A World Cup to remember for Sachin and Srinath

The two seniors in the Indian line-up, Sachin Tendulkar and Javagal Srinath, have certainly made World Cup 2003 one to remember for the countless Indian supporters.

SRIKKANTH

To me, Sachin Tendulkar has been the most intimidating batsman in the international arena after Vivian Richards, says the author. — Pic. V. V. KRISHNAN-

Sachin Tendulkar's feats in the World Cup took my breath away. He was awesome, and to watch him in full flow was a glorious sight indeed.

To me, he has been the most intimidating batsman in the international arena after Vivian Richards. The hapless bowlers who have suffered under his blazing willow would tell you this.

Like Richards, Tendulkar can instil fear in a bowler and there have not been too many batsmen in World cricket who can do that. Like Richards, Tendulkar is a terminator and a destroyer.

I particularly liked the way Tendulkar went about his job in the World Cup in Southern Africa. He has put the various attacks to the sword, yet accomplished this in a correct manner.

Two strokes from him has stood out in the tournament — the back-foot punch through cover and the straight drive. He played these shots so well, that the fielders had absolutely no chance.

There have been several other memorable strokes. None more than his fierce pull off Andrew Caddick in the crucial clash against England. The ball was not all that short, yet Tendulkar spotted it so early that he was ready with his response. So sweetly was the shot timed that it soared miles over the fence.

This is the greatness of Tendulkar - he can make things happen, he doesn't wait for the events to unfold. And in the World Cup, he created opportunities for India, breaking several records in the process.

He is clearly the man for the big occasion, and when the entire nation looks at him to deliver, he doesn't let the country down. Tendulkar's thundering innings, that finished off Pakistan, was a prime example of this trait in him.

Pakistan had got off to a challenging score and it was absolutely vital from India's point of view that the side was off to a good start. Tendulkar ensured that his side made a cracking beginning.

Shoaib Akhtar, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis form one of the most fierce pace attacks in the world, however, the manner in which Tendulkar went after them, and destroyed their rhythm, confirmed my belief that he is the finest batsman in world cricket.

Tendulkar's near century at the expense of the Pakistani bowlers will have to go down as one of the most explosive batting display of our times, and I am sure, fifty years from now, people would still be talking of that innings.

He had expressed a desire to open the innings, and knowing Tendulkar, he would have only done so had he been convinced himself that the move would bring out the best in him. Tendulkar has always been a team-man and this is what that makes him even more endearing.

He had a difficult time during the New Zealand tour, missed out on the first four ODIs due to an ankle injury, and it must have taken a huge effort from him to get himself ready mentally and physically.

But then, when has he been found wanting in commitment and desire. When the side looks up to him, this great cricketer only soars. It was in '92 that Tendulkar turned out in his first World Cup down under, and I was with him in that tournament.

Even then it was obvious that here was a cricketer who would be among the brightest shining stars, such was his talent, such was his commitment.

Javagal Srinath too played in his first World Cup then, and he has now completed his fourth successive appearance in the premier limited overs competition. This is a remarkable achievement for a fast bowler.

He is a deeply passionate cricketer who has a burning ambition to excel for India on the big stage. The manner in which he has kept himself fit, he recovered from a career-threatening shoulder injury in '97, has been exemplary.

This Karnataka bowler always had the pace and the fire, but it is the consistency in his bowling that makes him such a distinct threat now. He is hitting the right length from the first ball, his line has been fantastic and this means trouble for the batsmen.

Apart from his bowling skills, it is his impeccable work ethic that has enabled him to last so long. Despite Srinath's rather pragmatic appearance, he is a fiercely proud cricketer for whom nothing comes before India. This enabled him to stage a comeback after he announced his desire to retire from Test cricket following the West Indian tour last year.

The selectors, at first, committed the folly of leaving him out of the ODI side, however, as the year went along - during this period Srinath returned to Test cricket - the experienced paceman got into a wonderful rhythm. Even in the high scoring ODI series at home against the West Indians, where the pitches could have broken the heart of the best of pacemen, Srinath operated quite superbly, and he was outstanding on the seaming pitches in New Zealand, giving very little away and producing the wicket-taking deliveries at will. The fact that he has now mastered that one straightening into or leaving the right hander slightly has made him a top-notch attacking bowler.

He did bowl wonderfully well in New Zealand, and carried that form with him into the World Cup. Srinath's scorching first spell against Zimbabwe, and those early strikes were extremely crucial since India was defending only a moderate score.

Similarly, his burst with the new ball against England was sensational though he was lucky. So often did Srinath beat the bat that he could have picked at least four to five wickets. That was a game where Ashish Nehra ran though England and I am sure, he would acknowledge Srinath's contribution; he did put so much pressure on the batsmen.

And of course, he devastated Sri Lanka in the Super Six game. This will forever stay in my mind. He was charged up on that day, something very evident from his body language. Srinath has played the part of the senior paceman to perfection, acting as an inspiration to Zaheer Khan and Nehra, the two other important elements in a lethal Indian pace attack. He is never hesitant to pass on his knowledge of the trade.

The two seniors in the Indian line-up, Sachin Tendulkar and Javagal Srinath, have certainly made World Cup 2003 one to remember for the countless Indian supporters. I cannot be happier.