Abhinav Bindra: "Sachin wanted to know about my last shot, the one which won India the gold"
For ABHINAV BINDRA, India’s only individual Olympic gold-medal winner, cricket begins and ends with Sachin
I don’t think I’m a cricket fan. How can I be? All my life, I’ve only been interested in watching Sachin Tendulkar, and none of the other Indian batsmen. Everytime he gets out, I turn off my TV, deeming it unworthy to watch anything else after that. Does that mean I’m not a true follower of cricket? I don’t know. Is it possible to not follow cricket and still have Tendulkar as an idol? I don’t know but I’ve done exactly that.
It was during the 1996 World Cup in India that I began to follow the game, or should I say Tendulkar. I got hooked on to his game for the extra grace, for the aggression that he brought to the field. Of course, over the years, Tendulkar has transformed his game. To last this long, he had to cut off a lot of shots. It was a brave move, considering all the public expectations. But he managed and he got into that frame of mind. And now again, it seems like he’s turning a corner. He looks more relaxed, he’s playing more freely.
I know people have these big Sachin scores (like the famous one in Sharjah) as their favourites but funnily for me, it was the 40-odd that he made against the West Indies in West Indies (44 in Trinidad in 1997, against an attack comprising Ambrose, Walsh and Bishop) which I like the most. The pitch was difficult, the sky was overcast, the ball was swinging and all the other Indian batsmen were just falling apart. Tendulkar played with such ease.
It showed why he is so special and that’s why there are such silly expectations when it comes to him. Although I don’t know him personally but from a distance, it looks as if Tendulkar lives in a bubble. Otherwise, how do you explain the years he has been able to play without getting affected? To add to that, there were numerous surgeries. It must have been a steep ask, I’m sure, to sustain the hunger.
I first met Tendulkar during the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games for only a brief moment, when I was participating as a 13-yearold. Someone clicked a photo of us and I ensured that I had it. I came back and put it up in my room hoping that I would have more such classic encounters. My wish was fulfilled last Monday, when I met him during an award ceremony, after 11 long years.
We spoke general stuff — about our earlier meeting and a common fraud trainer we were being conned by! He then asked me about my last shot, which fetched India the Olympic gold. I became his fan, anew, that evening.
Sania Mirza: "I sent him a congratulatory SMS & he replied instantly."
SANIA MIRZA applauds India’s super bat
Thorough gentleman: The best thing about Sachin Tendulkar is that he’s completely rooted, down to earth, and a thorough gentleman. He’s probably the best thing to have happened to Indian cricket and maybe Indian sport as a whole. When he completed 17,000 runs in ODIs, I sent him a congratulatory SMS. He replied immediately. He’s obviously a champion, but despite everything he has achieved he remains a really gentle person.
First meeting: I think it was at a press conference. After that we chatted, and we’ve met quite a few times since. I’ve even played umpire for an exhibition tennis match that he was involved in and it was fun.
His achievements: I don't know if I want to rate any one of his achievements over the others. He has achieved a lot, and I think it would be unfair to rank it, simply because a lot of effort has gone into each knock.
That he has lasted this long on the international stage is fantastic. For years, I've been reading about how he shouldn’t play ODIs, and then he comes up with a knock like the 175 (in Hyderabad last week against the Australians) and silences everybody. I’m no expert on this, but it looks like he still has some good years of cricket left in him.
Baiching Bhutia: "When we met I could see he was a thorough gentleman."
BHAICHUNG BHUTIA marvels at Tendulkar’s work ethic and single-minded devotion to the game
Talent is a fleeting theme but Sachin Tendulkar has surpassed the boundaries of its definition. He belongs to that rare species in the sporting world who have not only fulfilled their role in the game with distinction but contributed more than their share.
We started off our careers at almost the same age. So I know how difficult it is to keep pace with the demands of the game, maintain fitness and yet find enough motivation to pursue brilliance. As you gain name and fame, you require strong balance in life, and must rely on self-belief to stay focused. Sachin has handled this pressure superbly.
He is always a great inspiration to everybody. His records are there for everybody to see. He is the best batsman in the world but what amazes me is his involvement with other aspects of the game as well. But his contribution to bowling and fielding is immense. He has given India and himself a special identity in the game.
I have met him on a few occasions, mostly for photoshoot sessions. The last time when we came together was at the Sunfeast Open in Kolkata in September 2007, when Mahesh Bhupathi invited both of us. We exchanged notes on our respective sports. He seemed to me to be very humble, a thorough gentleman who is respectful.