Boy with the Morrant pads

Sachin Tendulkar and V.V.S. Laxman strung together many a partnerships for India.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

“He called me to say he was retiring and it was a great gesture on his part. I cherish the bond and affection we have,” says V. V. S. Laxman.

My early memories take me to the time when Sachin played for Mumbai against Hyderabad in a Ranji Trophy game at the Gymkhana ground in 1989. I was practising with the state under-15 side. People were talking about a young Mumbai player with a lot of potential. If I remember right, he got a fifty in that match and played really well. I remember he had Morrant pads. That was the first time I saw him live.

I had seen a Mohinder Amarnath show on Doordarshan. It used to come every Sunday. I remember an interview of Sachin at Shivaji Park.

My first meeting with him was during the Wills Trophy in Rajkot (in 1995), when he hit a splendid century against us. I had done well against the Australia and England under-19 sides. I was thrilled when he said that he had been following my performances in the under-19 side and that gave me a lot of encouragement. Sachin was a huge motivation for me. He was dominating teams in world cricket, playing with rare aggression.

Since that Rajkot meeting, he always kept a close eye on my progress. When I was picked for the Indian team he was the captain. He has this great quality of approaching the youngster, of taking the first step, so that the newcomer felt relaxed.

As a cricketer, he respected the game a lot and always took pride in what he did on the cricket field. It showed in his performances and in how he kept on improving as a player. He combined talent with wonderful work ethic and his preparation for a match was unique. It will always stand out. He had this urge to keep improving and that is one of the main reasons behind his longevity. That was the reason why he broke so many records. His consistency has been phenomenal.

I learnt so much from him. I could not have copied him as we were different types of batsmen. But he is the most well balanced player. Look at his stance and head position, how he handled the best attacks, played on the front foot and back foot with ease. I would always discuss my batting with him. I always asked him to watch me because his knowledge of the game was unbelievable. He also had a great eye to detect a technical deficiency in a batsman.

He started off with great aggression, till 2000 at least, and dominated from the word go. With age, he realised he was not able to convert the fifties into hundreds and stopped being so aggressive. His aim was always to win the match for his team. He also had to deal with a lot of injuries. But he came back from them strong, changing his game to suit the new demands. I don’t think anyone will be able to score 100 international centuries.

One innings would be tough to pick, but I loved his century in Perth (in 1992). He says it was the turning point of his career. It was a sensational knock, played at a very young age. It was a special knock that transformed him from being a talented player to a performer. The hundred he got against Pakistan in Chennai (in 1999) and the century against England in Chennai (in 2008) were special too.

He was very generous in paying compliments. I was privileged to play along with him and enjoyed some great partnerships. I have always enjoyed batting with him and seeing him preparing for a match. It was a great lesson for any youngster.

He called me to say he was retiring and it was a great gesture on his part. I cherish the bond and affection we have. We knew this decision was going to come sooner or later.

I congratulated him for his contribution to world cricket and for being my role model. He influenced so many lives. I want him to contribute even after retirement. His cricket memories are my best souvenirs.

As told to Vijay Lokapally