The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sachin makes the difference

Calcutta, Nov.30: Off the field, it’s been an extraordinary week.

From the nasty exchange between Michael Holding and Carl Hooper to Mike Gatting’s rather personal attack on Nasser Hussain to Ian Chappell trying to knock Sir Don Bradman off that very high pedestal…

Even more disappointing, with the Chappell-Bradman exception, former captains have made the present incumbent their target.

Yet, as Sachin Tendulkar showed, cricket is still a gentleman’s game. That appreciating a contemporary’s match-winning qualities hasn’t been lost for good. That at least one former captain can be different…

Just the other day, after all, he gave Sourav Ganguly the highest marks for mental toughness besides complimenting him for making optimal use of the bowler’s pace.

All this, of course, coming from one widely recognised as having the last word in batting.

Specifically, Sachin observed: “His major strength is his mind… He sets the bowler up and, before the bowler realises, has already played a big shot…

“It’s his balance and the way he waits for the ball and uses the pace of the bowler that makes him special…”

Reacting, the captain told The Telegraph this afternoon: “It’s been nice of him… Actually, I’ve always focussed on the improvement of Team India and haven’t been driven by personal ambition.”

Talking specifically about mental toughness, he pointed out: “Experience, more than anything else, has made me stronger… I’ve learnt from both the good and bad.”

But was mental toughness alone responsible for his success (4,000-plus runs in Tests and over 8,000 in ODIs)'

“Difficult to say… It’s got to be a mix… Surely, talent and skill have also contributed. In fact, experience too,” Sourav answered.

Though the captain isn’t into, say, meditation (like Shivnarine Chanderpaul) to complement his mental strength, he did interact with a pro motivator during his 1993 stint in the Middlesex League.

“I had three-four sessions with Errol Stewart and, while I don’t recall a specific piece of advice, I do remember that helped,” Sourav recalled.

However, even if the captain wishes to (again) interact with a Stewart, it’s debatable whether he will have the time.

This week, for instance, was hectic with a capital H — that, too, with no cricket: Trips to Mumbai (selection meeting and a commercial shoot), Siliguri (strictly for charity) and New Delhi (for a feel of the 2003 World Cup), not to speak of six hours at the star-spangled inauguration of wife Dona’s school of performing arts (Diksha Manjari) in the city itself.

And, come tomorrow, Sourav will be off to New Zealand (via Singapore) till mid-January. Dona and the infant Sana will accompany him.

Predictably, everybody’s attention is already on the February-March World Cup, yet the immediate priority must be to knock off the Black Caps in the two Tests and seven ODIs.

“We will, quite simply, have to play good cricket… Session-by-session, day-by-day,” the captain signed off, as he prepared to run a check on his gear.

Incidentally, India’s first series win overseas was in New Zealand, under Mansur Ali Khan ‘Tiger’ Pataudi in 1967-68.

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