Who is modern cricket’s greatest technician?

Who is modern cricket’s greatest technician?Himanshu Shekhar

Recently, when Zeecric.com popped the question to cricket lovers across the world- the results came pouring in, with different opinions cropping up. The constraint we at Zeecric had can be described to be that of the ‘problem of plenty’. So, we decided to go ahead with just two options of Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar. The result was settled with 66% in favour of Tendulkar.

But does that mean the end of the debate? Probably no. Maybe yes. So let us just explore the possibility of all the batsmen, who can all be a part of - The Big Debate.

Is Dravid better than Ponting? Has Ricky Ponting not crafted more Test wins for Australia than Tendulkar and Dravid have done together for India? There are many names which can surface and throw this debate wide open. Moreover, mere statistics don’t tell the truth, because of the quality of bowling these batsmen were exposed to and the pitches offered to them.

There are names like Geoffery Boycott, Sunil Gavaskar, Chappell brothers, Rohan Kanhai, which instantly come up, simply because of their near perfect techniques and their reluctance to deviate from what we call shots picked straight from the MCC manual. But our debate here is over the names who have done the rounds in our times or what generation next calls modern day cricket. Being specific, let us pick the names which gained prominence after 1990.Sanjay Manjrekar, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Mark Waugh, Brian Lara and Inzamam ul Haq are names which hit the bull’s eye instantly.

The first three names in the list are of Mumbaikars and carry the legacy of stylish batting, which coaches around the city teach and budding cricketers learn by-heart. Spending time on correcting the follow through, the back rib position and adjusting to the correct batting stance becomes the basic steps in the Mumbai coaching manual.

Little Master

Be it the right batting stance, the positioning of the handle, dropping the wrists on a stifling bouncer, rising high to cut or hook, dancing down the crease to hit Warne out of the park or cutting a Shoaib Akhtar delivery across the park: Tendulkar is a genius and looks just the best.

His defining straight drives are probably the best than anyone in modern cricket can play. The sweet spot that punches the ball or follow through of the bat that just takes the right lift, or the steady head with which he watches the ball in admiration until it travels across the ropes. The mixture is just incomparable.No surprises why coaches across the globe teach their wards to get as close in stance and positioning as the genius does. Add to it the self belief and you get a man who just plays like the DON himself.

Renowned sports journalist Rohit Brijnath says; “Inside the stomach of some men smoulders a defiance that is abnormal, a will so powerful that no ordinary barometer can register it. We dream, Tendulkar does.”

Indeed the Little Master plays just like Sir Donald Bradman, but even Bradman did not play on day five turning tracks in-front of a capacity crowd at Eden Gardens.

Having said that, one needs to acknowledge that even the Little Master has a chink in his armour. Remember how Abdul Razzaq and Fannie De Villiers found a gaping hole between Tendulkar’s bat and pad and you will come to know that it was not just little master’s crabby strokes or dashing arrogance which landed him in trouble.Caribbean Diamond

The genius himself has rated Tendulkar better than himself, but that can come out of sheer modesty as records just love to chase these two maestros. Lara definitely had Tendulkar’s determination and belief but think of his high back-lift and many would tell you that it may have been a bit too much. His flamboyance and grit to beat the best often became a big headache for Australia as the Caribbean Diamond piled on runs against the fearsome Kangaroo bowling with élan.

What made Lara different than others was his prolific style, which never changed with the passage of time. Even Tendulkar- The Great, is often accused of slowing his game or what many term as adjusting with the conditions, but such an accusation was never hurled at this Prince of Trinidad. If only the debate here was – Who is the most stylish and unconventional batsmen of modern cricket? The debate would have settled in favour of Prince Lara.Curious case of Inzamam-ul-Haq

How would you explain lazy elegance? If ever in doubt, Inzamam ul Haq is the name. No one waits for the ball as long as Inzamam does. Call that technique and you would just try to confuse things as Inzy’ & ‘Technique don’t go together. So what is it that makes him a name to be reckoned with among the greatest technicians of modern times?

Inzy had a cool head and never looked back after his World Cup 1992 success. Imran Khan called him the greatest against fast bowling. It was the hand eye coordination which made him the mainstay of Pakistan batting until he announced his retirement. The indomitable fighting spirit that he learned from Miandad helped him craft many memorable wins.

But his laziness sometimes made him look ugly when he shuffled across the crease and found himself in no man’s land. Playing away from the body early on was another concern for Inzamam, but many former greats have openly admitted that it’s just the mental indecision which should be questioned and not the technique.

(To be continued….)

P.S. Do watch this space as we discuss names like Dravid, Mark Waugh & Ponting in the next column and conclude this debate. Meanwhile your say will decide who the modern cricket’s greatest technician is.