Strokes that defined Sachin Tendulkar
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When Sachin Tendulkar burst on to the scene, he was more or less a finished product. Through his playing days, he possessed almost all the shots in the book and no obvious weakness. Still, some shots stick in the mind more than others — the insouciant pull from the early 90s, the concise straight drives later on and the inventive dab over the slips towards the last decade. They define — if no where else, at least in the mind of the viewer — the Tendulkar of that particular phase in his career.
The rising delivery provoked in the early Tendulkar a brutal response. The ball is still climbing towards him and Tendulkar is already waiting to uncoil - the weight has shifted to the backfoot and the bat is beginning an arc that would take it up and across. The power behind the shot bordered on ferocity, lifting the front leg clear off the ground. The climbing ball would have a little more climbing to do. Later in his career, the shot became more domesticated, a smooth swivel replacing the carefree whirl. But occasionally, he still brought out the full blooded pull, with the effects undiminished. As Michael Kasprowicz found out in Sharjah 1998. As Andy Caddick did in Durban during the 2003 World Cup.
The straight drive
A few years into his career, Tendulkar had so perfected his game that it felt like he possessed more shots than there were names for. The straight drive, a stroke he played through his career, could now be played off the front or back foot, with a follow-through that was truncated, exaggerated or non-existent. At its refined best, it was the most compact of shots. It begins with little prelude. After an imperceptible trigger movement of the feet, the bat comes down straight and stops almost immediately on contact with the ball. It is hardly even a push, just the bat completing a natural and necessary motion. It ends with the bowler rubbernecking to track the ball as it scuds down the ground.