Indian batting superstar Sachin Tendulkar's sun has not set despite his failure to score a half-century in the last six Test innings, according to legendary Pakistani all-rounder Imran Khan.
Tendulkar came under fire after failing to do justice to his stature in Pakistan, with many former cricketers declaring the champion batsman a pale shadow of his former dominant self.
He has not scored big since a world-record 35th Test century against Sri Lanka here in December, his contributions in the last six innings being 16, 23 and 19 against the Sri Lankans and 14, 23 and 26 against Pakistan.
Criticism mounted after Tendulkar's twin-failure at Karachi, where Pakistan won the third and final Test by a massive 341-run margin on Wednesday to wrap up the series 1-0 after a pair of tall-scoring draws.
But Imran feels Tendulkar is not over the hill.
"His vigil at the crease showed that Tendulkar is far from over. Few batsmen would have played with the assurance he showed after being hit on the helmet by (paceman) Shoaib Akhtar," Imran wrote in his column in the Hindu on Friday.
Tendulkar's strokeplay remained confident and he had the class to continue playing for India.
"I also feel that questions about his future are silly because there is no batsman in India to replace him just yet," said Imran, captain of Pakistan's 1992 World Cup-winning team.
"My only fear is that when his playing days are over, some critics will feel that for a player of his calibre, he should have won and saved a few more matches for his team."
Tendulkar, who made his Test debut aged 16 at Karachi, has often been criticised for not winning many matches for his team despite scoring 10,386 runs in 129 Tests and a world-record 13,909 in 358 one-dayers.
Former India captain Ajit Wadekar said Tendulkar has become undecided in his stroke-play and is no longer the top batsman of the team.
"He is no longer the star performer of the team -- this has taken away from Sachin his self-importance and brought upon him a pressure that only a player in his position undergoes," Wadekar told the Times of India.
"He is undecided about whether to attack or defend."
Former India spinner Maninder Singh felt Tendulkar's reflexes had slowed down, while all-rounder Kirti Azad said the master batsman would never be the same again.
Imran called on Tendulkar to deliver in time of crisis and silence his critics.
"Endulkar. Goneguly. The headlines will be angry and bitter, but this time the Indian players will have to admit the public anger is justified," he said, referring to possible tabloid treatment of the names of Tendulkar and former Indian captain Saurav Ganguly who is also struggling.
"The touchstone to greatness is the ability to stand tall in a crisis. That was what distinguished Vivian Richards among the great batsmen of his time.
"The Indian team needed Tendulkar (at Karachi) to stem the rot and inspire those who followed him to play around him. Unfortunately, that did not happen."
(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)
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