Monday, July 18, 2011

Ton-dulkar! Stand by to marvel at the Little Master as India head to Lord's

So many stats swirl around Sachin Tendulkar that the effect can be dizzying - like staring too long at the Taj Mahal. You may have gathered that the man they call the Little Master is diminutive in the physical sense alone. By any other measure he is monumental. Tendulkar has played 631 times for India in all formats, scored nearly 33,000 runs and hit 99 hundreds.

But the number most likely to induce vertigo is a simple date: 1989. On November 15 that year, only six days after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Tendulkar first played for India.
It is astonishing enough that he was only 16 when, wearing the pads bequeathed to him by Sunil Gavaskar, then the keeper of the keys to Indian batting's hall of fame, he went out to face Pakistan's Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.

Yet nothing contextual ises Tendulkar better than events more than 3,000 miles away that year in Germany. Eastern Europe's social and political upheaval seems so long ago now, but Tendulkar - like some historical document which forever updates itself - is still with us. Here is a modern cricketer who has straddled eras like no other.

When he made his Test debut in Karachi - imagine an English teenager playing his first game at the MCG - he had been practising with a proper cricket ball for just five years. Previously, he had faced tennis balls or ones made of rubber. No Indian had represented his country so young.

Sensing vulnerability, Waqar hit him on the nose. Later in the series Wasim was warned by English umpire John Holder for peppering him with too many bouncers. Even then, Tendulkar was singled out, yet he still managed a respectable series average of 35, better than his feted seniors Ravi Shastri and Kapil Dev. 

Tendulkar showed, wrote Wisden, 'that age is no consideration in Test cricket when a batsman is brimming with talent'. And so it proved. 

Twenty-two years on, he stands on the brink of his 100th international hundred. Next comes Ricky Ponting, with 69. Jacques Kallis has 57, Brian Lara retired with 53. No-one else has more than 44. The best-placed Englishman is Graham Gooch with 28. The figures speak for themselves.

Comparisons with Don Bradman, who made 29 hundreds and averaged 99.94 to Tendulkar's 56.94, remain one of cricket's favourite parlour games.

Statistically, Bradman will always be untouchable, but the gentler fixture list of his day meant his workload paled in comparison. Bradman played 52 Tests in 20 years, although his career was interrupted by the war. Tendulkar is about to embark on his 178th in 22 - and he has played a year-and-a-quarter's worth of one-day internationals.

And while Bradman had expectations of his own to deal with, not least a burgeoning sense of Australian nationalism at the time of the Great Depression and the iniquities of Bodyline in 1932-33, Tendulkar has played each of his games carrying the hopes of a billion Indians.

Suffice to say that when Bradman first saw Tendulkar on television, he called his wife Jessie over to tell her that the Indian reminded him of himself.

It remains the greatest compliment ever paid in cricket - even if Bradman was in effect complimenting himself. Gooch was captain of England when Tendulkar first toured here in 1990 and, curly-haired and stubble-free, saved the second Test at Old Trafford with an unbeaten 119 - the first of his 99 hundreds.

'You can always tell with a player from the way he moves and holds himself and shapes up at the crease,' says Gooch. 'Even at 17 years of age, you could see he had all the attributes. I was slightly irritated his innings cost us the Test, but it was a masterful knock and it set the tone for the 98 hundreds that followed.'

For those who followed his progress as a frighteningly precocious schoolboy in Mumbai, the Manchester hundred may have felt as inevitable as one of those trademark square-drives, played off the back foot on tiptoes at the top of the ball's bounce.
 Tendulkar was lucky to inherit his poet father's sang-froid and work ethic, regularly arriving for practice at dawn in Shivaji Park, where hundreds of youngsters still congregate daily and dream of becoming the next Sachin.

As a 14-year-old, he made unbeaten scores of 207, 329 - in a partnership of 664 with his friend and future Test team-mate Vinod Kambli - and 346 in the space of five innings in a schools tournament. 'Gentlemen,' an Indian selector was reported to have told his colleagues when pushing for the prodigy's inclusion on the 1989 trip to Pakistan. 'Tendulkar never fails.'

English bowlers down the years have come to understand the truth of that statement. In 24 Tests against them, Tendulkar has scored 2,150 runs at an average of 61, with seven hundreds. Four of them have come in 13 Tests in England, where he averages 62. The old wisdom that Indian batsmen struggle in English conditions is happy to regard Tendulkar as an exception.

Even so, in 2002, they thought they had his measure. 'He was in bad form that summer,' says Duncan Fletcher, then the coach of England but now in charge of India and Tendulkar. 'So we tried the tactic of bowling short outside off. Only in the last Test did he get a hundred. Great players always find a way.'

The trouble was, Tendulkar turned that hundred into 193 as India squared the series at Headingley.
Angus Fraser, who dismissed him in his first Test in England, at Lord's in 1990, recalls: 'Brian Lara was probably the harder of the two to bowl to, because he could make you look ridiculous if he was in the mood. But Sachin was the greater cricketer - to play to such a high level so for so long is remarkable.'

