The genius of Sachin Tendulkar

Written by  //  March 5, 2011  //  Sport  //  12 Comments

‘Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see’. These are the famous words of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, and as I watched Sachin Tendulkar fashion a magnificent century against England at the Chinnaswamy stadium, they seemed most apposite. Of course, England’s bowling was mediocre, at best, and later in the day Andrew Strauss matched and perhaps bettered Tendulkar’s innings; yet it seemed Tendulkar was the real genius.

But this begs the question as to what constitutes genius? Is there at all a place for the word in the world of sport, where its usage is hackneyed – often employed even to describe the banal and the pedantic? Teresa Lacerda and Stephen Mumford in an outstanding article in the Journal of Philosophy on Sport – yes there does exist something of its ilk – argue that while in art, the genius “innovates some new technique, movement or style”, in sport, “the genius is one who creates new sporting strategies that tend toward competitive success.”

To me, genius is a mastery of space, achieved through intuition – an exertion of one’s will over another. Throughout history man has been fascinated by space and philosophers great and meek have theorized on its forms. The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, wrote in Critique of Pure Reason that space is an a priori form – something intuitive from which knowledge is later gained. Kant’s work may have come under intense criticism, but in many ways his theory on space finds embodiment in the world of sport and nowhere more perfectly than in the batting of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

As Tendulkar carved gaps in the field that even to the probing eye seemed non-existent, my father, with whom I was watching the game, opined that this was down to pure providence.  Placement of such precision, he said, cannot be calculated. Yet, I thought, it was this innate ability of Tendulkar’s that sets him apart from the rest. His knowledge of where the spaces in the field were seemed utterly intuitive and not least bit manufactured. The works of a genius are rarely explicable and as Kant argued, even the genius is himself often unaware of how his idea was conceived. I am sure Lionel Messi would not have an answer to how he dribbles past maze after maze of defenders like they never existed. Genius is vague and enigmatic and therein lies its beauty.

Matthew Syed in his book, ‘Bounce: How Champions are Made,’ uses the Malcolm Gladwell line of thought and argues that talent is overrated; a person acquires command of a skill through purposeful practice for a period of at least 10,000 hours. Tendulkar in his rigorous sessions at the dusty Sivaji Park in Mumbai where he learned the game would have undoubtedly lapped up these hours well before his teenage years. But it is difficult to believe that at the core of his achievements are not his inherent gifts but the strenuous and committed practice of the art. The intense coaching and painstaking training must have surely contributed towards the thriving of his genius, but they most certainly cannot account for its creation.

As he twists his wrists to find the minutest of gaps that leave the opposition and the spectators gaping in awe, Tendulkar himself I doubt is aware of the gravity of his accomplishment. This intrinsic gift, though, is only but an element in his genius. To him creativity bears no boundaries. In a career of over twenty years, he has been faced with the need to constantly innovate; to change his game to suit the demands of the time. But this burden has rested easy on his shoulders. Creativity comes intuitively to Tendulkar. The double-hundred in Sydney in 2004, where he famously shunned the cover-drive was by itself a manifestation of his force – an ability to eschew the natural as an inventive answer to the necessities of the situation.

The sustenance of his talents for more than two decades is, perhaps, the greatest element in Tendulkar’s genius. By meeting the need to create in every step along the way, he has imposed his will like no other – an imperious mastery of space by a true genius.

About the Author

Suhrith Parthasarathy is a journalist currently living and writing in New York. Suhrith grew up in Chennai, India and studied law at the National University of Juridical Sciences in Kolkata. He practiced as an attorney for two years before giving up the law for journalism. He is presently studying for his masters at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. You can find him on Twitter (@suhrith) or on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/suhrithparthasarathy)

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12 Comments on "The genius of Sachin Tendulkar"

  1. vivek March 5, 2011 at 2:08 pm ·

    i miss you.

  2. M.RAJASEKHAR March 7, 2011 at 10:19 am ·

    I agree with u to the extent that sachin is genius for his longevity in the in creating records.Just imagine yusuf and viru opening, gauti at no.3, kohli at 4 yuvi at 5,msd at 6,raina at 7,bhaji at 8 zaheer at 9,ashwin or chawla at 9, munaf at10 and nehra u will have better balance and options.In that IND VS ENG match sachin’s first 23 runs came off 45 balls and we were playing in the power play where you need to rotate strike and take advantage off the field restrictions.Sachin not only failed but also restricted our scoring which hampered u total. we were short of 25 runs in the end which cost the match.It is high time let him do big favour to INDIA by citing some injury and pullout from the team.By including him we are not able to give chance to raina who is better finisher.Let me that admit u comment is excellent for the phrase u have chosen to describe sachin’s innings. Hope better sense prevail upon him and he withdrew from Team India.

  3. Suhrith March 7, 2011 at 12:32 pm ·

    I know where you’re coming from. But Yusuf is untested at the top of the order and I think it would have been too extreme a step. Its an unfathomable option, really. And besides, Tendulkar’s form doesn’t really merit this discussion in my opinion. And in any event, I don’t see him carrying on with ODI cricket beyond this World Cup. There really wouldn’t be anything for him to play for.

  4. Anisha March 8, 2011 at 7:47 am ·

    50 centuries?

  5. Suhrith March 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm ·

    Hopefully he will reach that landmark this World Cup. :)

  6. m.rajasekhar March 8, 2011 at 6:46 pm ·

    Hi suhrith iam very happy that u have replied to my comment about sachin’s inability to take india forward in the wc.let him play two more matches and that’s end of the one of the most talented selfish cricketer india has ever produced in the last 20 yrs atleast in 50 overs match.u should need fresh young legs to man the field.Less said about his fielding is better for a fan like u.unless the team takes bold decision we can’t do justice to our tag of favourites Hope MSD and his think tank takes some innovating decision to bloster the top order in the first 15 overs to sustain the viru’ tempo and to maintain the run rate by taking quick singles and rotation of strike. In the ENG match they bowled two maiden overs to sachin in the whole innings and opened out only after 25 overs to increase his strike rate.Hope MSD WINS WC for INDIA inspite of presence of liability like ur genius.

