I was fortunate that our careers coincided

"As a team-mate, he would congratulate you on any milestone and would send something special to your room with a small note."-

He was the first of us (to make a debut) and the last of us (to retire) and that tells the tale of his longevity and class. By Anil Kumble.

I don’t remember the first time we met but I am sure I would have bumped into him (Sachin Tendukar) at the under-17 zonal tournament in Kanpur, because I think there was a common dining area but I distinctly can’t remember. And then we met when we played in the Wills Trophy.

I was fortunate that our careers coincided. I was fortunate that I played all my cricket with him. We may have missed the one odd match together because he was injured or I was injured. All my matches, I have played with him and it is certainly special.

From close quarters, I have had the fortune of seeing how much effort he puts into his preparations for a match. He hasn’t changed, certainly in terms of enthusiasm and his approach towards the game. Since I was very different as a bowler, he was the one batsman I would go to and check about whether things were fine with me.

The Sydney double hundred was unique, he literally shut one side of the scoring area (off-side) because he was getting out. He made the bowlers come to him and played very patiently to get that double hundred and that to me was very special. As a batsman, he was unique in the sense that he could assess the pitch well and also pick the ball early and gauge the length of the delivery. He could see it from the bowler’s hand, even if the seam was tilted, five degrees here, five degrees there, the shine was here, the shine was there, and I couldn’t see that far and I still don’t know how he could. He could read the spinner, he could read reverse swing!

May be we haven’t had too many outings or too many private moments in those 18 years of my career. We really haven’t had too much of say going out for a meal or so but I think the respect we have for each other has remained throughout. Over the years our friendship developed, not necessarily sitting and chatting with each other but through the common values that we have and it is really nice that even off the field we have been in touch. As a team-mate, he would congratulate you on any milestone and would send something special to your room with a small note. He cared for you and that will remain.

As a person, I have never seen him get upset with anything on the field and that is amazing. If he has been handed out a poor decision, he comes to the dressing room, looks at the television screen, asks: “Is it out?”, and you could say ‘No’ or ‘Yes’ or whatever and then he would remove his gear and after 10 minutes, he would be benormal.

I was there for the World Cup final (April 2,’ 2011) in Mumbai and Sachin was representing our generation of cricketers, who so badly wanted to win the World Cup. He was the first of us (to make a debut) and the last of us (to retire) and that tells the tale of his longevity and class.

As told to K.C. Vijaya Kumar