As if to prove the point, Tendulkar's 177 at Trent Bridge in 1996 was his 10th Test ton - yet he was still only 23, far younger than any of the England players in that game.

Although a Lord's century has so far eluded him - in fact, in seven attempts he has never made more than 37 in a Test at the home of cricket - he seems to have got better with age. There have been slumps, it's true. But the best yardstick of a player's greatness is his response to adversity. 

In January 2004, Tendulkar arrived at Sydney having failed to score a Test hundred for 14 months. Tormented by a range of bowlers from Jason Gillespie to the forgotten Brad Williams, he had been limited to scores of 0, 1, 37, 0 and 44 in the first three Tests. 

Tendulkar simply decided to stop encouraging Australia's bowlers outside off-stump, and so - as if he was a painter discarding his easel - out went the cover drive. For more than 10 hours, he stuck to his monastic policy and forced the bowlers to come to him. He finished with 241 not out, of which 188 came on the leg-side, and almost overshadowed Steve Waugh's final Test appearance.

When tennis elbow and a shoulder injury conspired to rob him of form once more in 2006, critics were quick to predict the end of his career. Instead, Tendulkar knuckled down - and came again.

Since that annus horribilis, he has scored 4,102 Test runs at 63, with an astonishing 16 hundreds. And he became the first player to reach 200 in a one-day international, against South Africa at Gwalior in February 2010. Tendulkar was nearly 37.

His long-time team-mate Rahul Dravid says: 'I wasn't playing that day. But I remember talking to some of the South African boys later, when they played with me in the Indian Premier League. They said it was incredible how he kept finding the gaps with good cricket shots and score at a good pace without ever seeming like he was rushing.'

Over a couple of decades, presumably, you have to learn how to pace yourself. Gooch says: 'His desire and commitment to Indian cricket are extraordinary and he has to deal with a level of attention that none of us can really appreciate.

'He can barely go anywhere or do anything without being ambushed, so to maintain that level of performance is something else.'

That degree of expectation was captured only nine years into his international career by the Indian poet and critic CP Sunderan.

'Batsmen walk out into the middle alone,' he wrote. 'Not Tendulkar. Every time Tendulkar walks to the crease, a whole nation, tatters and all, marches with him to the battle arena. A pauper people pleading for relief, remission from the lifelong anxiety of being Indian, by joining in spirit their visioned saviour.'

India has changed even in the 13 years since Surendran penned those words. But being Sachin Tendulkar has not.

Michael Vaughan: Sachin Tendulkar, still the best in the business, is everything you would ever want in a batsman

After India’s tour to England in 2007 it felt as if we had seen the last of Sachin Tendulkar in this country. Chris Tremlett was bowling well against him and Sachin looked a bit fearful of the short ball, which tends to happen towards the end of a player’s career.

Ryan Sidebottom was also causing him a lot of problems, he didn’t score a hundred in the series and averaged only 38. To think he is still on the circuit, playing better than ever and is on the verge of a 100th international century is a phenomenal achievement.
People ask why he is so good and what sets him apart from the rest? I played in an era of great batsmen but Tendulkar is top of the list simply because of the pressure and weight of expectation he has coped with. He is more famous in India than their prime minister or president and has had to deal with the kind of pressure that status brings whenever he walks to the crease.

When he arrives at the wicket everything is perfect. His technique is great.

There have been various theories about batting over the last decade or so with buzz words such as trigger movements and forward presses. Tendulkar just stands still. He is dead side on. If you sat down with a pen and paper to draw the perfect batsman, you would sketch out Tendulkar’s profile.

He is side on with a nice simple back lift. His shoulders are aligned to mid on and he plays straight. He gets his head over his front leg and plays close to his body. Tendulkar does everything that any good coach would teach and he has been playing in that simple fashion for the whole of his career.

When he was struggling with his elbow injury in 2007 he went through a phase of trying to defend his wicket, but just recently he has started to attack again which is when he plays at his best.

It is the same as Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting. Whenever they looked to defend you thought you could get them out. When great players such as these guys attack and score quickly they are beautiful to watch. Their feet move more positively, they get in position quicker and Tendulkar will arrive here looking to take the bowlers on because he knows they will be aggressive towards him.

Like all batsmen, he is at his most vulnerable early in the innings to the fuller delivery nipping back. A ball pitching on off stump and coming back through the gate will cause him problems.

I have seen him driving through balls early on and be bowled or lbw on a number of occasions. England could also undermine him with bounce, which is why Tremlett will be key. England should open with Tremlett but the difference from four years ago is that he will not duck and weave. He will take the short ball on. The best players see the short ball as a scoring opportunity not to just something to evade.

If the ball is swinging, James Anderson nipping back a ball that pitches on fourth stump [an imaginary stump outside off] and hitting middle or off will be very dangerous. Indian batsmen, Tendulkar included, go a long way over to the off side with their pad.

