At 2535 runs at an average of 51.73, Tendulkar is also the highest run scorer in India-England Tests. Out of Tendulkar’s 51 Test centuries, 7 came against England with 193 being his highest score.
The batting legend spoke to TimesofIndia.com on the latest edition of the India-England rivalry, a four Test series which starts on Friday, India’s historic Test triumph in Australia and much more.
Tendulkar expressed his delight at India’s recent Test series victory against Australia under the captaincy of Ajinkya Rahane.
“It was a terrific victory (Test series win in Australia). The last time when we had spoken about Rahane’s captaincy (before the Boxing Day Test at the MCG) nobody knew at that time that there would be so many injuries in the remaining three Test matches. In spite of that, the number of challenges met by the Indian team, the way they faced those challenges and came at the top as winners was simply incredible. It was the Melbourne Test match itself, from where it started, and then the second Test match in Sydney, which was actually the third Test of the series. I am speaking of the three Test matches after the 36 all out (in Adelaide) where people were talking about whether the team will be able to do anything after that. We played beautifully to draw the game in Sydney and post that, the next Test in Brisbane in which we chased a big total. So we covered all aspects. Drawing a Test match, playing under pressure to save that game, then playing under pressure to chase the total, everything was covered. So I felt this victory, given the number of injuries that we had, and the Australians did not have any injuries, it made the win even more special. From a regular 15-16 member squad which tours, there were almost 11 names that were missing because of injuries. So us coming out as winners was a terrific, terrific achievement, really spectacular,” Tendulkar, who holds the records for the most Test runs and centuries ever scored told TimesofIndia.com.
England were the last team that beat India in a Test series on Indian soil in 2012-13. Going into this series, England are high on confidence after the 2-0 victory against Sri Lanka. But Tendulkar backed the Indian team to win the series, though cautioning that it could be a close contest.
“I think both teams have come after winning their last series so it is going to be a series of two confident sides looking to take on each other. But if you look at the combination, I would like to believe that India’s combination looks stronger than England’s and it will be a closely fought contest, but I see India coming out as the victorious team,” Tendulkar further said while speaking to TimesofIndia.com.
One of the aspects of playing sport in the post Covid world that is being talked about a lot are the bio-secure bubbles, which are necessary to protect players’ physically, but bring with them their own set of unique challenges.
Despite a series in India being a very tough assignment, England have decided to continue with their rotational policy to give their players a break from hard bio-secure bubbles. Wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler will head home after the first Test in Chennai starting on Friday, while Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood and Sam Curran are being rested until the third match of the four-game series.
Star all-rounder Ben Stokes and fast bowler Jofra Archer have returned to the squad after sitting out the Sri Lanka series, which England swept 2-0.
England’s approach is aimed at safeguarding their players from mental health issues that can become a reality when players spend large periods of time locked in bio bubbles.
Will we then see other teams following this approach in these unprecedented coronavirus times as well?
Tendulkar feels the challenges posed by bio-secure bubbles can be tackled on a case by case basis.
“I have never experienced the bio-secure bubble. I know it must be really tough on players to manage all these things, but every individual is different. In the end what one needs is a player who is 100% physically fit and 100% mentally fit to be able to represent the nation. And if we feel that the player is in a perfect condition physically as well as mentally, then it’s up to that individual. There might be occasions where the individual is struggling to stay mentally and physically fit, then the team management comes into play, the selectors come into play and then they need to take a call on this, what needs to be done, but you cannot have a set rule on that. Every person is a different person and you have to assess it accordingly. So maybe the other teams might start looking in that direction, but let’s hope that you don’t have to maintain this bio-bubble for a long time. It’s got to go on in the near future for a while, but let’s hope that it doesn’t continue for too long.”
Coming back to the Test series vs England which starts on Friday at the Chepauk, there is a big possibility that India will play three spinners, at least in the first two Tests in Chennai.
