| Sachin Tendulkar celebrates with Harbhajan Singh at the Wanderers Monday. (Reuters)
When I watch Sachin Tendulkar bat I find myself wondering how Don Bradman would have coped with the modern game.
The Indian genius was at his imperious best when he delivered a match-winning innings for India in the humiliation of Sri Lanka at the Wanderers. Would Bradmanís insatiable appetite for scoring runs have been diminished by so much cricket, especially the endless stream of one-day matches' How would he have handled the modern method of individual game plans and field placing'
I suppose he experienced some of that with bodyline bowling and field placing and it curtailed his rampant run making. Would Bradman have automatically batted in a helmet and would he have graduated to heavier bats' These are all imponderables, but it is natural to fantasise about such things when watching another blitzkrieg from the modern genius. Make no mistake, Tendulkar is a genius!
Tendulkarís combination of deft touches and raw power is virtually unmatched in the game today. Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Brian Lara probably go closest to him. They can certainly match his power, though they donít quite match his exquisite skill and versatility.
The versatility is an innate, instinctive skill. It must have been learned somewhere because I doubt that it was taught. Something in Sachinís environment early in his cricket development allowed for the acquisition of this skill.
Bradman developed his similarly exquisite skill on his own, with the help of a golf ball thrown against a tank stand, and played with a stump. Had Bradman learned to bat with the heavy bats in vogue today he may have played very differently'
While there is only a difference of six or seven ounce between the bats used by Bradman and Tendulkar, the extra weight can make a difference in balance and style. Bradman controlled the bat with his top hand. This would have been more difficult with the heavier bat.
In place of the glides, glances, pulls and cuts that he favoured, all along the ground, of course, we may have seen more of the modern bludgeoning. Bradman used the laws of physics better than anyone else, then or now. He used the energy created by the bowler and redirected the ball with brilliant footwork and incredible wrist work.
Tendulkar goes closest to emulating him, but has the added advantage ó delivered by the heavier modern bat ó of being able to block the ball back past the faster bowlers more quickly than it was delivered.
Tendulkarís innings of 97 was as intimidating to most of the Sri Lankan bowlers, as it was for the Pakistanis at Centurion Park. Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralidharan were the only Sri Lankan bowlers who seemed capable of withstanding the Tendulkar-led tornado that comprehensively blew them away.
The Indian bowlers, led by Jawagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra then delivered the knockout punch which may have destroyed Sri Lankaís world cup hopes. Just maybe!
Sri Lanka bounced back from their debacle against Kenya earlier in the tournament so they may still recover to reach the finals. The problem is, the equation is now out of their hands, as it will also rely on other results. I am not sure some of the bowlers will ever recover from the brutality of the assault.
India has made a remarkable recovery from the tour of New Zealand and the mauling by Australia on February 15.
Confidence is a remarkable thing and it is difficult to play well without it. The difference in the team now is noticeable in all aspects of their cricket, not least of all, in the field.
In this form India can seriously challenge for the title. It will need the same level of commitment shown since the loss to Australia and it will need a team effort. Tendulkar has shown them the way out of the gloom that had descended on the team, and their supporters, over the poor form leading into the World Cup. Even the best of players will have bad days or will make mistakes, so the fact that Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh have shown some form is an excellent sign for India. Srinath has also bounced back to top form and is enjoying the support of Khan and Nehra and the infusion of youth to the fielding side is paying off.
It will now require everyone in the squad to apply themselves to the basics in training and matches. The other thing is they need to enjoy what they are doing and enjoy each otherís success.
The element of fun and a strong team spirit cannot be underestimated in forging a successful team. Ganguly and John Wright will be well aware of the need to keep this spirit bubbling along for the rest of this campaign.