England have to back that line up with disciplined fields. The mid-on has got to be dead straight for Tendulkar. You can’t allow him to see the gap straight down the ground. Your midwicket also has to be straight as well so when he looks to the leg side does not see an easy scoring option. If he looks at those field settings and thinks “I can’t pierce those gaps” he will play square through extra cover. If he does that, and the ball nips back, you are in the game because if he misjudges an in-swinger you could have him nicked off and caught in the slips.

To nullify Tendulkar’s threat England will want pace in the pitch so their short balls or length deliveries are zipping through to the keeper. It is just a case of whether the administrators will let that happen. They will not want three day matches. Tendulkar is box office and that equals a lot of money for the Test match grounds. They will want four or five day cricket to maximise their takings.

Lord’s will be packed with fans hoping to see history made. There is an air of goodwill from everyone towards Tendulkar that other great players have not enjoyed.

I have never heard anyone say anything bad about him. Normally when you have a guy who is the greatest sportsman in his field, he is seen as selfish and makes enemies. Not Tendulkar. He is great around the team, young players and the opposition.

He was always generous with me, perhaps because of his time at Yorkshire. I was an academy player when he became Yorkshire’s first overseas cricketer in 1992. I was sat on the park benches under the old dressing rooms at Headingley when he made his debut. He was looked like a schoolkid aged about 12 when he walked out to bat. He did not play a huge amount for Yorkshire but he was very popular. The Yorkshire dressing room introduced him to Tetley Bitter and he loved it, which is why we call him “Yorkie” even now.
He remembered those times ten years later when we played against each other in Test cricket. I was playing well in 2002 and had a good chat with him during that series. I asked him about playing in Australia later that winter. He said the only way to be successful it to attack. He said you have to be positive against Warne and McGrath otherwise they will get on top of you. It was good advice and set me on my way.

But England have to remember Tendulkar is only human. He makes mistakes. They must also forget the verbals. Let the ball do the talking instead. It is what he has done with his bat for 20 years.

Sachin can Lord it with ton of tons

SACHIN TENDULKAR stands on the brink of one of the most extraordinary feats in sport.

The magical, masterful little batsman from India has hit 99 international centuries and can reach his ton of tons next week in the First Test at Lord's.

One hundred hundreds for your country is a bit like scoring 200 international goals, 150 tries or amassing 20 majors in golf or tennis.

When Tendulkar passes the astonishing milestone, it will be a tribute to his talent, hunger, longevity and desire. He has been playing for India for 22 years, untainted by scandal.

England Test captain Andrew Strauss will be trying to prevent him scoring his historic hundred but is gushing in his praise.

Strauss said: "It goes without saying that scoring 99 hundreds is a phenomenal achievement.

"He seems to be playing as well as ever. It's an example to us all. If you're hungry, there's no reason your powers should decline when you get older.

"It's the overall package with Sachin. Technically, he is fantastic and so is his mental strength because he is under so much pressure. He's also a very dignified and humble man."

Tendulkar made his India debut at 16 in 1989 and at 38 he is stronger than ever. In his last Test series against England, he scored a match-winning century in Chennai in December 2008.

Then he thanked each England player for returning to India despite the Mumbai terrorist attack a few weeks earlier.

Kevin Pietersen was England's captain that day. He said: "I watch him bat and wonder how he makes it look so easy. To cap it all, he is a true gentleman."

England's best chance might be to unleash 6ft 8in fast bowler Chris Tremlett against the 5ft 5in little master. Former England skipper Michael Vaughan insisted: "Tremlett bowled well against Sachin in 2007 and he is a much better bowler now.

"England might go aggressive and test him with a few short balls though even that tactic doesn't normally affect him."

Tendulkar has never scored a Test century at Lord's and says he is not anxious about his imminent landmark.
He said: "I'm not thinking of records. If I enhance my enjoyment then, naturally, the standard of play becomes higher. If I play well, things can happen. I don't need to go chasing them."

What a pair - SRT & RF @ Wimbeldon 2011

Sachin Tendulkar takes it easy ahead of England series in search for 100 centuries

Sachin Tendulkar would not mind marking the occasion by becoming the first cricketer to reach 100 international centuries. The 1,000th Test match, between Pakistan and New Zealand in November 1984, saw a century in each innings by Javed Miandad.
But while India are currently touring the West Indies, playing against disorganised opponents on pretty deserted grounds, Tendulkar has been staying in London, at a property he owns near Lord’s.

Preparation has been the fundament of his success — his genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains over his batting — so this time he is spending in reconnaissance for the England series can be considered part of his master plan to make an immortal mark on the 2,000th Test.
‘‘He has been a regular visitor to Lord’s in recent weeks,’’ says an MCC spokesman. Tendulkar, however, has not had a single net-session himself.
What he has been doing, as an honorary life member of the club, has been going to the MCC cricket academy to coach his 11-year-old son, Arjun — and passing on tips to other people using the indoor nets. Thus must the children of Israel have felt when Moses was given the tablets
Tendulkar’s practising will start in earnest this week, ahead of the Indians’ only warm-up fixture in this country, against Somerset (including Andrew Strauss) on Friday week. But, for someone who has learnt by the age of 38 exactly how and when to peak, relaxation has to come first.

