Sachin and Ricky’s extremely big night out
When Australia plays India in the ICC World Cup tonight, it will bring together two giants of the game, in Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting. The former is batting better than ever, the latter is clearly on the wane. But Punter has one thing on Tendulkar which India’s little master would do anything to change.
Ricky has nailed India when it really, really matters. Tendulkar hasn’t returned the favour.
That’s not to understate the record of Tendulkar, who has plundered over 3,000 runs against Australia in both Tests and One-Dayers down the years. That’s more runs than he’s scored against any other single country, and he’s scored them against us at better than his overall career average.
Clearly, Tendulkar lifts against Australia. But he hasn’t played that killer innings that made the whole of Australia weep. In fact, we usually cheer when he bats, as we did in January 1992, when he made his first Test century on our shores.
It’s a lot easier to love someone when they’re putting on a show rather than destroying your dreams. And putting on a show, for the most part, is what Tendulkar has done.
There are two ways and two ways only Tendulkar could have hurt us over the years. One, play the innings that secures an India Test series victory in Australia, and he hasn’t done that. And two, win a World Cup. He hasn’t done that either.
It hardly matters that Sachin was the only batsman anywhere, ever, to consistently make Shane Warne look average, or that he became the first batsman to make a One day double ton (just last year), or that he has broken a very large swag of other records. Records aren’t as shiny as trophies. And the history of the world is written by the people who get the shiny stuff.
Two moments spring to mind when you think of Tendulkar’s failure to dominate Australia when it counts. One was his dismissal for a duck, caught Gilchrist bowled McGrath in a 1999 World Cup match that Australia had to win – and did.
The other was the skied pull shot which saw him dismissed, caught and bowled by McGrath (again), for just four in the 2003 World Cup final, in India’s futile chase of Australia’s 359.
As mentioned in a Punch piece two weeks ago, Ricky Ponting shone in that match with his 140 not out. The Australian captain has been centre stage in other big moments against India, not least his inspired decision to bring Michael Clarke on to mop up the last three Indian wickets in the spiteful 2008 Sydney Test. Yes, even Ricky Ponting once made a great captaincy call.
Admittedly, Ponting flopped badly in Australia’s near miss in India in 2001, amassing just 17 runs in what was almost a breakthrough test series win on the sub-continent. But more often than not, he has hurt India.
So what of tonight, the world Cup quarter final in which India is strongly favoured by bookies and cricket pundits alike to win.
Well, the irony is that Australia’s batting is so unconvincing at the moment, even a Ponting century may not be enough to propel us to victory.
And India’s batting is so strong, with the likes of Yuvraj, Gambhir, Dhoni and Sehwag in devastating form, they may not need Tendulkar.
Either way, it is going to be a huge night for both Ricky and Sachin.
The ridiculous movement in India to have Tendulkar viewed as a better batsman than Bradman won’t be swayed if their man fails, but it’ll sure be helped if he helps knock Australia out.
Ponting, meanwhile, will earn a brief stay of execution if he comes up with something special, but will almost certainly be axed on the spot if Australia loses.
It hardly seems fair. But then, for his lack of silverware, there is one area where Tendulkar is well ahead of Ponting.
The Indian has endeared himself to his own nation’s cricketing public, through his humility, his upbeat spirit and the fact he’s ageing like a good bottle of red.
Ponting, with his dwindling average, his spats, his hissy fits and his stubborn refusal to give up the captaincy (something Sachin did years ago to great effect), is turning to vinegar in the public mind.
Australia could win the whole damn World Cup, Ponting’s third in a row as skipper, and we’d still want him gone. Sometimes, not even the shiny trophies can save you.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…