AR Hemant

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Somewhat of a contrarion.

Tendulkar and the art of big game hunting

If you look at Sachin Tendulkar's performance in Wednesday's semi-final in absolute terms, 85 runs off 115 balls with four dropped catches and two favourable reviews make it atypically ordinary by his standards.

 

But when you factor in the opponent, the stage, the pressure, the wicket which behaved in an un-Mohali manner and how much batsmen after Tendulkar struggled, you realise the innings' worth.

 

In a game like that, you'd take your runs whichever way they come. Tendulkar has now played three World Cup semi-finals, scoring 65 in 1996, 83 in 2003 and 85 on Wednesday.

 

This is what the South Africans call BMT - big match temperament. Except 2007, Tendulkar has shown plenty of BMT by scoring heavily in all World Cups. Now all that's left is one final push in his home town.

 

MS Dhoni praised both him and Suresh Raina for playing the two innings that made the difference in the final analysis.

 

"He batted really well," Dhoni said of Tendulkar. "When's he's there, he makes batting easy for others since he guides them as well."

 

"He helps the youngsters. If you bat with Sachin for 15 games, you have the sort of experience you get after 50 games."

 

Later, Suresh Raina's innings batting with the tail tilted the game towards India and finally proved to be a differentiator.

 

The lessons from the defeat to South Africa were not forgotten. India looked good to score 300 with Sehwag and Tendulkar going strong. But after losing wickets in the middle, they wisely revised their goals. This ensured they had an attainable target and didn't get bowled out.

 

"Raina calculated very well," Dhoni said. "And he was batting with Harbhajan at the time. He had to make sure he batted the full number of overs."

 

The story for India and Tendulkar couldn't have been written better. They stand on the doorsteps of the glory that has eluded them since 1983. A World Cup swansong, in the final, on Tendulkar's home ground, in the evening of his career - how will this story end?

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