There is something fundamentally different between Sachin Tendulkar and the names he is compared with. While most of his rivals in batting were successful captains, this is an area Tendulkar never looked comfortable.
This puts Tendulkar in stark contrast with the big guns. Don Bradman, Viv Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, Brian Lara, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting were captains for a considerable period of time. All of them were not world-beaters, but they were at least indisputable leaders in their national teams.
Twice was Tendulkar asked to lead India – in 1996-97 and in 1999-00 – and on both occasions, gave it up saying he was not enjoying it. India’s record under him is not great apart from a 2-1 Test series victory against South Africa at home in his first stint.
Former India medium pacer Balwinder Sandhu has seen Tendulkar as Mumbai captain when he was the coach and offers a few interesting observations. “The captaincy of India came too early for him and for a period when he was captain, Kapil Dev was the coach. Both are instinctive cricketers. Had one of them been a strategist, like John Wright, things could’ve been different,” he says.
According to Sandhu, Tendulkar wanted teammates to emulate him. “He led by example and expected others to be like him. That was the problem. It put others, who were not as talented, under pressure. To understand a player who is not as high class, Sachin should’ve lowered himself. This he failed to do and the other players invariably failed to perform,” says the 1983 World Cup winner.
Tendulkar’s state-mate and India colleague for a short period, Paras Mhambrey, has another explanation. “The period when he became captain was not easy. The match-fixing scandal broke soon after he quit (2000) and it’s possible that something unpleasant was going on when he was captain. This could be one of the reasons why Sachin didn’t carry on,” says Mhambrey.
This was a turbulent period indeed and even before Tendulkar quit captaincy, there were whispers that certain senior players were not committed to the team. This was also a period when the selectors picked players out of the blue and pushed them into the side without even consulting the captain.
“We don’t often take into account these things. It’s clear something was going on which nobody could point a finger at and there is also this question of support. Did Sachin get the kind of support a captain needed? There was nothing wrong with Sachin as captain as I saw later in Ranji Trophy. It’s just that the time was wrong, when he became India captain,” points out Mhambrey.
Former India opener Aakash Chopra presents a non-Mumbaiite view and although he doesn’t want to comment much, saying he hasn’t played under Tendulkar, he makes the following observations: “Sachin’s captaincy record is something you won’t envy. He looked more animated than usual when he was captain, talking quite a bit. The periods when he became captain were turbulent.”
Inexperience in handling things within and outside the team at a difficult time and a not-so-natural gift when it came to leading, followed by an unimpressive record – in a nutshell, that is Tendulkar’s tale as captain. Not the happiest when you go through other chapters of the epic. But it’s just a small chapter only a handful will remember.