Along with the stats for India’s win at Bengaluru, you will find special reports in newspapers and sports shows on TV on the way a certain Sachin Tendulkar has been getting dismissed and quantification of lack of 3-figure mark for a year and a half now. Some will go a step ahead and suggest the man to hang his boots. Valid facts and obvious consequent emotions, but where is the cricketing logic amongst all this to rationalize the observations?
Ex-players like Sunil Gavaskar & Sanjay Manjrekar suggested that age appears to be catching up with him and that fast bowlers are trying to get him bowled or leg-before by bowling full and that his above-the-rest hand-eye co-ordination reaching the level where most others belong. There would be certain reasons why these ex-players are suggesting reasons for Tendulkar’s form/way of dismissals, but unintentionally that has got almost every Tom, Dick & Harry discussing about his technique, skills & ability, including those who follow test cricket not beyond the knowing numbers on scorecards! The expectations of him are so high that every dry innings becomes a disappointment, a 50 or a 70 doesn’t get a reaction more than a ‘hmm’, a ton missed is equated to nervous nineties and a longish period of no hundreds (like the one currently) is correlated to age, retirement and lack of ability; and this hasn’t changed for the last couple of decades!
Before starting with enlisting reasons for his lack of form/ways of dismissals, a bit of a disclaimer - these are just observations and no intentions of making this go beyond that! Let us try and delineate the discussion around him getting bowled/leg before too often first. 2010 was probably the most productive year for Sachin in recent times; he was dismissed on 20 occasions in test matches during that period, which included 8 (40%) bowled (3) or leg-before (5) dismissals. The year 2011 had Sachin dismissed as bowled (2) or leg-before (5) on 7 occasions out of 16 (43.75%). His career stats read 110 bowled (51) or leg-before (59) dismissals out of 282 times he has had to walk back (39%). These numbers are indicative that the sudden series of ‘bowled’ dismissals shouldn’t be more than an aberration.
Harsha Bhogle & Aakash Chopra suggest that his recent dismissals have got to do with him looking to hit straight balls through mid wicket; fair point that, which would indicate his balance falling over to the off-side. Normally Sachin’s on drives have a certain direction to certain delivery points. His flick from off-stump towards mid-wicket off a left arm seamer is rarely fallible, while on-drives off right arm quickies goes along the virtual V-line or behind square if he times it late; his dismissals in this series have been exactly the opposite! His balance in executing certain shots is looking as good as ever, the feet appear to move in sync with the weight transfer and hence the trying-to-hit-through-midwicket inference isn’t complete. Last year you saw him getting trapped LBW a bit too often; a possible reason to see him getting bowled so often this year, could be due to an alteration to his stance to avoid the pad to straight deliveries.
When you look at his recent knocks you will realize that he is struggling with form for runs rather than touch, for certain patches in his outings are trademark stuff, if not better. The system appears to work smoothly and then suddenly it encounters a glitch. They say that it is completely different to bat hours in the nets from spending time in the middle and probably Tendulkar is suffering from that. When you are in form the confidence that goes along with it takes care of certain unintentional movements, but when you aren’t a single glitch can keep recurring! Sachin is too good to not notice the shortcomings in his movements, and there are plenty of wise men to suggest him the desired corrections. For a young boy who loved the challenge to defend a one rupee coin for the sake of improving his skills, it would be unreal to suggest that Tendulkar isn’t concerned about the way he is getting dismissed; his reactions at Bengaluru are pretty much self-explanatory. In a way the vocal criticism about Tendulkar is good - it would provide him a fresh challenge and a few extra hours in the nets to iron out a rare flaw; something which he has loved to face all through his career!