Tendulkar: genius captured in 19 seconds

It was 2007. We were at Trent Bridge. The veteran cricket photographer Patrick Eagar was covering his 300th Test. He was kind enough to spare a few minutes for a chat, a wide-ranging discussion on cricket photography. At the end of the interview I asked him to name a cricketer who was tough to shoot. He considered the question for a few seconds. Here’s his response:

“I find Tendulkar quite difficult to photograph. That’s probably because I’ve seen more of Lara in the one-day situation than Tendulkar. You have to admire some of the inventiveness in some of Lara’s shots. I’ve seen Tendulkar in a slightly more passive mould. I find it very difficult to take a picture of Tendulkar that has people saying, ‘What a good batsman!’ I don’t know why; need to work it out.’

I thought of Eagar’s statement yesterday when Mahesh (@cornerd) pointed me to a Tendulkar six off Albie Morkel in the opening match of the IPL. It was the third over of the run-chase. He had struck Morkel for a four through extra-cover. Then he was beaten by a snorter that took off from a good length. Then he took strike for the fourth ball. And did this:

In my farewell post to Rahul Dravid I had complained about how future generations would find it hard to understand his essence. They could watch his clips on YouTube, I had said, but would never understand his waiting game, his immaculate construction of an innings that underscored his greatness.

Here is an instance when I can’t thank YouTube enough. An outstanding cameraman has zoomed into Tendulkar’s technical genius. What stands out in this video is the replay. I watched from the seventh second, freezing every second to see the progression of the shot.

[In the new version of the video the replay starts in the 30th second]

:07 – Tendulkar takes a few steps forward. Feet in line. High back lift.

:08 – Front leg half in the air, facing extra cover. Back leg turning parallel to the ground. Bat wound up.

In backyard parlance this shot – at least at this point – would be termed a slog. Tendulkar needs to reach for the ball. He’s too far away. He’s gone against the famous coaching maxim: get as close to the ball as possible. Now he needs to manufacture the shot rather than flow with it.

:09 – Front leg almost back on the ground, faces extra cover. Back leg rooted parallel to the ground. Bat reaching for the ball.

:09 – His body then lunges further to the right. The weight of the back leg is shifting to his toes. The head continues to be still.

:10 – The bat is way away from the body. The back foot weight is now on his toes. The front leg is rooted. The head continues to remain still.

At this particular freeze-frame, Tendulkar’s stroke is bordering on the ungainly. He has committed to a shot and has decided to finish it through. The effort in reaching for the ball is apparent.

:11 – The back leg is flat on the ground. The front foot has remained rooted. And the bat has got much closer to his body. His balance is back. By the end of the second, he looks as if he’s played a cover-drive.

In less than one second,  Tendulkar has converted a potentially ugly shot into a luminous one. He has actually reversed the natural flow of the stroke – striking a six with a monstrous bat before commanding his whole system to change direction in less than a second.

The rest is an orgasm. As the weight transfers from his back foot to the front foot, you feel an electricity shoot through you. The bodily movement is so natural, so innately graceful. I realized that the final few seconds of the video had more of an effect on me than the six itself. It’s the follow-through that helps the intoxication set in.

One of my coaches once saw me play an ugly hoick and said: “I don’t care where the shot starts as long as it ends in a correct way”. Tendulkar started by charging down the track to a ball that was away from his body. He then struck the ball away from his body. He finished as if he had creamed a text-book perfect cover-drive. All in less than five seconds.

Gideon Haigh recently spoke about Tendulkar’s technique. He said Tendulkar was a batsman who seems to have not been taught how to bat but rather intuited his technique from first principles. I agree. No batsman can be taught to bat this way. No batsman can be made to look so beautiful even when he is actually doing something that’s against the textbook.

These are the kind of shots that make Tendulkar such a good batsman across all formats. He can be inventive and audacious, yet he eventually works around the basics. He is not a batsman flouting the fundamentals. His genius lies in the fact that he’s found a way to use the basics even when he’s going against the rules.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

63 Responses to Tendulkar: genius captured in 19 seconds

  1. gayathri says:

    wow . i am blessed 2 watch that in stadium yesterday. 4.4.12 . never thought it wil be a six when he played that awesome.

  2. gasp! the decription is as exhilarating as the shot itself! I saw this live (on Computer) and felt a bit of what you described – breathtaking.

  3. Dude, I want to share this. But there are no buttons on your blog to share!

  4. @ShyFyy says:

    Awesome!!! Superbly described. That shot alone was worthy of a blog post. And you have done justice to it! When that shot was played even I used the same O word! http://twitter.com/#!/ShyFyy/status/187578991971016704

  5. Sathish K says:

    Thanks Sid. Was following your twitter conversation with cornerd yesterday. Though I enjoyed every frame from the 7th second, the 10th second IMO was the crucial moment. There can never be a better example of “head being still”. GOD!!

