Sachin Tendulkar brings you joy only if you are a cricket fan, sitting far away from the scene of action. You can revere him, adore him, admire him and even love him. But if you happen to be a player-opponent, then you dread him the most.
Sachin is not a complex character. It is very easy to understand him as a man and then as a cricketer. He is a match-winner, who accepts all challenges in front of him. He is humble despite the mind-boggling success he has achieved at such an young age. The Bombay lad is only 25.
Wasim Akram, the champion bowler, feared by all, had once described Tendulkar as the “greatest batting arsenal.” The Pakistani was amazed at the range of strokes this little dynamite could produce with remarkable ease. “You just can’t keep him quiet,” Akram had said in mock anger.
Yes, you cannot keep Tendulkar quiet. His involvement to cricket is complete and his art of batting is unparalleled. With all due respect to some of the great batsmen of the past we never saw, Tendulkar stands out for his intensity when at the crease. His dominance is so complete. “It is frightening to imagine the heights Sachin would achieve. I would love to see him two years from now, with more maturity to his batting style,” said Greg Chappell, the day before the Coca-Cola Cup final at Sharjah.
Quality to dominate
The list of graceful and aggressive batsmen who entertained spectators in various eras is long. The names of Don Bradman and Viv Richards readily come to mind for the supremacy they enjoyed over all kinds of bowlers. It was this quality to dominate the best that made Bradman and Richards such awesome batsmen they were. And now, Tendulkar is on the threshold of joining such an elite company.
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Bradman never had the tough job of carrying the team’s fortunes all by himself. Neither did Richards. Both prospered amidst a bunch of successful batsmen, but Tendulkar’s evolution has come in a hard way. Often he had to shoulder the responsibilities alone, even though Mohammed Azharuddin and, of late, Sourav Ganguly, have taken the pressure away from him.
“India must win,” is his philosophy and this commitment is what makes Tendulkar a fierce competitor and a successful batsman. His heart bleeds when the team loses. We need not say Tendulkar is brave. He is absolutely fearless. And this quality comes from the fact that he knows within that he is the best. Tendulkar enjoys what he does. You just cannot make him do things you want. He will defend, or smash the ball, depending upon what he feels at that moment. The way in which he studied and then walloped Shane Warne in Sharjah is just a sample of his class and superiority.
“Surely he is the best batsman in the world at the moment. Would love to get his wicket. It keeps the spirit going, for, he is the best in the business,” said Warne two days before he walked into ‘Tornado Tendulkar’ at Sharjah. They call him “amazing” and “explosive.” Which he is no doubt. But then this little man is unique. For, no batsman can read the bowler so quickly as Tendulkar does. He has two shots for every ball and often gets out playing the third.
“I must play my shots. That is my natural game. I get very restless if I don’t play a couple of strokes in an over,” he said to Sportstar at Sharjah, where he set some very high standards for himself.
In every run that he has scored, after being stripped of the captaincy, Tendulkar has shown his loyalty to the skipper; evidence of his devotion to the team; above all, that immense feeling of patriotism which often is the reason behind his success. “I always dream of India winning,” he tells you with pride.
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Tendulkar’s hunger for goals is astonishing. In every contest, he draws himself a set of things to be achieved and nothing shatters him more than failures though he does not reveal his disappointment openly.
You cannot beat Tendulkar in the battle of wits. Warne and Michael Kasprowicz tried it out at Sharjah and came to grief. The more Kasprowicz glared at him, the more severely Tendulkar punished the Aussie. The charm of his batting is a delight even for a layman.
He makes batting look so ridiculously easy. With a mere wave of the bat, he can send the ball sizzling along the grass, the timing and the placement being perfect. “He has given a new dimension to batting. Such dominance can break the heart of the best of bowlers. I was never tired of watching this wonderful batsman,” said Asif Iqbal after India won at Sharjah.
“Sky is the limit for this man. He has never batted like this since the time I saw him. He was too good for the Australians,” said a happy Azharuddin.
There is a certain thing about Tendulkar’s batsmanship. So relaxed, so cultured, and yet so daring and explosive. He loves to take on the mighty; tame the best. He loves to plunder the affluent, the talented ones, and in the process swell the treasure box of Indian cricket.
Run-making today is probably much more exacting than what it used to be in the days of Bradman, Crompton, Pollock, Sobers and Merchant. In any case, for the present generation of fans, who would not have watched any of those mentioned above, Tendulkar remains Bradman, Pollock and Sobers rolled into one.
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From a wonderkid, Tendulkar has graduated into a man so powerful in international cricket that they are hailing him as the “best batsman” in the business today. But fans are awaiting the dawn of that glorious day when he would attain greatness for all time. That day does not seem to be far away when Sachin Tendulkar would have achieved the consistency of Don Bradman and the destructive power of Viv Richards.
This article was first published in the Sportstar issue dated May 9, 1998.
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