Wednesday, November 18, 2009

He helped forge the New India By Sourav Ganguly

Sachin considers Sourav the best captain he has played under, Sourav considers Sachin, well…God. Together, they were among the most destructive opening partnerships in the One-day game. They also helped establish one of the toughest Indian sides ever

The only time he ever seemed worried was when he was captain. A good leader nurturing a young team, he was never given the benefit of doubt and quit to focus on his batting

Like all Indians, I am very proud of Sachin Tendulkar. It gives me a lot of happiness to see this lovely person complete 20 years of international cricket. It is not easy playing for so long and I can vouch for it after being 14 years on the trot at the international level myself.

It speaks volumes of the man’s determination, his hunger for playing the sport. After the Hyderabad game, someone asked him — I can’t remember who — what keeps him ticking, or what kept him motivated. He very rightly said that he cared playing for India. It said a lot. This is the simple reason why he has survived 20 years of international cricket. This is why he has survived the grind, the pressure, the expectations, the ups and downs, the happiness of being successful and also the sorrows of being unsuccessful at times.

The first time I saw this champion was in Indore at an under-15 national camp under Vasu Paranjape. He had a lot more hair than he has now; in fact, his hair resembled that of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Although he has lost it over the years wearing the Indian helmet and carrying the burden of expectations, his smile and the satisfied look on his face still remains the same. He just loved batting then. He would bat for hours in the nets and Mr Paranjape had to literally pull him out because other players too had to practice.

Even back then, at that early age, he used a bat that weighed nearly three pounds! I had heard a lot of praise about him even before I came to the camp, but when I saw him in Indore, I knew this kid was special and would play for India for a long, long time. As they say, talent is what you are born with; but it does not necessarily mean automatic success. But this man used it to the hilt.

(Above, from left) Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble,Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid
have all been Sachin’s captain at some point of time in the past decade.

One of cricket’s most successful captains, he’s been at the receiving end of many memorable Sachin knocks, including a double century in his own farewell Test in Sydney... He says his talkative team members would go quiet when Sachin was at the crease .

After making his debut at 16 against Pakistan, he has gone from strength to strength to become the greatest batsman of the modern era. I have a huge fascination for Brian Lara, being a left-hander myself, but I would still put Sachin slightly higher than him.

He came from a very ordinary middle-class background — his father was a professor — so his values were pretty straight and simple and that was one of his strengths and the reason that his feet were rooted to the ground. That is also why he could achieve what he has done today.

My first overseas ODI tour was in 1991 to Australia, and it was there that I got to share a room with Sachin. He had an outstanding series, and it was from Australia that his name really took off as a player. What amazed me was that he would stay up all night before he was to bat watching TV, and still go and score runs the next day. I asked him why he kept awake, why he didn’t try to sleep. He replied that he was very nervous and equally desperate to go out and bat, that his adrenaline would not allow him to sleep and I found that amazing! I made my Test debut on the 1996 tour to England and for the first time, had a big partnership with him at Trent Bridge, where we both went on to get hundreds. It was a treat, admiring his innings from the other end. I also admired the intent with which he wanted to learn Bengali. Sadly, that is one thing he hasn’t been able to do despite knowing me for 15 years. Thankfully, there has been no such problem with his batting. It has gone from better to best every season.

His biggest strength as a batsman is his adaptability. I clearly remember that he scored a hundred against South Africa in Cape Town with a completely different initial movement while playing their fast bowlers. I asked him about it after his innings, pointing out that I hadn’t seen him move that way before, nor did I see him do so in the nets on the eve of the Test. He told me that he decided to do it only when he took guard that day. And that is something really, really amazing, something so special. Not many batsmen would do that, especially when they are taking guard to the likes of Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock. Not only did he do it, but he also got a fantastic hundred. For sheer adaptability, I would rank it among one of his many bests.

The only time I saw Sachin a bit worried was when he became captain of India. I always felt that a captain is only as good as the team; he became captain of a very young team and required more time from the selectors. He always seemed to be under the pressure of delivering as captains are, but he should have been given the benefit of doubt for nurturing a young team.

I know a lot of captains will be judged on their success rate, but to me he was the best captain I played under. My game blossomed under him because I was able to see his faith in my ability and that is very important for a young player. When a captain gives you that much confidence you will feel like giving everything for him and that’s why he was so special to me. When he resigned from the job since he felt it was affecting his game, I believed he had taken the right decision.

My memories of sharing nearly 200 games with him will always be special. There was a time when we knew exactly what the other was trying to do while batting together. Once I became the captain, we had a core group which included him, Anil (Kumble) and Rahul (Dravid). Our main goal was to try and take Indian cricket forward and he played a very important role in that. Our overseas performance improved tremendously. We were always considered a strong team at home but a soft one overseas, but with the support of John Wright we really made great progress as a team. A lot of India’s success now or in the past few years has been because of that start in 2001. His recent knock of 175 in Hyderabad just speaks volumes of his hunger, and his desperation to play the 2011 World Cup.

We had a terrible World Cup in 2007, and that is something that will haunt my mind forever. We had the team, but we couldn’t deliver. But Sachin will have another chance and I know he desperately wants to make amends in the World Cup at home. He has carried the baton of Indian cricket, shouldered the responsibility for the last 20 years. I wish him good luck for whatever time he is left with in this sport. He is good enough to call it a day as and when he wants to and it would be most fitting to do so by winning the 2011 World Cup. He is a champion, easily the best of the modern era and a world title will be the ideal gift for him and the cricket-loving public.

Sachin will remain a role model for every cricketer, and not just for his cricketing ability. It’s his mental attitude which every Indian cricketer should try to emulate.

(Source: Times of India Crest Edition - 14th November 2009)

No comments:

Post a Comment