He’s much more than his runs and records

Yuvraj Singh and Sachin Tendulkar at a practice session. When Yuvraj was struggling to find form ahead of the 2011 World Cup, Tendulkar helped the southpaw regain confidence.-K.R. DEEPAK

Sachin Tendulkar was not just a revered elder to doting youngsters, he also inspired accomplished men to give their best, writes K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

Clutching a piece of paper and with a voice that was often choking, Sachin Tendulkar gifted an entire nation, a collective lump in its throat. His ‘Thank You’ address in Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium on a Saturday that no Indian will forget, had depth, gratitude and grace.

And, while everyone struggled with a grief that is much akin to losing your first love, Tendulkar turned towards M. S. Dhoni and the rest of the squad and said: “Knowing all of you guys, I know you will continue to serve the nation in the right spirit and right values. I believe we have been the lucky ones to be chosen by the Almighty to serve this sport.”

It was a moment when the maestro firmly put the spotlight on cricket being a team-sport and showed yet again that he is much more than his Himalayan runs and records. In a sense, Tendulkar was just doing what he has done for close to two decades — mentoring the team and making it look inwards and move forward.

Be it helping Suresh Raina cope with the bouncer in Bangalore’s National Cricket Academy or guiding the youngsters in throwing techniques from the deep ahead of a Test in Dhaka, Tendulkar has always found time to help his team-mates. It is a point that both seniors and juniors vouch for and on television, V. V. S. Laxman said: “I always consult him on some technical issues and his observations are so good.” Recently Robin Uthappa, at the other end of the age-spectrum, said: “When you see his routine at the nets and if you observe that he is working on a particular technical aspect, you can freely ask him about that and he will share his thoughts. He is a giver.”

As a 16-year old debutant, who stole hearts in Karachi in 1989, Tendulkar knows what it feels to wear the India cap and he is always around for first-timers to lean on and shed their anxiety. “When I made my Test debut (Perth, 2012), Sachin was there at mid-on and mid-off. (David) Warner was going after every bowler but Sachin told me that I was bowling well and asked me not to worry and said I just needed to be patient. If he is there in the dressing room, there is a sense of safety,” recalled an overwhelmed R. Vinay Kumar.

Tendulkar was not just a revered elder to doting youngsters, he also inspired accomplished men to give their best. Ahead of the 2011 World Cup, Yuvraj Singh was wallowing in form-woes and self-esteem slumps.

Tendulkar with Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay. "He loves all the good things and the youngsters come to him to discuss about even stuff like cars." says former Indian skipper Anil Kumble.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Tendulkar stepped in and instilled confidence in him. In his book, The Test Of My Life, Yuvraj wrote: “He told me I mattered to the team. When it matters, he had said, you will matter the most. That stayed in my memory. ‘Play it for someone you think you owe something to. Make the World Cup part of that debt that you have to fulfil,’ as he was saying this I told myself that I will play this World Cup for you, you who I spent my childhood watching.” A fired-up Yuvraj flourished, India prospered and the World Cup was won.

Even a seasoned player and a legend in his own right like Rahul Dravid, found encouragement in Tendulkar’s presence. In the anthology Sach, Genius Unplugged, Dravid wrote: “Although we were the same age, he was senior to me in the Indian team by seven years, and was captain in my third Test match. All this defined my relationship with Sachin just as much as our similarities and differences as cricketers did. It meant that I looked up to him and was never in competition with him.”

Anil Kumble pertinently pointed out that his friend walked more than half the distance to keep youngsters at ease. “He loves all the good things and the youngsters come to him to discuss about even stuff like cars. And he is not averse to somebody coming to him and telling him, ‘his feet isn’t moving enough.’ He is not like, ‘I am Sachin Tendulkar and nobody should tell me this.’ He wants people to come and talk to him,” Kumble said.

Tendulkar has been pure inspiration for a generation of cricketers. “He has carried India for 20 years, so now it is time we should carry him,” Virat Kohli said after India won the 2011 World Cup. Kohli was not just speaking for himself, he was only reflecting the mood within the dressing room and across the maidans all over India.