The term ‘Most Valuable Player’ or ‘MVP’ is generally a term that we associate with American sports. It can seem to give too much credence to an individual in a team sport, and as such not seem a natural fit with cricket. However, with the plethora of ICC lists of best cricketers of all time, or best cricketers in their given field of expertise, I thought it might be a good time to look at who are the five most valuable players across all three forms of international cricket right now.
#2 Sachin Tendulkar
I’m really not sure whether Sachin Tendulkar being at number two on this list will be ridiculed because he is either too high or not high enough. Such is the devotion shown to the man, I am sure there will be some that will cast doubt upon my sanity by daring to place him at anything other than number one. But there will be others who will possibly say that he is only so high because of his reputation; that he is starting to show that he has ‘passed it’. Well, in my reckoning, Sachin is still one of the most valuable players in world cricket today. Let me tell you why.
At almost 39 years of age, Tendulkar is still the most feared batsman in world cricket. As his contemporaries have either retired (Lara) or are fading (Ponting) Tendulkar has remained strong. In fact, I’d argue that the most impressive aspect of Tendulkar’s extraordinary career is that he has come back from what looked like a terminal decline in form. It’s hard to remember, but a few years ago, when he was forever sporting that tennis elbow (mind the pun), Sachin stopped scoring and for the first time in history, his technique looked to be failing him. So, what did the Little Master do? He put his head down and worked hard. Now into his 183rd test match, Sachin is back averaging over 56 and as we all know is nearing 100 international centuries. More than these numbers though is that he has regained his regal posture at the crease.
I was watching some old highlights of the Master Blaster, Viv Richards the other night. Viv is known and revered not only for his incredible batting prowess, but also for his ‘presence’ at the crease. He had that swagger and would push his chest out when even the most fearsome bowlers ran in to deliver their thunderbolts. Sachin has quite a different presence, but no less intimadating. He looks just completely at ease, and as if no bowler could shake his nerve and that peerless technique. He scratches away at the crease, does a little bop, taps his bat on the ground, and then allows the bowler to deliver him a ball. It’s just magic to watch, and in case you think it doesn’t instil fear in a bowlers mind, just ask the likes of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath who they least liked bowling to.
One surprise when looking through Tendulkar’s test figures is that he has never scored a triple century. We know that the likes of Virender Sehwag and Chris Gayle have managed a few, and of course Brian Lara was known for his epic scores. I’m actually not sure what it says about Sachin that he hasn’t, perhaps it suggests a man who never bats for himself and always keeps the team in mind.
Perhaps more than any other player, Sachin is the man who pulled India into its position as a modern cricketing power. Whilst his feats at test level have been extraordinary, it’s his dominance in the 50-over format that has taken Indian cricket to fever pitch. He has scored over 18,000 runs in 453 ODI matches at an average of 45. He is the only man to score a double century, has over 150 wickets and is now, finally, a world cup winner. Phew! Some resume!
All that said, what makes him still one of the most valuable players in world cricket right now is that he is supreme in cricket’s newest form, particularly the IPL. He has consistently been one of the top scorers in the competition, and his feats for his Mumbai Indians have shown that it the old guys can still have an impact in the smash and grab competition. What I love about him in the IPL is that he still has that amazing presence, and relies on his technique to score runs for fun. There are so many players in that competition who just pull the front foot away and try and hit the ball into the atmosphere, but Tendulkar strides forward to cover drive, ducks down to hit over the slips, and leans forward to caress through mid-wicket. Each of these strokes are as perfect as the next, and let us hope that continues as far into the future as possible.
Let me know what you think about Sachin Tendulkar and whether you think he should have been higher or lower by making a comment below, and check back next week for number one on the list.
Number 3: Shane Watson
Number 4: Dale Steyn
Number 5: Virender Sehwag
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