Thanks Sach, for all the thrills

Hundred times over... Sachin Tendulkar kisses his helmet after scoring his 100th international century during the Asia Cup cricket match against Bangladesh, in Dhaka, on March 16, 2012.-AP

With his retirement from One-Day Internationals, Sachin Tendulkar has left behind a legacy that will be difficult to even dream of let alone emulate, writes W. V. Raman.

Sachin Tendulkar derived immense pleasure in the early 1990s to draw Navjot “Sherry” Singh into banter during the nets and invariably it resulted in a great laugh for the entire team. Of course, they both relished the prospect of pulling each other’s legs and at times the banter would turn into a serious discussion.

During one such occasion, it centred on who was subjected to more pressure, an opener or a middle-order batsman. Both Sach and Sherry stuck to their guns. Sherry, for obvious reasons, felt that he being an opener was under more pressure and Sach being the imp that he was then felt that the openers could always put him under pressure if they got out cheaply.

I was asked to judge on the merits of both their arguments and I said that Navjot was better placed to make a profound statement on that topic as he had batted at the top three positions. The implication was that Tendulkar had not opened until that point and hence he would not have first-hand knowledge of the pressures handled by an opener. Tendulkar agreed reluctantly but wound up the topic by saying that he would open sooner or later and find out for himself.

As it turned out, an injury to “Sherry” Sidhu made Tendulkar volunteer to open in the ODIs and it has to be said that it was the most decisive moment in Indian cricket. After his resounding success one is tempted to go to the extent of saying that his volunteering for the top slot was a significant moment in international cricket as well.

Of course, there were the Greenidges before him and the Jayasuriyas after the reassignment of his role but the manner in which he decimated bowlers was peerless. There was nothing brutal or cruel about his approach but the more than healthy strike rate was achieved with shots that delighted the purists. In fact, Tendulkar perhaps made the puritans reluctantly accept the one-day format of the game with his cultured batting. The format was considered a thorn in the game’s flesh.

The advantages of the field restrictions were utilised to the optimum and the gaps available on the field were pierced with pinpoint accuracy. None of the variables like extent of swing, seam and strategies mattered as the little master made mincemeat of the bowlers with consummate ease. Improvisations were not required as his mastery enabled him to produce proper cricketing shots to win the admiration of the bowlers and millions of fans alike.

The upper cut was added to his repertoire much later only to let the bowlers know that their margin for error was reduced even further.

In as much as he made the bowlers tear their hair apart in frustration, the television producers were subjected to the same treatment as well in more ways than one. His belligerent knocks exhausted their grey cells as crunching his efforts into highlight packages became extremely difficult.

If that was not enough, he would make the person in charge of graphics for the TV production companies look really silly by bowling in different styles. The little seam up, offies and leggies were produced with the minimum of fuss and there was no saying which would come off his hand at which juncture.

The big leggies (without any practice) would make the likes of Piyush Chawla and Rahul Sharma sigh but such was the co-ordination of SRT that he was like an illusionist conjuring tricks at will. His batting and other accompaniments made for spectacle for over two decades and that too in an entertaining format of the game. The beauty of it all is that he never resorted to ungainly methods under the guise of improvisation.

He has left behind a legacy that will be difficult to even dream of let alone emulate and despite all the entertainment that the ODIs can produce, the format has become poorer with the exit of one Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

Thanks Sach, for all the thrills as also the frills that you gave almost on demand for over two decades.