April 04, 2020
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The Second Coming

Tendulkar’s new stint as captain will be different

The Second Coming

THE first time Sachin Tendulkar got the job of captain, he was 23 years old and eager. He’s 26 now and, on the face of it, not that eager to accept the crown. Though the trappings of captaincy are too many to be able to develop a mendicant’s attitude, the reluctance reportedly stemmed from the fact that the honchos of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) ‘washed their hands of dealing with the Azharuddin affair’. Instead, they preferred Tendulkar to do the hatchet job when the selectors and he met for team selection. There was also a lot of left-over ‘hurt’ in Tendulkar from the way he‘d been removed from captaincy the first time around.

In his first incarnation, he came to the job with a lot of energy and involvement. He would speak to team members individually, try to psyche them to their potential. Unfortunately, ’97, the first year of his captaincy, coincided with his own slump in form. Though even in that dismal form he scored over 1,000 runs in one-day internationals in that year, it wasn’t enough to quieten the media theory that the pressure of captaincy was eating away at his batting performance. There also might have been some merit in that. You don’t want the team’s nuke to be bogged down with the mundane details that take up a captain’s mind. You want to be able to tell him as he goes out to bat, "Go get ‘em tiger."

Close friends say that in his first stint as skipper, Tendulkar was a lamb among wolves. That decisions were being taken on his behalf which he didn’t agree with and which were detrimental to his interests. The difference between his composure then and now is huge. He can’t be dictated to now. His friends add that his man management has become better and though the excitement is still there, it’s tempered with the right kind of ‘wariness’. They also talk about the ‘long-term’ psychology he’s developed, outgrowing the ‘day-to-day’ attitude of his first tenure. Says former India all-rounder Ravi Shastri: "We all hope his new stint as captain is like the way he plays his cricket. I think he’s going to be a lot more assertive and crack the whip from day one."

Plus, now it looks like Azharuddin has finally got the boot. Apparently, Sachin was reluctant to accept captaincy with Azhar in the team. So were a host of other contenders. Says an Indian team selector: "It wouldn’t be wise for Sachin to state this condition in the beginning but he will be there during team selection and a captain has great weightage."

Friends say the first time, decisions Sachin didn’t agree with were taken on his behalf. It won’t happen now.

 Initially, the apprehension was that Shiv Lal Yadav and Ajit Wadekar might opt for Azhar being retained as captain because of their known closeness to him. In fact, the other three selectors—Madan Lal, Anil Deshpande and Ashok Malhotra—were anticipating moves by Wadekar to that affect. Says a selector: "We thought that if Wadekar said that Sachin is not interested in captaincy, we would ask him to give it in writing. But it didn’t come to that."

Now that the selectors have brought the maestro back, they should give him a long rein. The South African board, for instance, gave the captaincy to Hansie Cronje for three years at a stretch. With Sachin, they should look until the 2003 World Cup scheduled in that country.

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