As the captain of Mumbai Indians — on well over a million dollars for the six-week tournament — he was playing in India until May 27, and needed a rest after his long season, which had climaxed in the fulfilment of his ambition to win the World Cup, at his sixth attempt.

By coming to England early with his family, Tendulkar has escaped the humidity of the build-up to the monsoon in his native Mumbai.

He has also escaped the equally intense and suffocating scrutiny of the masses, who force him to use disguises to get out of his apartment block, where he lives with his wife Anjali, the daughter of an Indian businessman and an English social worker.

In London he has been able to relax, with far fewer bodyguards than normal. At Wimbledon last week he had a long conversation with Roger Federer — and perhaps commiserated with him on what a pitifully small fan-base the tennis champion has by comparison.

(When Tendulkar attended Wimbledon in 2006 and sat next to Mervyn King, he could have commiserated with him on the comparatively small financial resources that the Governor of the Bank of England has at his disposal.)

Early in his career Tendulkar became the first cricketer to earn a million dollars a year — by legitimate means, that is — and he still amasses endorsements almost as if they were runs.

Last week he visited Winchester as part of another business venture he has signed up to: in cricket-themed entertainment centres you will be able to bat against an image of Tendulkar (or other, better, international bowlers) that runs in and delivers a semi-hard ball at you; or bowl against an image of him that deals with your delivery after calculating the trajectory and rotations of the ball.

He has taken his two children with him to Winchester — Arjun and his 13 year-old daughter Sara.
The son is said to bat studiously and without conspicuous natural talent — yet his father was famously turned away by a coach at an early age for not being sufficiently talented (this was before Tendulkar put his mind to work to make the utmost of what he has). His daughter, on the other hand, bats freely, unburdened by expectation.

Another business venture is the Tendulkar Opus, about his life. The initial publicity said that 10 copies of the full edition would be sold at £49,000 each with a sample of his blood included.

The more prosaic reality is that an interim edition is due to be published at the end of this summer, at £200 a copy, and a larger edition costing four figures when he retires.

Not that there is any sign of that, because in the last couple of years — free of the tennis elbow injury that had dogged him and had stopped him driving to the offside — he has married the aggression of his youth to the defence of his mid-career.

To become the first to score 100 international centuries — he has 51 in Tests and 48 in one-day internationals, without a rival in sight – would set the seal on his career.

It is the statistics which have turned Tendulkar from famous to immortal: his Indian team-mates Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman have played more match-winning Test innings, but Tendulkar has assembled the numbers after his name, like an academician his letters.

The effect of Tendulkar’s preparation in London will be that he is in a happy frame of mind when the rest of the Indian party arrives from the West Indies, and if Tendulkar is happy, then so is the whole Indian dressing-room.

This was not grasped by Greg Chappell when he was India’s coach, publicly criticised Tendulkar and dropped him down the one-day batting order.

His successor, Gary Kirsten, did realise, and almost made giving Tendulkar all the throw-downs that he wanted in practice the central part of his job.
India’s new coach, Duncan Fletcher, is sure to be Kirsten-style rather than Chappell when he meets up with the ‘Little Master’ — a title that will be inadequate if the Indian makes an immortal mark on the landmark occasion at Lord’s.
Tendulkar has...
51: the most Test centuries
48: the most one-day international centuries
14,692: the most runs scored in Tests
18,111: the most runs scored in one-day internationals
6: the most centuries in World Cups
1,894: the record number of runs in ODIs in a calendar year (1998)

Tendulkar still inspires me: Dravid

Kingston: He has spent 15 years in International cricket but senior India batsman Rahul Dravid says he continues to be inspired by Sachin Tendulkar, with whom he has starred in 19 Test century stands.

"He's been phenomenal, has had terrific last 2-3 years and possibly done the best batting of his life," said Dravid in his ever-earnest manner after his first practice session in the Caribbean on Friday.

"When I came he had already been around for seven years; he was my captain in West Indies (in 1997) and was a source of great motivation. That motivation has not changed," he added.

India will play three tests against West Indies starting Monday and four against England spread across next two months this summer.

Dravid is the third highest run-scorer of all time, scoring 12,063 Test runs in 150 matches at an average of 52.44. He is also the only batsman to have hit at least one century in all 10 Test playing nations. That's not all, he is also a world-beater with 200 catches.

Yet all this greatness sits lightly on a modest man who still is anxious to compete well for himself and his country.

"I had a seven month time off (from Tests). But I knew about these seven Tests in a row and was ready with my preparations," he said.

"You know you have done enough but there is still a certain pressure; you still feel nervous and there are butterflies (in your stomach). These things never change. It would be nice to get runs early on and keep the form going."

