The milestone man

Little Master of big feats completes 20 yrs in international cricket

The milestone man

Sachin Tendulkar gestures during a training session at the nets in Ahmedabad on Saturday ahead of the India-Sri Lanka first Test. AFP

The other day, visiting Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a cricket fan, made a tongue-in-cheek remark about Tendulkar that on behalf of all Australians he would wholeheartedly welcome “if Sachin does decide it is time to retire.”

Rudd’s comments should not surprise anyone, certainly not his cricket-crazy fellow Australians. If in doubt, ask that great leg spinner Shane Warne who, a decade ago, had confessed to suffering nightmares because of Tendulkar.

Unfortunately for Rudd and his citizens, Tendulkar is going strong and his cricketing career is not over yet.

That he is still capable of superlative performances with the willow was evident just days ago when he plundered 175 runs in the Hyderabad one-day match against Ricky Ponting’s men. Much as there might have been talks a few years ago that he was fast turning into an ‘Endulkar,’ nobody in this cricket-crazy country is now asking that embarrassing question: “why is he not retiring?”

Enormous potential

On this day, 20 years ago, when he was still a schoolboy, Tendulkar got the selectors’ nod to play for the country in the Test match against Pakistan in Karachi.

The selection was more on the basis of the enormous potential the little boy had shown while playing at the school level. Unlike so many of our cricketers who have failed to live up to their potential and faded away, Tendulkar has gone on to become the peerless jewel in India’s cricketing crown.

He has defied the best in the world with a scything willow, a huge heart and an equanimity that stands out as his greatest asset.

For almost that entire 20- year period since November 15, 1989, he has carried the Indian batting, the pressure of expectations, the hopes and dreams of a billion people in a country proud to proclaim “If cricket is a religion, Sachin is God!”

Very early in his cricketing career, Tendulkar fancied himself as a fast bowler.
Fortunately for Indian, and world cricket, it remained a fancy. With the tempestuous John McEnroe for an idol, it was no surprise that little Tendulkar wanted to terrorise batsmen by running in fast and hurling the red cherry even faster.

It was, though, only a fleeting temptation as he quickly realised that it was more fun terrorising fast bowlers with bat in hand.

Apart from the individual records for the highest Test and one-day scores, Tendulkar owns every batting record worth possessing.

Each run he scores in international cricket is a new record, the benchmark for generations to follow to emulate. Even after 20 years, each time he steps on to the park, the expectations are massive and the pressures immense. No one sportsman has borne this enormous burden for so long with so much nonchalance.

That’s what makes Tendulkar special. He didn’t demand the superman status conferred upon him, though with 87 centuries and 29,951 international runs, how can he not be?

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