbed a once-unattainable high only to take a flying leap off it into a seemingly unending abyss. Form deserting not just him, but most of the trusted mates around him, who had helped in getting to that high. And always, the mounting expectation. It just had to happen this way. Sachin Tendulkar got to the 100th International hundred in slow, ugly, and ultimately futile (in terms of winning the match) fashion. 

The table below captures exactly what happened as the match unfolded and Tendulkar started getting close to his century.

India Score
India R.R.
SRT score
VK/SR score
R.R. Difference
At 30 overs
78 (98)
57 (68)
30 to 35.5 overs
9 (21)
9 (14)
35.5 to 43.4 overs
13 (19)
32 (28)
43.4 to 46.5 overs
14 (9)
19 (10)
46.5 till End

Note: R.R. stands for Run Rate, SRT for Sachin Tendulkar and VK/SR for Virat Kohli or Suresh Raina – who were the two batsmen at the crease with Tendulkar from the time he got close to his hundred to the time he got out.

At the 30-over mark, India was going along fairly well, with Tendulkar and Kohli set and scoring at a good rate. At the end of that over, Tendulkar was in sight of the elusive hundred – and that is when the crawl began. One can make a case for the bowling suddenly having become better during this period – but then, Kohli’s scoring rate didn’t see as drastic a come-down as Tendulkar’s did. Before the 30th over, he and Kohli were scoring at an almost identical rate, in the period from the 30th till 35.5 (when Kohli fell), Tendulkar’s run-rate was fully 50% less than Kohli’s. The falling run-rate had a predictable result: Kohli tried an extravagant shot that wasn’t on, and was out.

The next phase saw Suresh Raina come in and immediately get into his stride. While Tendulkar also increased his scoring rate a little, Raina was outscoring him by a distance. Until he got to his century, Tendulkar’s scoring rate was 67% less than that of Raina’s. At 43.4 overs, Tendulkar finally got to his century. And immediately, there was a sharp increase in his scoring rate. Raina’s scoring rate also increased exponentially, but as the Run Rate Difference column shows, the difference between their scoring rates was a lot less than it had been. It stayed that way till the pair of them got dismissed off consecutive deliveries at 46.4 and 46.5. And expectedly enough, the rest of the Indian innings progressed at normal slog-over rate. 

The numbers don't lie, and they say that Sachin Tendulkar very clearly slowed down considerably when in sight of his century at a time when the batsmen around him continued to score much quicker, and started scoring quickly again after the ton was complete. While it is indisputable that Tendulkar slowed down, the question to ask is: Does it really matter in the larger scheme of things?

Yes, a match was lost to an unfancied opponent. India could have scored a fair bit more if the go-slow approach hadn’t happened. And yes, it wasn’t as if they still couldn’t have won the match if the bowlers had put in a better performance. But does the fact that India lost a match in a tournament that is only marginally important, weigh against the gains they can potentially have, now that the monster of the 100th hundred is off Tendulkar’s back? It had become more curse than landmark this past year. Till the end of the World Cup, Tendulkar had been in sublime form Tests, ODIs and even in the IPL. The 99th ton happened during the World Cup, and a nation and more, entered the first phase of collective hysteria. Since the end of the World Cup, till before the match against Bangladesh, Tendulkar played eleven Tests, returning an average of 37, and eight ODIs for an average of 18.63. Given that everytime he picked up a bat, there was someone helpfully at hand to remind him of the landmark, and that everytime he didn’t get it, there was someone else to remind him that he didn’t get it, the numbers weren’t so surprising. Tendulkar would have had to be alien to not feel the mounting pressure. He’s not alien, he’s human. He’s not God either, he’s human. In this setting, the only natural course - the human course - for Tendulkar would have been to get to the hundred in the fashion he did. Of course, he did slow down while approaching it. He did feel the pressure of it. He did want it over and done with. Maybe he even cost the team a victory by it. But Indian fans should count it as a bonus that it came in one of the least important tournaments of the past year. 

The loss here can be absorbed for the potential gain of Tendulkar batting the way he did in 2010 again. He said as much in a rare media interaction a day after the event. "I have to admit I was relieved. This is now out of the way and I can start a new chapter. It was possibly the toughest phase of my life. There was so much hype and attention about the 100th hundred."

The landmark is now over; it’s time for the batsman to return.

1 comment:

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Very informative blog..Thanks for sharing..