I had once read an article about Sachin Tendulkar when I was very young. And the lines that have been etched in my memory since are :
The man Sachin Tendulkar has had such an effect on us through all these years that it is hard to ever imagine an Indian team without the Little Master. From words like ‘If cricket is a religion, Sachin is God’ to ‘Sachin is a genius, I am a mere mortal’ – Brian Lara. It is one thing for us, mere mortals to watch in awe as the God of cricket goes about his business, but it is totally a different thing when one genius, Sir Donald Bradman thinks that this lad bats like him. To get such high praise from people who themselves have been nothing short of greatness is a tremendous achievement.
I can never forget this: ‘I know that the new ball is due, but I am saving it for that “Chotu” (Sachin) who is coming next.’ – Imran Khan to Javed Miandad in Sachin’s debut Test series.
He was a batsman who was great from the beginning. He is a batsman who has haunted the bowlers in the opposing dressing room since 1989 or even before. He has batted, and dominated on most occasions against some of the finest bowling attacks the cricketing world has witnessed. Shane Warne has had nightmares of Sachin, Merv Hughes saw his greatness at the age of 18, and mentioned it to Allan Border
‘This little prick’s going to get more runs than you, AB.’
Sachin Tendulkar has been treated as just another batsman by many. The man was compared with Saeed Anwar and Mark Waugh to start with. Then came Brian Lara. Once he retired, it was Ricky Ponting, and who now? The greatest achievement of Sachin Tendulkar has been that he has been close to perfection for almost 25 years now. The odd batsman might have hit a purple patch during that time, and might have outperformed Sachin on a few occasions, but if you factor in the longevity of his career with his consistency, he is next to none.
When Sachin Tendulkar traveled to Pakistan to face one of the finest bowling attacks ever assembled in cricket, Michael Schumacher was yet to race a F1 car, Lance Armstrong had never been to the Tour de France, Diego Maradona was still the captain of a world champion Argentina team, Pete Sampras had never won a Grand Slam.
When Tendulkar embarked on a glorious career taming Imran and company, Roger Federer was a name unheard of; Lionel Messi was in his nappies, Usain Bolt was an unknown kid in the Jamaican backwaters. The Berlin Wall was still intact, USSR was one big, big country, Dr. Manmohan Singh was yet to “open” the Nehruvian economy. It seems while Time was having his toll on every individual on the face of this planet, he excused one man. Time stands frozen in front of Sachin Tendulkar. We have had champions, we have had legends, but we have never had another Sachin Tendulkar and we never will.
- Time Magazine
Add to that the fact that Sachin has always been an attacking batsman. On most occasions he did not just grind his way out of trouble, he demolished the other team. He has played with a certain amount of authority all his cricketing life. His two innings in Sharjah that had even the Aussies staring in awe of the genius were two of the most aggressive innings under high pressure. Greame Pollock once said about him - ‘Tendulkar is the best in the world at the moment. Why I’ve always liked him is that batsmen tend to be negative at times and I think batting is not about not getting out – it is to play positively. I think you got to take it to the bowlers and Sachin is one such player. When you do so, you change the game, you change bowlers because they suddenly start bowling badly because they are under pressure.’
I haven’t even mentioned the pressure that rests on the shoulders of the 5ft 5in. tall man. Rahul Bhattacharya captures this in his piece ‘Man-Child Superstar’
‘A Tendulkar innings is never over when it is over. It is simply a basis for negotiation. He might be behind headphones or helmet, but outside people are talking, shouting, fighting, conceding, bargaining, waiting. He is a national habit.’
This is what Peter Roebuck once mentioned about Sachin’s god like existence in India.
‘On a train from Shimla to Delhi, there was a halt in one of the stations. The train stopped by for few minutes as usual. Sachin was nearing century, batting on 98. The passengers, railway officials, everyone on the train waited for Sachin to complete the century. This genius can stop time in India!’
Published with permission from Orange.