  6. Suhas says:

    Very well written, whenever I see Sachin’s or Federer’s technique the first thing that comes to mind is a word and that is my most favorite english word – ‘Balance’ , i think thats the core of Sachin’s batting or Federer’s forehand, you will never ever see Sachin or Federer in an awkward position while playing their shots
    I have always wondered how can short guys with such big bats/big pads play such beautiful strokes, and my uncle has always said its the way they manage their body weight and get into a balanced position before executing any shot, and thats absolutely true.

    • sidvee says:

      One thing I did not mention in detail was the head position. Despite being off balance, his head was still through the shot. I guess that drove the whole balance.

  7. Brilliant article mate! Can’t think of a better description for that shot!

  8. dum de dum says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how some people see a spade and think of it as something else.

  9. Pradyuman says:

    the six against pakistan in the recently concluded asia cup was even better. the way his body moves, rather flows, while executing that shot is unbelievable. watch it.

  10. Golandaaz says:

    I don’t know what a genius is..but I have seen Sachin in Shivaji Park when he was still in school and his genius is an outcome of intense, sustained, focused practice in the art of batting.

    Sachin was very lucky to be spotted young among a sea of good batsmen. Had the resources to focus only on his cricket. A privilege of a few. Add to it his own hunger and focus and ambition and you have a man who can play shots like these.

    I almost did not read this post, because these days any item that goes gaga over sachin raises my blood sugar but today I decided to indulge:-)

    • sidvee says:

      Firstly I envy you for being able to have seen him from so young. And sure, you are right – there is no one way to define genius, it’s a product of a number of factors. Thanks for reading the post and taking the time to comment. It’s stories like these that help make this blog what it is.

    • Jai says:

      @golandaaz – While most of what you say is true, you cannot ignore the fact that sachin has the ability and talent too. I am sure there are 100’s of good players out there who have the resources to focus ONLY on cricket, but they don’t all go on to be world beaters just because they go out and do intense, sustained, focused practice.

      Even if it were JUST those things, he has continued to do that then and ever since for over 23 years, so i think shots like these are second nature to him now.

  11. Sriram says:

    Terrific post, Sidvee. You have done for SRT what DFW did for RF (http://nyti.ms/QCfv). Remarkable similarities in the moments: both Federer and SRT are out of position to play their shots, their weights in the wrong place, both hit the shots cleanly and finish in a graceful position (“Federer’s still dancing backward as it lands”).

    • sidvee says:

      Oh please. That was an epic piece. In fact I first heard of DFW only because of that piece. And then went on to read more of his writing. True about the similarities of the shots, though. Many people have pointed me to other shots where he is totally in control but I think the fact that he went from being off balance to being in total control made this shot special for me. The swing between where he was and where he finished was huge.

  12. Absolute gem of an article, am happy to see @Golandaaz’s reply on it:)

  13. Pingback: On sidveeblogs: Tendulkar: genius captured in 19 seconds | The Party Crasher

  14. Pingback: CSK vs MI | Levi makes it too easy for Mumbai | Cricket Daily

  15. Phew! I thought I was the only one who watched a whole day’s play and then came home, all the while thinking only of the divine perfection of one stroke, regardless of the rest of the day’s play. Its rather reassuring to find out that there are others who note these things.

  16. Suresh Ramaswamy says:

    Sid, the shot seemed very special on live. Your description immortalizes it.

  17. Fantastic piece of writing: Making an ungainly slog look resplendent. Even in the Chepauk of the yore, he would been caught in the deep. A shot like this from any lesser player would have drawn serious rebukes not just of the shot, but also of the player, the format, the league, and of course BCCI. Fanboys can counter it by saying he makes not just the shot look good, but also masks the foulness of the format, the league, and BCCI

    • sidvee says:

      I think many of the other players get away with crude shots despite not having the basics in place. And that is probably the root cause of the worry when it comes to the ill effects of the IPL – the fear that players may settle for an average technique that can fetch them a quick 30 each innings.

  18. Bipin says:

    Those who saw it live will remember that the editor switched the shots from the static-camera-on-the-pitch to the wide shot of the ball headed towards the boundary a bit late Tendulkar’s reaction after hitting the ball was as if he hadn’t middles it, but boy did he!.

  19. John Smith says:

    Can you apply the same analysis to how Dougie pinned him with a short one and tickled up his finger so much that he retired hurt shortly after his “orgasmic six” !

    • Sreekanth says:

      yeah, there were some green patches on the pitch and whenever they hit those patches, dougie’s dibbly dobblers would rise up and behave unpredictably. They did that and it hit sachin’s finger, though for some reason dougie still could not get his wicket. That description satisfying enough for you?? or should we also describe how sachin dealt with the most over-rated spinner mr. warne?

      • John Smith says:

        So is SRT going to cry to Srinivasan that there was a bit of green left on the Chennai pitch? More the pity that it did not happen on a regular basis in India before the England and Australia Tests. Your batsmen may have learnt to deal a bit better with some chin music. Clearly SRT’s reflexes are slowing if he can’t deal master Dougie’s dibbly dobblers.
        Cricket is played in varying conditions and the greats deal with them all !

      • John Smith says:

        Notice that SRT was nursing his finger so much that he did not play today

    • Shivek says:

      Yes because greats do not get hit by bouncers. Duhh!!!

