Exceptional and human

Sachin Tendulkar's contribution to the game is monumental. His longevity is a tribute to his fitness and his commitment a glowing testimony to his passion for the game. By Vijay Lokapally.

Cricket is a team game, but Sachin Tendulkar is a phenomenon who carries the team on his shoulders. He plays cricket on his terms and the game too offers him a rare pedestal. Forget the comparisons. Does it matter who is the greatest — Don Bradman or Tendulkar? Bradman loved Tendulkar's batting and the modern Don revered the original master. The admiration was mutual and spoke volumes of their stature.

Tendulkar's reaction on reaching his 100th international century was poignant. “After scoring 99 tons you are made to realise the value of a hundred. It's not easy, it was a testing period, but there were many people who helped me. I've never played cricket for milestones. While playing, I have ended up breaking a few records, but that was never my goal. I play cricket just because I enjoy the game. The 100th hundred was the most difficult,” he said.

Tendulkar's contribution to the game is monumental and cannot be documented in the space of a few hundred words. His longevity is a tribute to his fitness. His commitment is a glowing testimony to his passion for the game. He may have faltered a few times but then he is a human. “I am not God. I am Sachin Tendulkar,” he said in Mirpur. It was a message to his fans.

Indian cricket owes a lot to this magnificent sportsman. “I have seen from close the pressure he faces,” Sourav Ganguly had remarked. The pressure begins many hours before a contest. The demands of the game are such that they make it tougher for him. He can't afford a failure. Often he has delivered, but there have also been occasions when he has failed. Those are moments when he needed support but sadly he has often found himself lonely.

He is private in person but very expressive on the field. He will talk to the bowlers, run to the fielders, set the field with over-excitement, bite his nail in despair, exclaim with joy, give high fives and all. He can be the most demonstrative person on the field and a complete recluse off it.

Tendulkar's devotion to cricket is unparalleled. “Impossible to keep him away from the game,” reckoned Virender Sehwag. Sitting in the front seat of the team coach and glued to music, he keeps his thoughts to himself. But during a training session or a match he is completely focussed. He always replays the preceding day's play in his mind and makes notes mentally ahead of the day's contest. His mind is always pre-occupied with cricket.

If Rahul Dravid was a perfectionist, Tendulkar was an architect who believed in flawless construction of an innings. True, he would build on the ‘lives' he has earned, but his strength always comes from his reading of the situation. The ease with which he can adapt to a situation is quite remarkable.

Acknowledged for his awesome talent, Tendulkar honed his skills through hard work and hours spent in the nets. This discipline is what sets him apart and leaves a lasting impression on the young generation. “I have learnt a lot from following his work ethics,” observed Virat Kohli.

There has not been a better advertisement for the game than Tendulkar. He will not shy away from helping a youngster and he will never disappoint a fan. I have seen Sachin slam a policeman at the Kotla for pushing a kid. It has been a pleasure to watch Sachin exhibit amazing patience when obliging fans at the ground, hotel and public functions.

Sudhir Kumar is a simple soul from Muzaffarpur in Bihar. He can always be spotted at cricket grounds, his body painted in Indian tricolour and with ‘Tendulkar' written on his back, and waving the National flag. He symbolises the Indian cricket fan and the affection for the master batsman. A match ticket from Sachin's personal quota is Sudhir's right. It goes to show how Sachin values his supporters.

“I have seen him enjoy his time with fans. He is at his best with kids,” reminisced V. V. S. Laxman. He is at his best with the common cricket supporter. He has a huge following among the elite, with the corporate and commercial world chasing him day and night. Tendulkar, however, has his priorities in place.

Tendulkar's influence on the cricket world is huge. The respect he commands from his opponents is enviable. The admiration from his well-wishers is equally overwhelming. Watch him when mobbed. You will find no trace of irritation, panic or concern on his face, for Sachin Tendulkar knows he is in safe hands when surrounded by his fans.

A doting father and a caring husband, Sachin is quite a family man. In the dressing room and on the cricket field, he is an exemplary statesman who brings dignity and eminence to his profession.