Dravid expects great things from this largely young side which is being led by an extremely capable captain in Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

"He (Dhoni) has led very well and done a great job. He exudes calm and his records, be it in Tests, in IPL or in one-day cricket has been phenomenal. His ability to remain calm under pressure is a priceless ability. (The team is) lucky to have a guy who has this kind of quality," he said.

The 38-year-old cricketer is aware that the transitional phase of Indian cricket is at hands and is hopeful that a few of the younger guys would carry the torch forward.

"Over the next year or two, young batsmen should be coming through—like Ganguly, Laxman and I did. Sooner than later, similar young boys would come through and two or three would have similar long careers for the next 15 years. Then the team is going to be in good health," he said.

Dravid hoped he would play a role in this learning curve, sharing his experiences with the younger kids.

"Young kids love to chat and you are always open. There would be opportunity to share this experience over the next seven Tests. It would be great to pass on this knowledge. "Unfortunately, today it's not the nature of cricket to have a lot of practice games ahead of a series. I remember I had six or seven practice games in England and there was so much to learn from the Tendulkars, Manjrekars and Azharuddins of the side.

"Tests are always so stressful but practice games allow you to relax and interact. I don’t know any solution; its tough on kids," he added.

Dravid was particularly keen to do well in Sabina Park, and generally in the Caribbean, for the great charm the region held in his mind while growing up.

"You remember as a kid listening to radio and hearing about Sabina Park; Gavaskar hitting centuries; those fearsome fast bowlers and you dreamt of playing here," he said. "I have now been involved in four Test matches at this venue and I know when I sit back I will be happy about it."

It was at the Sabina Park where he last came as a captain in 2006 and his two half centuries were instrumental in India winning their first series in Caribbean after 35 years.

Dravid rated those two innings of 81 and 68 in a low-scoring game as one of the better knocks of his entire distinguished career.

"It was a very difficult pitch. In the context of the series, it was one of the better Test match innings I have played. In a low-scoring game, anything could have happened. It was most satisfying and in terms of quality, I rate it one of my better innings," he said.

Dravid believed the pitch here for the first Test is going to be extremely testing too.

"This generally has good bounce. Looking at this wicket, it would be a good challenge. They have a good pace attack. We have the bowling and hopefully the guys will make a difference."

Dravid claimed he didn't feel bad he wasn't part of the team which won the World Cup earlier this year and indeed took delight in the achievement of his mates.

"I knew I wasn't playing, I haven't been playing one-day cricket for the last two and a half years. So I didn't feel bad in that sense. I was happy for the team, for Indian cricket as it took 28 long years," he said.

"You feel good for the guys, that you have played with some of these guys and that men like me, Ganguly, Kumble were involved in the system in the past, have had some role to play in this onward journey," he added.

Dravid was evasive in his views on the controversial Umpires Decision Review System (UDRS) which is not being supported by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

"My views really don't matter. In the past I have said that UDRS is going to be used at some stage. Obviously Indian board wants it be consistent, really this is between the ICC and BCCI to sort it out."
Story first published on: Saturday, 18 June 2011 13:11

Tendulkar finds a way to challenge himself || Respect

The newly-appointed West Indies team pyschologist Rudi Webster is now on the long list of Sachin Tendulkar admirers. The pyschologist appreciates Sachin for the way he imposes himself on opponents, situations & various conditions.

Webster said, "Sachin, like any great sportsman or businessman, finds a way to challenge himself. He finds a way to get on top of tricky situations and conditions. But only the very best can manage so.Others must know to spot the situation which needs different responses. They should have that intense concentration to know when they must play against their natural instincts. They must challenge themselves to be flexible."

"Australians, for example, never needled Lara. Lara was an extremely dangerous opponent. As for others, like Sir Garfield Sobers once said, mind more than skills make a difference in their careers.
"There has to be a reason why incredibly talented cricketers don't make it to the top while lesser cricketers achieve more than their skills deserve," he added.

Webster mentions two Indian cricketers -- Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh -- in the same breath as he finds the duo incredibly talented.

"Virender Sehwag is one another incredible talent. I haven't seen many who can time a cricket ball better than him. He too is a cricketer who loves to impose himself on a cricket field. But he would be still a better batsman if he respected conditions and opponents once in a while," he said.

"Yuvraj Singh is another. Not just as a one-day batsman but I feel he should have really made it big in Test cricket. It's just not his timing, his entire talent as a cricketer is striking," feels the Englishman, who played first class cricket for Warwickshire.

The Englishman has been hired by the West Indies Cricket Board to boost the team's morale ahead of the second test against India starting today. India lead the test series 1-0 and are looking to create history by winning the second test at Bridgetown where no Indian team has previously won.

How Sachin tamed temptations to become a legend || Respect

Pune: The thought of bunking practice session and having a go at the spicy, mouth-watering "Vadapav" did cross the mind of the school going Sachin Tendulkar, who had started emerging on the cricketing firmament as an exceptional cricketer.

