A beginning!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Two AceS

As an avid cricket follower, I feel lucky to have witnessed the era when careers of two of the finest Indian cricketers coincided. Even as Saurav walks in the eventide, ageless Sachin marches on.

Arguably, both were in the best form of their life during late 1990s and early century. Sachin's Desert Storm, Saurav's Toronto heroics with both bat and ball, World Cup 2003 and the innumerable great starts the flamboyant pair provided in ODIs for years... the list can go on and on... Scores of newspaper columns have been written in their praise. Much has been said about how Sachin's attacking batting and Saurav's batting (to some extent) and captainship (to larger extent) represents the face of emerging nation freeing itself from psychological shackles of colonialism that transcended generations after Independence.

If one is to compare (can one really?), then Sachin wins hands-down. He was always far superior technically. Discipline, determination, balance, modesty. He has it all.

Saurav was never perfect - as a player or even otherwise. Struggling to short pitch bowling, refusing to carry drinks as 12th man, crossing path with opposition players, dancing shirtless on Lord's balcony, getting on odds with then coach Chappell (finally resulting in his ouster from team)...

While Sachin was a monk-like perfectionist, Saurav was always more human. He never fully managed to master his shortcomings. Who would forget Sachin's Sydney double hundred where he exhibited supreme self control and refused to play cover drive till he crossed 150? Could one even dream of something similar from Saurav?

But Saurav had his own flair. He always managed to hold on to his own even while batting together with Sachin. Unlike Rahul, who always played second fiddle to Sachin, Saurav played his own game. As a caption, he instilled self-belief in his players to compete against the strongest of the oppositions on their home turf. He was never as modest as Sachin but usually managed to channelize his aggression well to have positive effect on team performance.

While I would continue to worship Sachin like all fans, Saurav would always find a special place in my heart as he hits something closer home! He is more like us lesser mortals. Just like we know our shortcomings but never fully manage to fix it, Saurav had his share too. What makes him hero is that while he could never overcome them fully, he had the right attitude and mental strength to see it through and make it big. He was a great survivor and succeeded against odds and finds place in same bracket as some of the greatest.

He might be the lesser gifted amongst the two, but if I were to pick a batsman to hit a last ball Six to win the World Cup, I would pick Saurav over Sachin!