Vantage point

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Waiting for GOTOT

No it is not a typo. It is not meant to be Godot, but GOTOT.

Waiting for Godot is a play by Samuel Beckett about two tramps, Vladimir and Estragon, waiting for someone named Godot. Who exactly Godot is, why they want to meet him, etc is never revealed. The repititive plot just has the two tramps conversing, and waiting for Godot, who incidentally, never turns up.

Waiting for GOTOT is a "play" that has been in progress for almost 17 years now. GOTOT stands for "Grand Outstanding Tendulkar-Owned Test". For years, Tendulkar's fans have been waiting for him to decisively and unarguably stamp his authority on a test match, a test match which will forever be remembered as his own. Several batsmen in the Indian time have "owned" their own test matches.

Laxman owned Calcutta'01
Dravid owned Adelaide'03
Sehwag owned Multan'04

Tendulkar however, the greatest batsman of them all, has yet to play a test innings which, in terms of content as well as context, be so outstanding that it will forever be recalled with awe. For years now, Tendulkar's fan expect that every time India is in a spot of bother, he will come and "silence his critics" for once and for all. However that one defining test knock is yet to come.

Chennai'98 despite being special, was just not huge enough at 155. Chennai'99 ended in a losing cause. Chennai'01 again lacked the size, and was also overshadowed by Harbhajan's heroics as curdled by a second inning failure. The double against New Zealand was in a draw and again curdled by a second innings failure. The doubles against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh were....well...against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. The 193 at Headingley came after Dravid and Bangar set things up. The 241 at Sydney just lacked content and was a highly neutered innings.

Sachin fans(including me) may often come to his defence in this regard but at the bottom of their hearts, they know that he has not produced that trump card which they can use to good effect in any argument.

He has owned several one-dayers. The one at Sharjah, the one against Pakistan, the one at Hyderabad to name a few. But it is test cricket whose history is hard-bound. ODI history is always paperback.

We keep waiting for GOTOT not unlike Vladimir and Estragon, without realising that the odds of GOTOT coming are very less. There was once a time when Tendulkar was counted as one of the unluckiest batsmen. Umpires seemed to make their worst mistakes against him, and fielders seemed to pull off their best catches against him. Bowlers invariably produced deliveries of their lifetimes when they faced Sachin.

Yet of late, whenever a potential GOTOT opportunity has presented itself, more often than not Tendulkar has been dismissed due to his own mistake. Today, he gave his wicket to Shaun Udal, an almost-has-been who has been around for as long as Sachin has, but has hardly played a handful of tests. In Karachi a few weeks back, he got out to Abdul Razzaq, who certainly would not find a spot amongst the top 10 Pakistani seamers of all time. In Bangalore last year, he was dismissed by Afridi in both innings.

It is no secret that Tendulkar's powers are on the ebb, physically speaking. Even his technique is faltering. Until a couple of years back I would happily enter debates against people who said Dravid had the best technique in the Indian team. I always maintained that though Dravid is technically very sound, he is not as good as Tendulkar when it comes to execution. Recently however, I would let such a debating opportunity pass. The frequent gap between bat and pad, the playing away from the body, the frequent lapses in footwork... this just isn't the same man anymore.

Of course, it is not like his technique has completely gone sour. By and large he seems to stick to it. But the mistakes are just too common by his standards.

From all angles thus, it looks very likely that the best of Tendulkar is behind us and though I would certainly not join the ridiculous and idiotic chorus of "Endulkar" and ask for him to be dropped, it is clear that waiting for GOTOT is going to be no different than waiting for Godot.

This post has been cross-posted on Cricinfo's blog - Different Strokes where the comments are enabled