x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Sachin Tendulkar still the man with the power for India

Sachin Tendulkar proved against England again yesterday he remains key to India's World Cup chances. His century may have started slowly, but you can never second guess his batting tactics.

At the end of the first two power plays against England, Sachin Tendulkar had eased to 24 from 43 balls.
A fan wrote in to Cricinfo's ball-by-ball commentary muttering that if Rahul Dravid or anyone else had played like that, they would never have heard the end of it.
But Tendulkar is not Dravid, or anyone else, and you have to be particularly dim to second-guess his approach to batting.
The next 60 balls that he faced brought him 78 runs and a fifth World Cup century. Having scored hundreds in 1996, 1999 and 2003, this was his way of announcing himself at what will surely be his final appearance in cricket's premier competition.
There are several exceptional young players in and on the fringes of the Indian team. But on the big occasion, and the first home game of the World Cup was undoubtedly one, experience is priceless.
Apart from the matchless Tendulkar, the men who contributed to a mammoth total of 338 - Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni - all had more than 100 caps.
Despite the lack of bowling teeth, that experience will be India's biggest asset in the tournament's final stages.
Five of the seven with more than 100 appearances played in the 2003 World Cup final and the pain of that defeat would undoubtedly be an added spur.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka are similarly blessed. Their encounter at the Premadasa on Saturday was all about old hands showing their worth. It was Younus Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq who ensured that a promising start would be converted into a formidable total.
What is more, they did it without any Hollywood strokes. Instead, they manipulated the ball cleverly into the gaps, picking up 65 singles and 10 twos in a partnership of 108.
After Younus's exit, Umar Akmal came and went, and it was left to Misbah to keep a cool head and take full toll of errant deliveries.
Sri Lanka had found a path back into the match through their older hands. Rangana Herath may not have played much, but he will be 33 next month. As for Muttiah Muralitharan, he did not concede a boundary all afternoon, reading the batsmen's every move. In the two power play overs that Kumar Sangakkara gave him, Murali conceded two and three.
When Sri Lanka came out to try to pull off what would have been an unprecedented run chase, it was experience that was decisive. Shoaib Akhtar first thrilled with his pace at the World Cup in 1999, but it was his intelligent variations, and Abdul Razzaq's medium pace, that prevented Sri Lanka getting off to a flying start.
For the hosts to win, they needed big efforts from Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, the two senior professionals.
In that context, the slow off-cutter that Shoaib summoned up to push back Jayawardene's middle stump was a pivotal moment. With Chamara Silva becalmed at one end, Sangakkara was forced to take the risks, and a heave at Shahid Afridi only found the fielder at long-on.
Afridi may not contribute much with the bat these days, but his nous with the ball makes Pakistan an extremely dangerous team in what looks a very open tournament. Whether it is varying his pace, or teasing batsmen, he has been by far his team's most effective bowler.
Bangladesh, for whom the 28-year-old Abdur Razzaq is the oldest player, lack experience and could well offset their home advantage.
There's a time and place for youth to have a fling, but a World Cup on the subcontinent probably isn't it. Here, those that have been there, done that and recycled the T-shirt are the special ones.
 
sports@thenational.ae