Tendulkar and the numbers game
That cricket is a game that lends itself to numbers more than most is a given, considering the manner in which runs and balls are counted. While statistical tools of various kinds are employed, sometimes in a much more sophisticated manner, in other sports, there is literally no other game in which the main element (think goals, baskets, tries …) is counted in such volumes.
Perhaps this is why the cricket scorer has been accorded a special place, with many of the tribe around the world being colourful characters that players and teams have grown fond of. Statisticians play just as big a role, with the most important of them, like the late Bill Frindall, taking on even the International Cricket Council on prickly issues.
That said, the way these numbers are consumed vary staggeringly from country to country, and it’s no surprise that Indians are at the forefront of counting records. On Thursday, Sachin Tendulkar was seven short of 17,000, a nice enough milestone, but not one that should have been particularly important given that our little man is close to 4000 runs ahead of his nearest competitor, Sanath Jayasuriya.
Yet, when the Indian innings began, chatter on the online message boards and at the local chaiwallah were as much about the 7 runs Tendulkar needed as the 352 India wanted. Fortunately, the passing of the record ushered in a significant innings, both qualitatively and quantitatively.
At the post-match presentation, when Tendulkar collected the Man-of-the-Match award (yes, yes, he has more of these than anyone else) it was clear he was far from elated. The man owns every batting record worth its name, so 17,000 would not have thrilled him, but even his spectacular innings had failed to cheer him up.
Only recently, Sunil Gavaskar, dismissed the suggestion that cricketers don’t play for records. “Only a cricketer who is not good enough to create records will say he doesn’t play for records,” said Gavaskar at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit. Naturally, this does not mean that a player chases after an individual milestone to the detriment of his team’s cause.
One look at Tendulkar’s face after India’s loss, and the effort he had to put in to force a smile, and you know what matters most to true champions.