But it was his extraordinary determination that stood young Tendulkar in good stead to overcome all natural detractions that could have diverted his focus from the game which he later took to sublime heights.

"I too felt like bunking the practice session while in school and go out to eat 'Vadapav' and have fun as most children do. But I never wanted to misuse the freedom given by my father who wanted me to pursue my interest in cricket with full focus and had never bothered me by putting pressure on me to achieve academic success.

"My coach and my brother too ensured that I did not lose my focus from the game which I loved passionately," said the batting legend in an interview telecast by a Marathi television channel.

Offering a glimpse into his making as a cricketer, the 38-year-old cricketer said, "As a professional sportsman it is necessary to imbibe a kind of self-discipline and you cannot eat and drink at will. Who does not want to enjoy life? But one has to know one's limitations and ensure that it (lifestyle) does not affect your performance."

And Tendulkar went on to elaborate his point giving some unbelievable instances that would be regarded as benchmarks in assessing commitment to the game of which became god for his fans.

"The temperature in Ahmedabad where we were to play our World Cup match (quarter-finals against Australia) was going to be very hot. Knowing that I put myself on a bland diet three to four days before the fixture keeping away from all spicy food and non-vegetarian stuff. The purpose was to ensure that the body heat did not increase as it would have been detrimental to performance, coupled with the hot conditions in the field."

Throwing more light on his astonishing fitness regimen and almost clinical measures, Tendulkar narrated how he played his matches in Chennai, another hot and humid cricket venue.

"Keeping one hydrated during the match is important in Chennai because of the hot climate. I used to set an alarm to get up in the middle of night and drink a lot of water to keep myself hydrated with sufficient body fluids before the start of the match."

To a query, he said laughingly, "When in school I found that scoring runs was easier for me than scoring marks. My father recognised my passion for cricket and fully supported me insisting that whatever I do, I should not lose my focus.

"It was something unusual those days in a family like ours to see photographs and news published about a young boy like me. Whenever I did well in tournaments, the only celebration at home was placing some sweets in front of god in the poojaghar. I used to be told to think of the next century."

What was it that he could not accomplish in sporting activities at a young age because of his obsession with cricket?

"I cannot swim. Later whenever coaches tried to teach me swimming I felt panicky whenever water came around my head. I can float and do pool-side exercises," said Tendulkar, betraying human frailties that are not associated with his superhuman image in the game which he has played for over two decades, keeping cricket historians busy without a break.

Story first published on: Sunday, 19 June 2011 11:02

A man of his words || Respect

Sachin keeps word, visits paraplegic centre

Tue Jun 07 2011

Standing true on a promise made to disabled soldiers at the Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre (PRC) in Khadki, on April 21, Sachin Tendulkar visited the centre on Monday. The cricketer interacted with some of the basketball players, discus throwers and archer Amol Boriwale whom Sachin will sponsor for the Paralympic trials in Italy in 2011. 

Office Superintendent of the PRC RJ Manickam said, “At the video conference with Sachin on his birthday, he had promised that he would visit the centre. It was a nice gesture on his part that he visited us within a couple of months of the conversation.” 

Tendulkar met basketball players C Y Reddy, A D Pereira and Walsalan Nada and discus player Shymal Raju. Addressing the soldiers, he said, “I am happy that I could come to the city and meet everyone here. A lot of people think that as a sportsperson I am a hero but in reality sportsmen are just entertainers. It is you people who guard the national borders and are the real heroes.”  

Tendulkar also witnessed a basketball match played by the soldiers and planted a sapling at the PRC. As a memorabilia, he autographed a pair of his hand gloves for the soldiers. Speaking about the interaction with Sachin, Raju, who participated in 2004 Paralympics, said, “He is a nice sportsman. He told me to keep trying harder and participate in more competitions irrespective of the results.” 

Tendulkar, who also brought two boxes of mangoes for the soldiers, made it a point to sign autographs for everyone. “I am really proud of the spirit of the people present here. I have come here as part of my promise but I would love to come back again. In fact, next time I will bring my children. I remember being told that you all had prayed for the team to win the World Cup in April and it was due to your good wishes that we managed to do so.”  

Tendulkar also mentioned that he will sponsor Boriwale’s trials for the Paralympics. Boriwale said he was happy meeting Sachin and getting his support. Earlier in the day, Tendulkar visited Amit Enterprises housing project, Amit Colori, where he planted 99 saplings to commemorate the 99 centuries that he had scored.

Husain's gift to SRT

Friday, June 3, 2011

Of all the batsmen I've seen, Tendulkar is greatest: Sir Viv Richards

PORT OF SPAIN: Batting legend Viv Richards has not seen Sir Donald Bradman but of all those he has seen, including compatriot Brian Lara, none has been better than iconic Indian Sachin Tendulkar.

"I didn't see Don but to me, in all my years associated with the game, I haven't seen a better batsman than Sachin Tendulkar," said Richards in a eulogy to the "little man", who openly professes to have idolised him while growing up.