      • Ashish Sharma says:

        Bravery is not in never falling down. It is in getting up again after every fall. Sachin is into the 23rd year of hospital international career. If it were some tennis player of the age of 23, we would already be talking about his retirement. Its nobody’s case that Sachin’s reflexes are the same as they were once. What we are trying to push down your dumb head is that he still manages to beat the stuffing out of the best in the business. I can understand that one should not overly praise anyone only because of his reputation, but I am also dead against criticizing anyone only because he answers to the name of SRT.

      • Karthik V says:

        Another great who goes by the name of Ricky Ponting does get hit as well. And, he’s much younger than Sachin. Search the net for Kemar Roach to Ricky Ponting

  20. Raj says:

    These are typical Sachin mark shots.. no one even dare to shot them…

  21. tarunvignesh says:

    A very good analysis. I’ve always felt this about Sachin- he combines great technique with grace ,minimalism and adaptability to resounding effect. I have to emphasise on the the words minimalism and adaptability in this case. During the follow through the bat , the hands are in a straight line with the shoulder which basically translates to the arms,shoulders and the bat working together as a single unit.

  22. Dinakar says:

    Wish he plays with such liberty in a test match. Last time i saw him playing an imperious knock with loads of freedom in the longer version of the game, albeit a first class game, was against England Lions during 2007 England tour. What an innings that was. Pure pleasure.

  23. robin says:

    Is this sheer talent or hardwork ????? These guys continue to amaze us….(both Sachin and Sidvee) . Brilliant description.

  24. Adam says:

    I wish I could write like you mate! Supreme piece!!!

  25. sandeep says:

    I just wished someone had filmed my straight driving during school cricket and showed it it to u. Sigh…Except u would have titled it ‘comic genius captured in 15 seconds’. Still sighing… Great article though.

  26. ‘The rest was orgasm’. It really was. I remember watching this live, and I had only managed to say ‘oooooooooooooooooo’
    You are brilliant. Must be one of the best sports writers.

  27. Great description about Sachin Tendulkar’s six off Albie Morket in IPL 2012 season opener.

  28. Pingback: Tendulkar’s IPL Six | Vishal Ganesan’s Blog

  29. P>Prabhakar says:

    Great. He knows how to convert technique into reality, that’s his greatness.
    Prabhakar

  30. P>Prabhakar says:

    That’s the genius he is.
    Prabhakar

  31. Ramakrishna Vaidyanathan says:

    Perfectly articulated about where Sachin stands these days, there’s no doubt on his technical brilliance but effectiveness for the cause of the team has always been suspect and continues to be questioned

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/560265.html

    • C.Nagendran says:

      Kesavan Who? Have you played cricket, possibly tennis ball cricket on streets. Otherwise your level of understanding Bangladesh teams improvement and their splendid spin bowling attack did not get your low level appreciation . They have one of the best spin attack in the modern game, and most of the batsmen found it difficult to counter the deceptive turn. In the entire tournament only a few could score quite freely. Tendulkar was great to score a century and a so called novelist observation is slow scoring (please stick to your novels which is not realism, just imagination ), and attribute the loss for his slow run rate. . Can you mention one other player who was able to score fast and still complete one hundred. in the tournament. Mind your words when you write about a great player, Tendulkar knows what he is doing and how he is playing . A genius cannot be understood by people of your caliber.
      Nage from Sri Lanka

    • Karthik V says:

      I think people who question his ‘effectiveness for the cause of the team’ would do well to read this piece Lafwrence Booth in which he summarizes Dravid and Sachin’s careers beautifully. My takeaway from that piece was: In Tests, Dravid scored a net 450 runs or so more than Sachin in 32 more innings and 6 fewer hundreds in tests; Dravid scored 4 centuries in losing causes, Sachin scored 9; 38% of Dravid’s centuries came in Indian victories while it was 40% for Sachin. In one day cricket, there is no comparison, of course. Let’s keep in mind that Sachin did all this while suffering a form slump in the mid-2000s and facing and recovering from severe injuries, unlike Dravid (not a criticism of Dravid).

      I actually don’t like making this comparison as Dravid was such a great bat. He was undoubtedly one of India’s all time greats. But, when you constantly come across drivel like Mukul Kesavan’s article, it’s time to step back and recollect why Sachin is placed where he is in the minds and hearts of followers of the game.

      Here is the article:
      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/cricket/article-2117213/Why-Sachin-Tendulkar-outshines-Rahul-Dravid–Top-Spin.html

  32. lata sharma says:

    he is just a god! and i think he knew this truth! he done a job very easily, which is no one can do hardly! hehehe! yes! he is god!

  33. aditya says:

    can anyone give me the link to the video

  34. Pingback: IPL, basketball and the tamasha paradox | ________________

  35. Pingback: சொல்வனம் » ஐ பி எல், கூடைப்பந்து மற்றும் கேலிக்கூத்து முரண் புதிர்

  36. Pingback: Be bold, be practical, do the right thing | ________________

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s