  7. Arghya March 8, 2011 at 7:08 pm ·

    Dear Mr. Rajasekhar,

    I think your comments on Sachin are now bordering on the unfair. While you are entitled to not be a supporter, to positively dislike him, while also something you are entitled to do, strikes me as strange. But calling him selfish is simply unacceptable. There is absolutely no basis you suggest other than saying that there were two maiden overs bowled to him sometime. There was a maiden over bowled to Yuvraj Singh as well- should we call him selfish too? Yusuf Pathan did not dive for a catch at second slip- should we say it was because he did not want to injure himself and so he is selfish?

    And besides, as Suhrith says, his form is so good now (and has been for the last 2 years), that I find it really surprising that you choose such a time for a vitriolic attack on Sachin. Perhaps you could have chosen a better time!

    Anyhow, my simple point is- It’s one thing to dislike Sachin. It’s another to disrespect him. I think you should refrain from the latter.

  8. Harsh March 10, 2011 at 5:11 am ·

    Wonderful Wonderful post Suhrith! Today I feel like doing something sunstantial! I was wondering when I read genius is “a mastery of space, achieved through intuition – an exertion of one’s will over another”, who do you think seems (ed) more in the zone and formidable, Lara or Sachin? (and i mean on their best days, Statistics without a doubt indicate Sachin for his consitency over a period of 20 years), but if genius were only to do with exerting one’s will over the other (bowler/team), who did it better? ( Should it then be Steve Waugh, exerting his will eh?)

  9. m.rajasekhar March 10, 2011 at 6:47 pm ·

    Dear Mr.Arghya hope u would have watched IND VS DUTCH match. The way ur genius batted shows where he is stands.He should aim himself to be as Roger Milla by scoring in the power play and should throw his wicket for the cause of the team. Iam too ambitious to expect this kind of selfless act from a Mumbaiker. His aim is to score 50 odi centuries till then he will keep on going by spoiling our chances in the WC. I neither dislike nor disrespect his ability.Iam only bothered about his diminished responsibility. let us hope better sense prevail upon ur genius.Yuvi and Pathan can afford to have a maiden over since they can change the match in no time not like ur genius.Don’t castigate them in the likes of the so called genius.I may be too harsh but that’s the reality. IAM A GREAT FAN OF INDIAN CRICKET AND LOVES TO SEE OUR TEAM SUCCEEDS. I WISH UR GENIUS DOES SOMETHING FOR THE CAUSE OF THE TEAM AND FORCE PEOPLE LIKE TO CHANGE OUR MINDSET ABOUT HIM.after great KAPS no one has played for the team.

  10. Suhrith March 11, 2011 at 1:47 am ·

    Thanks Harsh, I knew you’d bring Steve Waugh into it. But ya I suppose on his day, Lara was peerless.

  11. emil March 20, 2011 at 2:09 pm ·

    With all respect, mr. rajasekhar, you’re absolutely wrong about Sachin Tendulkar. He’s a true cricketing model on and off the pitch. A true icon of patriotism. He works hard like anything. You’re pointing out that Sachin has scored 25 scores less, but completely missing out on the point that he scored 120 runs without which India would’ve been done and dusted. Don’t make yourself a fool by calling him irresponsible. It’s on his advice that the BCCI made dhoni the captain. Your idea bag, dhoni hasn’t ever used sachin the bowler. He was the best partnership breaking bowler India had. He was good in bowling the last overs too. I doubt you started to see cricket only lately that you don’t know the contributions he has made to Indian cricket. My advice to you, simply type his name in google and just read a few articles. There’s no question about his commitment, class or form. Sachin has reached a level which other cricketers are only dreaming of. Just think. .

  12. Gaurav April 18, 2011 at 10:11 am ·

    Nice way to put something about some one who has truly mastered his art.
    I did feel, u went a bit too overboard with your literary skills while describing a genius.

    Still, what i was amazed to see, was how Mr. Rajshekhar has been going on claiming to be the GREAT Indian fan and his love for the game of Cricket, more so.

    I just could not stop myself from comment. I have been a very critical Sachin fan myself for all majority of the time in the last decade for various stupid decisions that the Master took, but based on his belief over himself and his style and methodologies in the past 3 years (almost) , i know that a Genius can go down and make mistakes but its only a Genius can make a comeback of this magnitude (hoping Ponting to make one).
    And to me, it seems, you just feel like a very young cricket fan who ushered in the IPL era, who dares to let Yusuf Pathan open the innings (who would not ever fit in any of my ODI teams, forget opening) and thinks he loves cricket.

    Its not the Cricket you love, its just the excitement you want or you get which appeases you.
    Don’t have much to say, but if you criticize some one, do it for the right reason not based on your dislikes and your grudges.
    This article has grown old, and its not wine, that any one would want to stumble upon this again, so pretty good chances I would not hear from Mr. Rajshekhar. (i myself landed here very accidently).
    Related to it, the inning Sachin played against England in WC, reminded me of the Sachin circa 1998. The intent against the spinners ( remind you their seam bowling was ordinary but Swann, you can not take him off like that, the best offie after Murali i would say) was reminiscent of his glory days.
    Btw, Congratulations guys, India won the WC. Whether Sachin retires from ODI or not, time for me to end an ODI era (1989-2011).

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