‘He is part of every household in India’

Venkatesh Prasad and Sachin Tendulkar during the Platinum Jubilee celebrations of the Karnataka State Cricket Association at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore.-Pics: PTI

“The other day, I was watching him play the Champions League and I was startled by the enthusiasm that he still showed for the game,” says Venkatesh Prasad.

You could see it (the retirement) coming but when it did happen, it made you feel sad. To know that after his 200th Test, you cannot see him anymore, on the field or on the (television) screen, that is sad.

It is not just about Sachin Tendulkar the cricketer. He is also a part of us. Let’s accept that he is part of every household in India, and across the globe, wherever Indians stay, they carry Sachin with them.

He has carried that burden of our hopes, for so long, played for 24 years, created all sorts of records that will not be broken even in the next 100 years and yet, knowing him as I do, both as a team-mate and then as a coach (bowling), he is still so humble and grounded.

Later, when I took over as the bowling coach with the Indian team, the one thing that struck me about him was that he was still enthusiastic about what he did. And I am not talking just about batting. After a certain age, it becomes extremely difficult to hit the gym but Sachin went to the gym without fail, his training was maniacal.

The other day, I was watching him play the Champions League and I was startled by the enthusiasm that he still showed for the game. Let’s face it, ups and downs, highs and lows are all part of sport. All of us go through it but at some point we hit a barrier and then we say, we are tired, we had enough, but with this man, that never happened for 24 years. He was still the same in the way he approached the game. That enthusiasm and passion is his unique strength.

Sachin Tendulkar in full flow. "To pick one knock of Sachin would be difficult, because there are so many," says Venkatesh Prasad.-

To pick one knock of Sachin would be difficult, because there are so many. But yes, there is this moment that I recall: we were playing a game in Sharjah, Wasim Akram running in, the first delivery was a sharp bouncer and before Sachin could react, the ball had hit his helmet. In the dressing room, I was thinking: ‘What will he do? Will he be circumspect?’ Sachin just walked towards the square-leg umpire, adjusted his pads and helmet. Next ball, same type of delivery and this time Sachin hit it for a six! That’s the man he is!

I have bowled to him in a few domestic matches and got him out twice — once in an Irani Trophy match at the Wankhede Stadium and the next time in a Challenger Trophy game — and trust me, when you get him out, it’s a special feeling.

The runs he has scored and the way he has coped with different conditions are all pointers to his skills, his adaptability and his genius. And there is no mistaking the fact that Sachin Tendulkar is a genius.

At told to K. C. Vijaya Kumar