April 24: IS there anything left for Sachin Tendulkar to prove on the cricket field as he steps into the 37th summer of his life? For most, this is the man who has gone on to own almost every possible batting record in a glittering career. But deep inside the Little Master’s heart, there probably was a little flicker of discontent for not having been able to prove himself as a great leader of men. If there has ever been an area of Tendulkar’s cricketing life that has stood under the scanner, it has been his captaincy.
And that is precisely why the greatest Indian cricketer of the modern era will have reason to remember his 37th birthday, also the day before -- doctors permitting -- he would lead his band of boys to the final of IPL III. Amidst all the murky happenings, the one bright spot of the third season of the IPL would certainly be the coming of age of Tendulkar the captain. Imran Khan, one of the great captains produced by the subcontinent, wrote in his column yesterday, "The winning has redeemed Sachin’s reputation in leadership, one department where his record has not been that impressive."
Lack of success in the first two seasons of the IPL had raised question marks whether Tendulkar had made the right decision by taking over the responsibility of captaincy. The pressure on the Mumbai Indians skipper going into the third season was enormous.
"If he wins the cup, personally it will be a very satisfying moment for him. How badly Tendulkar wants to win the Cup is clear from his body language and the look on his face," said Madan Lal, who was coach of the Indian team from September 1996 to 1997, when Tendulkar was the skipper.
Pinpointing reasons for Tendulkar’s success with the MI team, Madan Lal said: "He is well respected and players in the Mumbai Indians team are dying to give 100 per cent for him. He is giving space to the youngsters to go and perform. He’s giving them the feeling that you are part of the team."
As for his lack of success with the Indian team, some experts blame the then selectors for entrusting him the responsibility before he was matured. "Thought can be given to that argument as some people mature early as captain and some late. But, I always believed that Tendulkar had the potential to be a good captain. He’s a genius, how can he not be a good captain? People may say anything, but he did not do a bad job with the Indian team. We have to remember a captain is as good as his team."
Analysing the factors that have brought Tendulkar the results as captain, Lalchand Rajput, who was coach of MI in the first season, said: "The main thing is that he’s not taking any pressure and enjoying his cricket. That’s why he’s not only playing at his best but everything is falling into place for him.
"As a captain, it’s important that you go with your gut feeling. When you are relaxed, your thinking is clear and will be in a better position to make the right call. On the other hand, when you are not sure you can err in judgment," said Rajput. "Winning this IPL will mean a lot to him as it’s a high-profile tournament where the pressure from the franchisee owners is high," observed Rajput.
Praveen Amre, MI’s assistant coach in 2009, said: "One of the reasons of MI’s failure in South Africa was that we did not get good starts in nine matches. This time, Tendulkar has ensured that most of the time his team got a good start."
"He’s been very focussed and his commitment has motivated his team in every way. Failures always teach you. Being with the team for two seasons, he’s been able to understand each and every player and has been able to shuffle the team and the batting order accordingly,"
"I pray he’s fit for the final. He’s given so much joy to the entire cricketing fraternity that deserves to get this happiness. It will be real, real justice if MI win," said Amre.