After getting relatively set, Sachin plays one of the straight drives which has the purists drooling. And the commentator (Mr. Manjrekar / Mr. Shastri being the usual suspects) observes, "Now that he has found his timing, he looks set for a big one."
No, this is not about our national obsession of whether Mr. Tendulkar is past his sell-by date. It’s not about what Mr. Manjrekar's views on the subject are. And it’s definitely not about Mr. Shastri's receding hairline and his increasingly shriller views on the fitness levels of the Indian team (coming from him, that’s a bit thick!).
This is about the shots which makes the world’s top batsmen what they are. The shots which are deeply etched in the collective consciousness of the viewing public. The shots which some have made their very own.
Tendulkar – A natural tendency is to go for the straight drive or the (rarely seen anymore) lift over mid-wicket. But my personal choice is the punch off the backfoot through backward point. The bend of the front leg while going back and across and the blade descending in a blur, ahhh … this would always be Sachin for me.
Sehwag – A popular choice would be sword thrust flaying the ball in the general direction of point / cover point. But for sheer amusement value it’s the inside-out cover drive which he plays off spinners while going towards the leg side and exposing all his stumps. A shot to give Geoff Boycott the shudders and Shane Warne a particularly bad migraine.
Lara – Undoubtedly the scissor like cut played off spinners. I have no choice but to quote Osman Saiuddin here who sums it up most evocatively – “That back lift, golf-like, paused and poised briefly at the top of its arch, is almost as compelling as the shots that it eventually manufactures. The real wonder is how he coordinates so many movements - the shuffling, the back lift, the bendy wrists twitching at the death to find gaps, lifting the knee - into just one picturesque image.”
Gilchrist – The thump over mid-wicket to perfectly good wicket taking balls on the off-stump. The ball ricocheting off the boundary boards before the bemused bowler completes his follow-through. And then a wide good-natured grin to show the bowler “Well, that’s life, mate! Nothing personal in it, ya know.” In case you could only record what the bowler wants to say at that moment, it would have put the Amar Singh tapes to shame !!