"If there is a better batsman than Sachin then he hasn't arrived yet."

 Them Clones?

In one stroke, Richards put Tendulkar in a pedestal above his contemporaries such as Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis and even to the legends such as Sunil Gavaskar and Javed Miandad of his era.

As for Bradman, his career lasted 20 years including a few years disrupted by Second World War. Tendulkar is already in his 22nd year of international cricket. Bradman scored 29 centuries in 52 Tests.

In all formats of the game, Tendulkar has 99 international centuries so far.

"To me the most remarkable thing about Tendulkar is how he has completed the full cycle of his cricketing career, overcoming, pain, agony, failures, fatigue, injuries yet continuing relentlessly till the point the circle was complete.

"He is the most complete package, the cricketer I respect more than anyone else."

Richards defended Tendulkar's decision to skip the complete West Indies tour.

"He is 37 and not getting any younger. You have got to respect him for his decision," said Richards as he turned up for a Johnny Walker promotional event at Queen's Park Oval on yesterday afternoon.

"He has done enough to decide what is best for him. He knows his commitments and the approach he must take for the rest of his career."

It doesn't though stop Richards from lamenting how much Tendulkar's presence could have done to inspire the young cricketers of the Caribbean.

"It would have been fantastic for the young boys to just watch him in action; how he prepares his innings; the way he goes about building his knock, overcoming conditions and opponents.

"It could have been an invaluable experience for our young batsmen."

Richards said he feels humbled by the respect and love he still generates within the cricket community of India.

"The other day, I was on a flight to London and Gambhir was with me. I was really touched by his curiosity and the keenness he had to know about batting. It's passion such as this which sets men like him apart. I was really impressed," he said.

It is ironical though that West Indies Cricket Board isn't quite inclined to take advantage of their own legend to improve the standard of cricket in the Caribbean.

"It's a fragile environment. Only strong leaders can accept independent men," said Richards.

Tendulkar exclusive! || Sam Pilger (Sky Sports)

'When I score a century I am happy, but not satisfied'

He might be the greatest batsman of modern times, feted as a 'god' who carries the hopes of over a billion people in India on his shoulders every time he plays, but when you meet him in person, Sachin Tendulkar is strangely bereft of any ego or even the smallest hint of arrogance. Unerringly polite and humble, he speaks quietly and thoughtfully. 

Tendulkar is looking forward to touring England, not only because he has always loved playing here, or the fact that he owns property close to Lord's, but also because it allows him the chance to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. "I do wish I could escape the attention," he says. "It is important to have private time."
He might get the occasional glance on the streets of England, but he is never mobbed or in need of the same team of bodyguards that accompany him at home. In India, he admits to having to wear disguises of hats, wigs and comedy beards on the rare occasions he ventures out of the house. He even drives his car in the middle of the night to gain a rare feeling of solitude.

Even when he retires there will be no respite, but there is no suggestion he'll be retiring just yet. "Life without cricket is unthinkable," he says. Since making his Test debut at 16, cricket is all he has known. For now, he won't consider bowing out, especially when he has never played better and there are more runs to be scored this summer.

National Focus

When the defining moment of his career finally arrived, Tendulkar wasn't in the middle of the field wielding his bat, nor was he even on the balcony watching his teammates. Instead, he was on his own in the dressing room, his hands clasped together, his eyes closed as he prayed in silence. He only knew India had won the World Cup when he heard that cathartic roar reverberate around the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai as his captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, hit the winning runs against Sri Lanka.

Tendulkar made his way to the balcony, where he was immediately lost in the embrace of his teammates. He was the focus of the national outpouring of joy. The players had won the tournament for him, and his face was wet with tears as each member of the side hugged him.
Tendulkar described the experience as "a different kind of feeling, a high, like living on a different planet. It felt as though I was flying."

He had waited 22 years for this moment. For all his personal records - and he boasts the most Test runs and Test centuries, and the most One-Day runs and One-Day centuries - he wanted something tangible, a trophy to lift, a medal to wear, and to win something as part of an Indian team.

Tendulkar had played in the previous five World Cups, but had fallen short each time. He had gotten close once, reaching the final in 2003, but four years later, India were humiliatingly bundled out of the tournament at the group stage. The experience left him feeling "shattered beyond words."
Eighteen months before India's World Cup triumph in April, Tendulkar told me he couldn't bear the thought of retiring from international cricket without having finally won the tournament.
But though he has now done it, he isn't interested in finishing his career with that fairytale ending, and so this summer he will return to England once again for what promises to be a fascinating series against Andrew Strauss' side.

"When you win something or score a century you say you are happy, but not satisfied," he says. "Satisfaction is like engaging the handbrake and hoping a car moves forward. I am not satisfied yet with my career and what I have done, not at all. I feel the moment you start to feel... satisfied, then it is only natural that you begin to cool down and lose it."

