Wielding the mike!

Sachin Tendulkar with the Cricketer of the Generation award.-PTI

There was a time when the crowd watched in rapt attention when Sachin Tendulkar batted. Now they lap up each and every word he says on cricket. By Nandakumar Marar.

Sachin Tendulkar, speaking at the seventh ESPN-Cricinfo annual awards function, was candid about his thoughts on the game and on international cricket as it exists today, demanding special skills from players expected to adjust between Tests, One-dayers and T20s.

“I feel Test cricket is in good hands, players are producing unbelievable cricket. Around the world, most matches have results, very few Tests are drawn. It is probably due to T20s, so the formats are complementing each other. If you want more guys to follow the game, T20 is an ideal format to introduce people to cricket. Gradually they can progress to one-day and Test cricket,” the batting maestro said.

His viewpoint on contemporaries switching between the three formats, was also interesting: “You cannot force someone to like Test cricket. If you are passionate about Tests, it has to be from within. If it doesn’t exist in some players, don’t force them, leave them. Let them play one-day and T20. No player should be forced to play Tests, because the format will always catch you out if you are not mentally and technically prepared.”

Tendulkar said: “Twenty20 complements Test cricket. Now consistently you see 300-plus totals in Tests, because of rule changes and also due to T20. Batsmen are prepared to take chances, bowlers have to develop more variations. In the 90s, I don’t think anyone bowled the slower bouncer like Shaun Pollock did in the later stage of his career. Now it’s a regular variation. Maybe 20 years down the line, who knows how the game will be.

“The ICC should organise more Tests, if it wants the format to survive. Test cricket is the ultimate, because it demands more from batsmen who need to pace their innings and bowlers are required to perform over a longer duration.”

Tendulkar with Martin Crowe and Rahul Dravid at the awards function.-PTI

Named Cricketer of The Generation from 1993-2013 by ESPN-Cricinfo, he was voted ahead of Shane Warne and Jacques Kallis and spoke about the changes in the latter half of his 24-year career, influenced by limited-over cricket.

“I started out intent on smashing every ball and changed along the way, the field placements forcing me to rethink and reduce my aggression. Later on in my career when I walked in to bat and looked towards point placed in catching position, I thought there was a gap. Then I saw a deep point fielder already in place. With time, your style of play too changes. Today the kinds of shots played by batsmen are incredible.”

Tendulkar, who expanded his armoury of strokes, bringing out the upper cut against the pacemen in the later stages of his career, rated Andy Flower (Zimbabwe captain and ex-England coach) as a batsman ahead of his time. “I saw Flower play the reverse sweep consistently in a Test, he was 10-12 years ahead of his time. Twelve years later, it has become quite a common shot.”

The Indian maestro banked on inborn skills and supreme confidence to dominate Test cricket and learnt fast to become a force in one-dayers and become part of a World Cup-winning squad.

When T20 happened, he continued stroking boundaries using his core game based on anticipation, footwork and timing in the Indian Premier League.

A reserved person who let his bat doing all the talking in the face of bowlers’ attempts at intimidation and provocation, his grasp of the game was useful to Indian captains playing with him. Having retired from all forms of the game, Sachin Tendulkar is opening up now.

INSPIRING FORCE

Rahul Dravid, and New Zealand great Martin Crowe gave their insights on the three nominees for the big award.

Dravid referred to an interview in Sportstar featuring Sachin Tendulkar, about the kind of impact the latter used to have on youngsters coming into the Indian squad. The former, batting number seven, made 95 in the first innings on Test debut against England at Lord’s in 1996.

“I remember Sportstar used to interview players, who would be asked to name Cricketers For The Future. We were playing a Test series in England and were in Cambridge. Somebody gave me this magazine with Tendulkar’s interview in it.

“I quickly turned to the interview and saw my name mentioned in Cricketers For The Future. I felt so happy. It was after the Lord’s Test. He did make me score 95 before I earned it. He was that kind of player whose respect you wanted to earn.

“That is the kind of impact he had on a youngster coming into the side. Not only because he was going to be captain and was a senior, but because he was a great player and had already done so much.

“You wanted him to give that nod of approval. It was a huge inspiration for a lot of cricketers of that generation,” said Dravid.

WINNERS' LIST

Sachin Tendulkar (Cricketer of the Generation)

Tarak Sinha (Contribution to Cricket) Mohammed Shami (Debut of the Year)

Rohit Sharma (ODI batting performance of the Year)

Shahid Afridi (ODI bowling performance of the Year)

Shikhar Dhawan (Test batting performance of the Year)

Mitchell Johnson (Test bowling performance of the Year)

INSIGHTS

This was what Sachin Tendulkar had to say about the greats who were nominated with him for the Cricketer of the Generation award:

On Shane Warne: “He used drift to blind the batsmen down the leg side and deceive them with turn. I first played him in 1992 and felt he was talented but not consistent. The next time we played each other in Sri Lanka, he tried to provoke after getting hit for a six.”

On Jacques Kallis: “He pretended to be tired as a bowler, but I knew the effort ball would come. I always knew that one special ball was always round the corner. It was all part of his planning. His strengths were concentration and focus.”