Cricket is an unequal contest. It has always, before the start of any match, in any format, favoured batting to a large degree. More so now, with flat placid pitches been made, boundaries shortened, and the fielding restrictions applied in one-day games (a format losing in popularity, many say) and the Twenty 20 format.
Much of Cricket's beauty lies in its leisurely pace and the individual capabilities of the players. For as much is Cricket a team game, so is it individual in its three departments - batting, bowling and fielding. A Sehwag blitz can steal a match away from the opposition, some atrocious, cheeky work from Dilshan can upset calculations. But the same can't be said about bowlers anymore. Batsmen thump the ball, bowlers send unreachable bouncers, the ball so often reaches the boundary so easily and so often gets hit out of the ground. But where are the bowlers that teams were wary of, fielders that effect those crucial run outs, take those catches? Where are the epic oscillating contests where at a moment 15 men (the fielding team, the two batsmen and the field umpires) are deep in battle, each holding on to their fortress? The celebration? Such contests, such moments, have become rare.
Test Cricket, of all Cricket formats, has the potential to be an extended enthralling contest. It is when two teams are engaged in an intangible tug-of-war that it is enlivened. Now I am not yet talking about the audience. What are we, the indirect paymasters, filling the stadium seats, drooling before the TV, catching the updates on the Internet and the cell phone? Even our interest is no longer relentless, several other things now distract the modern viewer. Distract, not hold.
Amidst the changing face of the game, that is still played by a dozen teams if not more, and half-a-dozen quality teams out of them, stands Sachin Tendulkar, one of the game's last artists perhaps. Talented raw clay during that debut against Pakistan in 1989, and 21 years later still constructing, sculpting his art, Sachin is still going, with some deep passion (what exactly - we do not know) that drives him. Unbeatable on 201 on the fourth day of the second test match against the Sri Lankans at the time of writing, one blog post is not sufficient to convey his impact. Let us say, Sachin has made his own path in the wilderness, and is yet to diverge from it. There is no one active player who matches him today for sheer talent and beauty of his shots. Who plays the straight drive like that or the cover drive bisecting the ground fielders, always the sense of perfection coming through? We are waiting for them - the Wasim Akrams, Courtney Walshs, the Arivinda De Silvas, Shane Warnes of the modern cricketing world, meanwhile Sachin Tendulkar can play out his extended swan song.