Mumbai, March 19: It’s commonly held that if Sachin Tendulkar sneezes, the rest of this city catches a cold. He’s actually worshipped in these parts, much more than he probably is elsewhere.
At the Wankhede this afternoon, though, Mumbai’s nasty side surfaced when a section of the Garware Pavilion (supposed to seat the cognoscenti) booed the present-day Little Master when he failed for the tenth time in as many Test innings.
Now India’s most capped Test cricketer, Sachin shouldn’t have chased a near wide from young James Anderson, but the boos left the remainder of the capacity turnout aghast. By stumps on Day-II of the final Test, India were 89 for three after England managed to reach 400.
“It was shameful. I can’t describe it any better. Sadly, Sachin isn’t the first great to be booed. Back in 1987 (World Cup semi-final against England), Sunil Gavaskar received the same treatment here. In between, there have been others,” former captain Dilip Vengsarkar told The Telegraph.
Furious, he added: “What happened is a pointer to the kind of people who sit in the Wankhede pavilion.' If this booing isn’t going to be condemned, then I don’t know what will.”
Gavaskar, it may be recalled, scored four before being bowled by Phil DeFreitas. That, incidentally, was his last innings for India.
Today’s episode has left the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) red-faced.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. How can a national treasure be treated this way' Don’t people realise even legends run into a bad patch'” asked MCA joint-secretary Lalchand Rajput, a former India opener.
The shame and embarrassment apart, what can’t be denied is that Sachin’s disappointing run since his world record-authoring 35th Test hundred three months ago, is telling on Team India’s health.
Nobody agreed with former Pakistan captain Moin Khan when he argued Sachin just didn’t want to take on Shoaib Akhtar even on a placid Faisalabad wicket some weeks ago, but there are fears that the possible recurrence of the tennis elbow --- despite surgery last May --- is probably playing on his mind.
Sachin turns 33 next month.
“Fact is Sachin needs one (long) innings to set everything right.' It’s not for me to say whether a technical problem has crept in. He has played with distinction for over 16 years and has it in him to get back in a big way. He’s working hard and too many people ought not to be doing a post-mortem,” Vengsarkar pointed out.
Former England captain Mike Gatting said much the same thing: “I’m sure Sachin has an idea as to what’s wrong. Given his credentials, I’m not going to offer suggestions, but anybody out of form must put in hours at nets... also, spend time at the wicket. Unfortunately, when the ball is rolling the other way, one keeps getting out quickly.”
He added: “I’m sure this is a passing phase. However, as an Englishman, I wouldn’t like Sachin to regain form in the second innings!”
Not only Sachin, vice-captain Virender Sehwag (who again got out to one pitched short) needs to be consistent. Clearly, more rests on their shoulders whenever five specialist bowlers are picked --- for example, in the ongoing Test.
With one regular batsman less, the chosen five have to deliver with a capital D and take some of the pressure off the poor captain, Rahul Dravid. Otherwise, there may just be big trouble not too far away.