Astonishing brilliance

He is a lad in a man’s world. But make no mistake, the amazing Sachin Tendulkar is a cricketer with a mission. By becoming the youngest to score 1000 runs in Tests, he seems to be in a hurry to attain greatness.

For one so young, Sachin Tendulkar is amazingly mature and dedicated to the sport.   -  V. V. Krishnan

“Reminds me of Barry Richards,” says Eddie Barlow.

“A little genius. Reminds me of Sunny Gavaskar,” feels Keith Fletcher.

“Destined to be a great,” opines Graeme Pollock.

The crowds want Sachin Tendulkar. The Indian team needs Sachin Tendulkar. The South African cricketers too adore him but would like to see his back as quickly as possible. He is one of the brightest stars of international cricket, the quickest to get to a 1000 runs in Tests. A genius who enriches the game with his outstanding batting talent.

Sachin Tendulkar is not just God’s gift to the cricketing world. He works hard to improve his technique and skills. For one so young, he is amazingly mature and dedicated to the sport which has much to gain from this young batting giant from Bombay.

Listen to what Eddie Barlow, an established authority on cricket, has to say about Sachin. “He is Sachin Tendulkar, I hope he stays Sachin Tendulkar. We need a new player, a player in his own way. He has a technique which is the hallmark of a great player. Everything indicates that he will be a great player and I am sure he will prove me right.”

What does CIive Lloyd feel about the young lad? “He is a tremendous cricketer. He is young and has got a lot of ability. I am sure he’ll be around for quite some time to excite the crowds who come to cricket. He’s got his own style. Lot of people think he’s lot like Sunny Gavaskar but he has got a long way to go. He has got the temperament for big cricket and I hope that he goes from strength to strength. It’s difficult to say if he is a genius, but he is a tremendous cricketer, no doubt about that.”

From the time he made news with those big scores in school cricket, Sachin’s progress has been very fast indeed.

Sachin’s record is superb, forget the statistics. When you watch someone like Sachin in flow, you tend to ignore the runs he scores. It is the beauty of his stay at the crease that fascinates you and not the amount of runs he scores. That factor is for the captain to worry about, not the crowds who flow into the stadium to watch Sachin. There was this couple in Durban which returned from the gates having learnt that Sachin was out.

Sachin Tendulkar in a punishing mood during the second Test against South Africa at New Wanderers in Johannesburg. He scored 111, his fourth Test hundred.   -  V. V. Krishnan

 

When he walked out to bat at the Wanderers, he had a task on hand. To rescue the Indian team from dire straits. He flogged the bowlers at first and then settled down to play a highly responsible innings. He was the ninth man out, to an irregular bowler, but by then he had completed his task. He had dominated the proceedings in a stay of 372 minutes (270 balls).

Barlow had a point to make here. “A statement was made that Sachin spent 372 minutes at the crease. That was out of order. He scored 111 off 270 balls. That must be the criteria. Under incredible pressure, he batted superbly. If you ask me, I have only this to tell him. Keep playing young man, it is a pleasure to watch you.”

No batsman ever was flawless. He is a player of such quality that he needs no help from any coach.

Sachin has a tremendous degree of confidence to battle it out there. Like every one of the great players, he is made of far sterner stuff than an average young man. According to Barlow, who is an outstanding coach, the only thing Sachin would have to handle in the future is the lean trot. “He would have to tackle a lean trot carefully. But everyone goes through a bad trot some time or the other. Sachin also would but he has such remarkable qualities, I am sure he would come of it faster than most,” Barlow had to say.

Like all great players, Sachin plays to his strengths. His strong point is his on-side play. He is incredibly strong off his backfoot. He can cut and drive off the backfoot very, very powerfully. He picks his ones and twos easily and as he develops he would learn to make more scoring shots.

There is an interesting story behind Sachin and his shabby pads. These were the pads given to him by Sunny Gavaskar. The senior maestro would rely on the ones and twos a lot and since Sachin was of the same height, Gavaskar felt he might find the specially made pads a great help. For once, Gavaskar appeared off mark. Sachin need not rely on the ones and twos. He can whack the ball powerfully and does not often get beaten for the ball to hit his pads. As Dilip Vengsarkar once said, it appears that Sachin times the ball but not many know that it is the power that sends the ball screeching to the fence. Sachin has very strong forearms which explains his awesome backfoot play. No wonder, he is the best arm-wrestler in the Bombay squad.

Sachin is not all aggression. He can pace his knock, close the shutters when required and frustrate the bowler with his sound judgment. Watching his defensive technique, Barlow said that Sachin reminded him of Barry Richards. “Like Barry, he is very straight, very compact. He moves his feet very quickly into position and can adjust to the pace and bounce superbly,” Barlow said in admiration.

It would be worthwhile to narrate Sachin’s glorious domestic record. A hundred on debut in Ranji Trophy at 15. A hundred in his first Duleep Trophy match and a hundred in his first Irani Trophy match. That Irani century, against Delhi, was a gem and it came thanks to Gursharan Singh’s gallant gesture to come out and bat despite a fractured arm, just to enable Sachin to get a century. That evening Sachin was picked to play for India against Pakistan.

The tour to Pakistan was good education for Sachin. It was a real test against Imran Khan and Wasim Akram and he earned praise from both. Then came the tour to New Zealand where he missed being the youngest century maker in Test cricket, when he got out at 88. The same year he went to England and played a classic innings at Old Trafford. It was his first Test century, a match-saving effort full of punchy strokes off the backfoot. Gooch attacked, and Sachin counter-attacked. A century was the reward, plus two champagne bottles. In the evening, there were amusing inquiries on how an under-18 lad could be presented with champagne bottles. Probably they still must be part of his collections.

Sachin was the only batsman to emerge with his reputation intact from the Australian tour. He cracked centuries in Sydney and Perth and the last one was simply out of the world. On a bouncy track, when everyone else was struggling to survive, this lad let loose a flurry of shots, again punching strongly off the backfoot. Australian skipper Allan Border had said after that knock, “I can’t see a limit on how far he can go. His biggest problem could be carrying the burden of Indian batting on his shoulders too early in life.”

By his standards, Sachin did not have a successful season with Yorkshire. It takes time for anyone to adjust in his first county season in England. Sachin was in the learning process. Maybe if he goes back to the county circuit next season, he might become a permanent professional for Yorkshire. Even Vivian Richards struggled in his first season with Somerset. And Sachin’s average of 46-plus was better than Richards’ average for Somerset in his first season.

Geoffrey Boycott, who is rarely impressed by others, concedes that “Being a perfectionist, I have no criticism for this young man. If I am still learning, how can you expect a lad of 19 to know everything. He handles some of the best bowlers in the world with ease. Would love to have him back at Yorkshire.”

Every team would love to have Sachin. He is a superb team-man and the most involved individual at the ‘nets.’ When his batting turn is over, he picks up a ball and gets into the act as if in a match. “The ohs and howzatts” from Sachin show his sincerity. He is uneasy if he is not doing anything. A restless character, Sachin has grown into a bit of an introvert of late. The onus of being the main batsman is probably weighing on his young mind.

He may not be an interviewer’s delight. A man of few words who would just let his bat do all the talking. He is an attentive listener, if the man talking is Sunny Gavaskar, or his coach, Mr. Ramakant Achrekar. The ‘walkman’ is his constant companion with plenty of ‘Dire Straits’ cassettes in his hip pouch. No wonder he is a good listener.

Sachin Tendulkar works with the Sungrace. Easy to find his working spot at the office. He sits in a cabin with that famous nameplate outside.

This article was published in The Sportstar of December 12, 1992.