The Sachin package was such a joy!

A young Sachin Tendulkar,in his debut series, was struck on the face by a short ball from Waqar Younis. He, however, continued batting after receiving medical attention.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

I was impressed with his high elbow, still head and front foot batting. It made him aggressive, always looking to dominate. By Rameez Raja.

I remember my first meeting with Sachin. He was a player who had been discussed in our team meeting, days before the match. I vividly remember Kapil raving about him. We wondered if Kapil had got it right. It was baffling to hear such praise for a 16-year-old batsman.

How many matches had he played? What technique would he have developed? Frankly speaking, we doubted his credentials. But we had to give importance to Kapil’s observations.

From the moment he walked in, we could see the mannerisms, the self-belief he had, the technique was exceptional...

You could easily gauge his potential. He demonstrated it amply in that festival match where he slammed Abdul Qadir, who was so difficult to pick. Then and there it dawned on us that we were watching someone special. A star actually! If he could collar Qadir, he was going to be a serious challenge.

He became stronger physically and always seemed to own the cricketing arena. He took his time and made sure that he earned the respect of the opposition. The way he played the game was exemplary. He bowled me a spell in one of the One-day games and from a short run-up he was seaming the ball, both ways. You can do it only if you are devoted to the game. He fielded, bowled and batted well and was always involved.

With time his batting technique improved. He played more in line, avoided the early cross-batted shots and added more power behind his shots. Always a treat to watch!

In Sialkot, I remember, we had prepared a nasty pitch and wanted to bulldoze India with short-pitched stuff. It was a nasty ball. It went off his glove and stuck him on his nose, but he was unfazed. He always tackled fast bowlers with confidence. Even in the early years, we could see little patches of brilliance, and he showed that he was brave. That was very important.

From ball one he showed focus, and always wanted to learn more, paying attention to every little detail. Shy to start off, he relaxed as the tour (1989) progressed. He was destined to be the world’s best.

I was impressed with his high elbow, still head and front foot batting. It made him aggressive, always looking to dominate. His technique was just magnificent. He played with such dignity, making him a great role model. You want to own him, irrespective of your nationality. The whole Sachin package was such a joy!

Renowned to help youngsters and not the jealous type, he was a great team player. Even after you took the captaincy from him, he still wanted to be part of the core group. All this goes on to show his greatness, on and off the field — how he greeted you, conversed…

It will be difficult to pick one standout innings but his knocks in Sharjah against Australia — hitting Shane Warne, who turns the ball by a mile, over his head — were simply awesome. The way he adjusted on Australian pitches was also an education for any budding batsman. The way he played Pakistani fast bowlers, adjusted to the English conditions, the way he handled the spinners, bears testimony to his greatness.

It has been a joy to watch him, and a greater joy to be associated with him. He is what Mirza Ghalib is to poetry, what Nelson Mandela is to humanity, the biggest cricket ambassador ever to have lived.

As told to Vijay Lokapally