Tendulkar seems mortal post tennis elbow

Published: Sunday, April 24, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Mumbai:Sir Donald Bradman was considered a failure by his lofty standards at the end of the controversial 'Bodyline Series' against Douglas Jardine's leg-theory-using fast bowlers led by Harold Larwood.

Bradman's average in that series, which almost resulted in the break-down of diplomatic relations between Australia and its mother country, was 56, a fabulous figure for any other batsman.

But for the 'Don', who appeared simply unstoppable to most bowlers, it was a steep climbdown from his previous unreachable height.

Jardine plotted the run-machine's downfall by using leg theory, of packing the on-side field behind the popping crease with a plethora of fielders and asking his trio of pacemen Larwood, Bill Voce and Bill Bowes to bowl short, rising balls at the batsman's rib-cage.

If a modern-day equivalent is to be found to what Bradman went through during that series that brought about legislation prohibiting the stationing of more than two fielders behind the popping crease on the leg side, it could be the current plight of India's champion batsman Sachin Tendulkar.

Post his tennis elbow affliction the master willow-wielder has seen his career graph dip sharply in the one-day format of the game and even his superb figures in Tests have taken a slight dent after his injury last August.

The Indian icon, who turns 32 on Sunday, for the first time in his glittering career is looking mortal with the bat.

Tendulkar has averaged 30-plus in 10 One-Day Internationals he has played after his comeback from an injury which occurred when he was with the Indian team in Holland for the tri-series.

The Mumbai champion's career One-day average is plus-44, including a fantastic collection of 38 hundreds and 69 fifties. Post his injury he has managed to make just one century and another half century. His lone century in this period, a classy 123 at the mud bowl of Motera in Ahmedabad, failed to prevent Pakistan from clinching a heart-stopping victory, and coincidentally it was Tendulkar who conceded the winning hit to rival team captain Inzamam-ul-Haq off the last ball of the tie.

In other ties in the shortened variety of the game, in which he opens, Tendulkar has looked an imitation of his once mighty presence at the top of the order.

Even in Test cricket his average over the last nine Tests, since his comeback from injury in the third Test against Australia at Nagpur, has dipped a bit.

Take away his unbeaten innings of 248 against cricket minnows Bangladesh in December last, and his average whittles down to 46-plus, considered a good average for most batsmen but not for one whose career figure is closer to the 60s.

In the series against Pakistan Tendulkar looked all set to post his 35th Test hundred and become the sole world record holder, but fell six short of the feat at Mohali by slashing uppishly to the point fielder. He looked well below his former self in the other two Tests.

Tendulkar had suffered a back injury at the peak of his prowess during the Chennai Test of the 1999-00 series against Pakistan and since then has not been the consistent demolisher of bowlers which he was earlier.

Can he regain the touch of yore and instil fear in the opposing bowling attack, is the big question that's boggling the minds of his legion of fans.

Cricket, and India, would be the gainers if he does.

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