Ravichandran Ashwin will definitely be one of those spinners to take the field and Tendulkar feels it will be a toss-up between the rest of the spinners in the Indian squad to fill the remaining spinner slots in the playing XI.
“I personally don’t like to influence decisions, because if I say so and so and don’t take the other player’s name then it’s not ideal, because I haven’t seen the surface (pitch). I haven’t figured out how the surface might wear off after a couple of days and who is going to be able to utilize it. But I feel, in all likelihood, India is going to go ahead with three spinners. Ashwin has been a success story. Washington Sundar has come and has played a big role in the last Test match, Kuldeep Yadav is a veteran bowler and Axar Patel has his own strengths. So it’s going to be three out of these four. Ashwin will be there 100% and the toss-up will be among the others. Whoever the team decides to play, it will be given proper thought. Because all bowlers are different, all bowlers have their own strengths and they need to utilise their strengths and look at the perfect combination that one can play.”
Another fallout of having bio-secure bubbles is that ideally not too many venues can be used to host a full series. Which is why the four Tests will be played in Chennai and Ahmedabad, with both centres hosting two Tests each. And as Tendulkar pointed out, that in turn means that by the time the second Test is played the teams, especially the visitors will know exactly what to expect as far as the pitch and weather conditions are concerned.
“So the first Test is going to be critical, because in a series like this if you’re on top in the first Test itself, then that puts a lot of pressure on the touring side. And here what is going to happen is in the second Test match they would know what to expect from this surface, because the second Test match will also be played here. So the first Test match becomes even more critical, because they would know what to do to be on top right from ball one, maximize the home advantage, the conditions that we are familiar with like any other team. If you are playing in New Zealand, it eventually boils down to the pitch condition, the weather, if it’s cold, how to keep yourself warm. Here sometimes it’s the other way around, like when it is hot, how to hydrate yourself and all those kinds of things come into play. And as the time goes by, the teams start figuring out what to do. So I would not want to influence selection in any way.” Tendulkar, who played a record 200 Tests, told TimesofIndia.com.
Meanwhile, another big talking point after the Test series win in Australia were a couple of young players who really stepped up to the plate Down Under in testing circumstances big time.
New pacer on the block, Mohammed Siraj was very impressive in Australia in what was his debut series and seems to have matured very quickly in a short period of time. Though India were missing the services of the likes of Jasprit Bumrah (in the last Test in Brisbane), Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the likes of Siraj, Shardul, Natarajan and Saini delivered when it mattered the most. In fact in the last Test at the Gabba, Siraj, just two Tests old before that match, became the leader of the pack.
Tendulkar expressed his delight at India’s pace bowling bench strength which in many ways was a real eye opener. A lot of people knew the back-up existed, but not too many realised how effective they really could be in the absence of the regular first choice picks and that too in very trying circumstances.
“That’s a great position to be in for India, because despite so many injuries, there were back-up bowlers and if back-up bowlers are going to perform well and deliver like this and play crucial roles, it is a terrific sign for us. It only makes one feel so good because none of these guys, like Shardul (Thakur) did not have much experience of Test cricket, Siraj did not have, neither did Natarajan. But they stuck to their plans and executed them well. So it is a good sign for Indian cricket that our bench strength is also so strong that we can go out and compete against one of the top sides in the world and come out as a winner. So I am really happy about this bench strength, it is magnificent for our country.”
Before signing off, Tendulkar made an observation about the upcoming Test series vs England – “I want to add one more thing which nobody is realizing, it is a coincidence that in 2008 when there were attacks in Mumbai, we had played in Chennai against England after a break. And this is again, after the pandemic, India is playing England in Chennai. In 2008, the England team returned to play the Test series and right now also the England team has come from Sri Lanka. I only hope (since) the coincidence is there hopefully the result also would be the same. We are actually playing after a little over 12 years – the same team at the same venue after the pandemic. That time also it was a delicate situation and India was playing England, so that’s the coincidence. In 2008, the England team had agreed to come back and it was very very gracious of them.”