GODS of Cricket - Sachin Tendulkar
After taking a whole nation by storm, a little man called Sachin Tendulkar started to make his presence felt among cricket’s mightiest bullies in 1991-92, a time when the world had more than warmed up to Michael Jackson’s Dangerous and Metallica’s Enter Sandman, and the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. “This little prick’s going to get more runs than you, AB,” Remarked Merv Hughes about the little master to Allan Border then. Almost two decades later, Sachin Tendulkar continues to accumulate runs by the bucketful and plays the game with the same old passion, of course now with plenty of records under his belt, and is regarded as the one of the greatest batsman to have played the game.
Yet, to millions of Indians, Sachin is a whole world more.
Having played international cricket since a 16-year old, Sachin Tendulkar has endured the hardest of times and has seen countless players around him being eaten up in the constant glare of the unforgiving world of Indian cricket, with the instant money and recognition, and similar backlash in unfortunate times. His own childhood friend Vinod Kambli, once seen as a batsman equal in stature to Sachin, fell away. Sachin, though, consistently gave the same value and commitment to the sport he embraced, at all times, good or bad, amazingly. The humility, the simplicity and his attitude towards cricket and indeed life, apart from his batting, has made the genius the biggest thing in Indian sports.
Apart from being the highest run-getter in Test and on-day cricket, and scoring the maximum number of centuries in both these forms, the little champion is the first and the only batsman to have scored a double century in one-dayers. Australian legend Donald Bradman included him in the list of his XI (Bradman’s Eleven): Sachin was the only player from the modern era to have figured in his list. Millions regard him as ‘God’, and players as well. “I have seen God. He bats at no. 4 in India in Tests,” confessed Matthew Hayden once.
Sachin made his first-class debut at the age of 15, and scored a century in each of his debuts at the Ranji, Irani and the Deodhar Trophy, the only player to achieve the feat. This was after a 664-run partnership with Vinod Kambli in an inter-school tournament that made everyone sit up and take notice. He made his international debut a year later against Pakistan at Karachi in a game which also saw another legend playing the first match of his career – Waqar Younis.
He was seen as a calm and matured player who was as elegant as a certain Sunil Gavaskar and a batsman who played glorious copy-book drives with ease, and as a batsman who played short deliveries with remarkable ease in context of his height: he was only 5 feet 5 inches tall. Sachin not only had all the attacking and defensive shots in his arsenal, he was also able to be aggressive with the old classical game, a combination that is very rare, most notably pointed out by Sunil Gavaskar: “it is hard to imagine any player in the history of the game who combines classical technique with raw aggression like the little champion does.”
Although he was not as prolific so as to have a Bradmanesque average, the master blaster scored consistently enough in both forms of the game and produced stellar knocks. His innings of 114 at Perth is widely regarded as the best innings to have been played on Australian soil.
Sachin’s bat had started to become much quieter in a relatively troublesome phase for his that started in 2002 and lasted 4-5 years. The back problem and the tennis elbow injury did not help matters and indeed there were speculations that Sachin was a shadow of his former self and this was the tart of his decline: Endulkar, as newspapers put the phenomenon in perspective. Ian Chappell had suggested in a column for Mumbai’s Mid-Day that it is time Sachin considered retirement. In all fairness though, the criticism was unfair since the little man was still producing centuries and half-centuries, even amidst injuries, only he had fallen from his lofty standards. A couple of his weaknesses came to light, like his difficulty in facing left-arm seamers: Pedro Collins in India’s tour to West Indies in 2002 troubled the master throughout the series. However, in spite of his apparent ‘decline’, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) never considered dropping him, and rightly so.
Since 2007, Sachin’s resurgence has been remarkable. Quite clearly, he now played the role of more of an accumulator than that of an entertainer, and he kept producing centuries after centuries. There was a time when he regularly got out in the nineties as a rule, but the jinx never troubled him, and his knocks continued to win matches for India. His technique is still as perfect as ever, and the hunger for being bigger and better has not ceased. An amazing knock of an unbeaten 200 against South Africa in early 2010 is a testimony to it.
“Cricket is my religion, and Sachin is my god” is a refrain that is as true as it is popular, for the way he has conducted himself for the past 21 years now, in terms of maintaining his status as one of the greatest batsman and providing the respect and dedication that the sport deserves, makes him a perfect role-model to the point of being a god.