Was Sachin a Selfish Player?

One of the many allegations labeled against Sachin Tendulkar has been that he has sometimes been selfish and played for his records. Some critics as well as cricket lovers have cited the match in which he got his double century in ODIs as a classic example to authenticate their claim. The match was held at Gwalior against South Africa. They have stated that when the team needed boundaries Tendulkar ensured that he got to the record by pushing singles. However, if we take a look at records we will see that it is a completely different story. Sachin has scored 51 centuries in tests and India has won 23 of those games and drawn 20 and in ODIs he has 49 centuries out of which 33 have come in winning causes.

Yet others have said that the questions of his selfishness are absurd as all the runs he has scored are only added to the team’s total. The allegations of him being a selfish player gathered steam when he was looking for the century of international centuries. He got there after several innings where he got out in the 90s. However, India lost that match against Bangladesh.

The beauty of cricket is that it is a team game where every individual is expected to perform well and for each player that could mean different things. The problem arises, especially in countries with cricket crazy fans like India, when players perform in a way that is okay with them as well as the team management but not with the expectations of their fans and other members of the audience.

However, fans have not been the only people to have cast aspersions on Sachin’s willingness to put the team before himself and his records. Former Australian coach John Buchanan had stated once that Sachin had become more inhibited as a player after the arrival of Sehwag. Sachin had himself stated that his role had changed and he as a senior player had the responsibility of guiding the team and for that he had to leave out a few risky strokes.

During the early phase of the previous decade Matthew Hayden, the former Aussie opener, had accused Indians of playing for their records but statistics had a different story to say altogether – in an innings Indians were actually faster to their centuries as compared to other countries including the Australians. There was yet another controversy during the Multan test in the 2004 series in Pakistan when Sachin was batting on 194 and Rahul Dravid, the stand-in captain declared the innings.

Sachin, in the press conference, that was arranged after the day’s play had come to an end had said that he was surprised by the decision to declare at that time and Dravid had stated that he had done so in order to help the team win. Many cricketing experts and fans had criticized the decision of Dravid as they felt the whole thing had been done in bad taste. The matter was however amicably resolved by Dravid and Tendulkar. 

One more criticism labeled against Sachin has been that he has not been a match winner for India. In countries like India, the yardstick for measuring a player is how he has performed outside the subcontinent, in conditions that are mostly alien to him. Well, by that yardstick Sachin is right up there with the very best such as Sunil Gavaskar and Rahul Dravid. He has scored runs everywhere especially in Australia and South Africa which have had the best attacks over the years. His record in England and West Indies are not exactly bad either.

Secondly, in matches where Sachin has batted as per his normal standards India have literally killed off the contest – an example is his 98 against Pakistan at Centurion in 2003 World Cup match where he literally smashed Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar out of the park or the two innings against Australia in the 1998 tournament held in Sharjah where he single handedly carried the team to the finals and then helped it to win the championship.

Perception is a major problem in countries like India where public memory is rather short and this is applicable for the experts as well. When India came home from the 4 to zilch drubbing at the hands of England and Australia many people were baying for MS Dhoni’s blood comfortably forgetting he was the man with the Midas touch only a couple of months ago when he had won the 2011 World Cup. The moment India won the series against a hapless Aussie team by the same margin at home he became the greatest captain alive.

Balance is a serious issue over here. While evaluating the career of someone like Sachin who has played the way he has for 24 years we forget the amount of runs he has scored for the team. We do not keep in mind instances like the 1998 Chennai test against Pakistan when he ignored chronic back pain to take India to the doorstep of victory only to get out at a key moment and then see his hard work squandered by the incapability of his team mates.

The 2003 and 2007 World Cups were ideal instances of the effect he had on the team’s performance. In the earlier tournament he performed well and helped the team rally back from a hopeless position and in the second tournament where the team atmosphere was not exactly ideal he did not perform well and the team’s fortune suffered. He also played a critical role in India’s World Cup triumph in 2011. When allegations of selfishness are leveled at Sachin we tend to be quick to forget that this is a team game and all need to perform well on a given day for the team to win and it is virtually impossible for one man to do it all the time.

From a cricketing point of view it needs to be mentioned that in cases of all batsmen who are regarded as match winners in modern cricket like Ponting, Alastair Cook or AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis or Graeme Smith they have had excellent bowling attacks to complement their batsmanship and this is one area where Tendulkar has suffered for the majority of his career. Perhaps these factors too need to be kept in mind before people try to judge him as a batsman and as an achiever.

Read More about Sachin Tendulkar:
Sachin Tendulkar Biography
Playing It My Way Book Review: Sachin Tendulkar’s Autobiography
Top 10 Batsmen in the World of Cricket
Sachin Tendulkar: One of a kind
Who can break Sachin’s record?
Sachin Tendulkar and nervous 90s: just bad luck or more?
Was Sachin a Selfish Player?
Is Sachin an excuse for the BCCI?
The other side of Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar against spin bowling
Sachin Tendulkar against fast bowling
Sachin Tendulkar’s Cricketing Journey
Unforgettable Moments of Sachin’s career
Sachin as the next coach of India
Sachin Tendulkar Records
Childhood of Sachin Tendulkar
Journey of Sachin Tendulkar