At an average 30 degrees (C), it’s been a rather warm English summer this year. Warm enough to be considered an intolerable heatwave. The English have been rendered to abject suffering.
It’s the idea of this very summer that should be filling the Indian hearts – warming up for the five-Test series against England – with hope.
“It’s quite warm here,” says Sachin Tendulkar, enjoying his annual vacation in the Queen’s country. And as the conversation moves on to cricket, the batting legend is quick to add: “Weather’s going to be a critical factor”.
He’s referring to the idea of surfaces playing a larger role in seemingly warm conditions as against the predictable English formality of the ball tuning in with the nip in the air. “Surfaces will decide how active the spinners get. If this weather stays,” says Tendulkar.
The former cricketer is quick to refer to the recent one-dayers where the spinners, he points out, “made the ball rip”. In such a scenario, he expects the Indian batsmen to handle English spin better than the other way round.
So, on the weather front, India – from Tendulkar’s viewpoint – go into the Test series on an equal footing, if not with a relative advantage. Having completed this year’s Centre Court ritual at the Wimbledon, Tendulkar further notes how “pitches don’t have enough grass cover”.
“Benefit of hindsight,” is what he touches upon, but with a different take. “The first basic rule (of an overseas tour): Respect conditions. It’s the key. The first morning of the series, that first over, the first spell – that’s always the key. It was the same in South Africa, it’ll be the same in England,” he says.
On the whole, the secret to succeeding on a series like this one, he reiterates, is about heading into it with a clean slate and at the same time knowing the script that was jotted down the previous time.
“The question is how do you keep your mind blank? Drawing that balance between knowing what happened when you visited here the last time and at the same time, telling yourself that past is not what’s going to matter right now is all about drawing the balance. That’s the tricky thing. You got to know when to fill your mind up with all that you’ve learnt from your previous tour here and then got to know how to keep it (your mind) blank when you’re here again, all fresh,” says Tendulkar.
The curious case of India’s batting bulwark Cheteshwar Pujara is a pertinent example in the present context. Pujara recently consumed 70-odd balls to get off the mark in a County game for Yorkshire, revealing that there could be a psychological block he’s struggling with. (When asked), Tendulkar does admit “It’s far too much. Again, I’m not trying to be critical here. It’s good to be cautious, good to respect the conditions, but…,” Tendulkar trails off