The Comeback King

Just four years ago, it appeared as though Tendulkar was beginning to lose it. He was struggling for runs, battling a nagging elbow injury, and even admitted to suffering sleepless nights consumed with self-doubt.
Tendulkar knew he was becoming increasingly peripheral to India. After being demoted from opening batsman to number four in the One-Day side, he would go a total of 36 games without scoring a century as India began to instead depend on their new posters boys, MS Dhoni and Virender Sehwag. In 2007, India also won the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup without him.

Tendulkar didn't score a Test century for 18 months, including the whole of 2006, prompting an Indian newspaper to publish an article entitled 'ENDULKAR?'. He also suffered the ignominy of being booed on his way to the wicket in a Test at home in Mumbai.

At this time, Tendulkar simply wasn't playing his natural game and wasn't seeking to dominate bowlers. He was thinking too much about his batting and was seemingly happy to just get by. By the end of 2007, he had scored just one century in his last nine series against the leading Test nations.
At 34, his status as the greatest batsmen of modern times might have already been assured, but he wasn't ready to bow out just yet. He knew if he could regain his fitness, he could also rediscover his form. It would prove to be a wise decision.

Since 2008, Tendulkar has staged a remarkable and unprecedented comeback, scoring a flurry of runs and breaking more records. Today, he is as dominant and potent as ever.
In the Test arena during this period, Tendulkar has scored over 3,000 more runs to overtake and then accelerate far away from the likes of Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid and Brian Lara as the leading run scorer of all time.

He has scored 14 centuries at an average of 65.21, a significant improvement on his overall career average of 56.94, which has helped India become the number one Test side for the first time. Of course, he also became the first batsman to reach 50 Test centuries, though he shrugged it off as "just another number."

In One-Day cricket, he has been just as dominant, scoring over 2,000 runs, including seven centuries, as well as becoming the first batsman to score a One-Day double century with his unbeaten 200 against South Africa last year.

Once again his average of 52.41 over the last three years is better than his career average of 45.16.
Just last year, Tendulkar outscored every other batsman in Test cricket, with a total of 1,562 runs, to be anointed as both the ICC Cricketer of the Year and Wisden's Leading Cricketer in the World.

"It has been fascinating watching the changes in his approach," says his great friend and teammate Rahul Dravid. "From being a master blaster, he is now a mistake-proof batsman."

Tendulkar attributes his longevity and recent success to a stricter fitness regime, not playing Twenty20 Internationals and bowling only sparingly.

But overall, it's his overwhelming love for cricket and his desire to keep on improving and fine-tuning his game that have been the key.

"I still love cricket as much as ever. It is my job, but it is also my passion. Cricket remains in my heart, I don't need anything else to motivate me. I dreamed of playing for my country when I was young, and it is still my dream, it is still fun for me.

"I am still learning about the game, I figure something out about my batting all the time, you have to keep your mind open. I learn all the time, those small adjustments, with your footwork or bat swing, can improve your game, I love doing that. You never know everything. Mentally that makes you feel so good. That is the best form of preparation."

The 'Impenetrable Mask'

While he can't control his body ageing, Tendulkar has increasingly sought to exert more control over his mind, believing this is where the game is played most. He trains his mind to stay clear and not wander. "You have to be still in your mind, and keep it blank. It is also important to avoid any needless anger," he says. "Growing up, I picked up a lot from my father, who never lost his temper, and I tried to follow that, so I don't lose my cool."
This impenetrable mask doesn't slip away from the cameras. "I have never seen him lose his temper in the dressing room, he has never thrown his bat around even when given out wrongly," says the Indian bowler Zaheer Khan. "Maybe he will have an extra bowl of ice cream, and that is when you realise he is pretty upset."

Tendulkar remains astonishingly self-sufficient, everything he needs is already there in his mind. "He needs no outsider to motivate him, he finds inspiration, critical assessment, challenge, goal-setting, coaching and psychological boosts in himself," says Dravid. "Most of it comes naturally, and I know no player who has Sachin's ability to analyse his game, he is a skilled analyst."
"Sachin's talent is so ingrained he doesn't need much feedback [from others], he always seemed to have this idea in his head of what a perfect shot should be," says the former Indian bowler Venkatesh Prasad. "He is all about preparing himself through practice, visualisation, drills and rehearsals, mental and physical, and then executing it out in the middle."

As he has got older Tendulkar has increasingly shown an incredible ability, you could even call it a Jedi-like talent, to get inside a bowler's mind and get them to put the ball exactly where he wants it.
"He is an arch-manipulator, he really gets you to do what he wants," says the former Australian bowler Jason Gillespie. "I can recall one Test in which he would not touch the ball outside his off-stump, he didn't even play a cover drive, so we had to bowl a bit straighter, and that played exactly into his hands. He went on to make over 300 runs over two innings without getting out. It was amazing."

Better than Bradman?

Ever since the late '90s, Tendulkar has been almost universally accepted as the second greatest batsman of all time behind Sir Donald Bradman.
But these last three years, something strange has happened, and it is increasingly being argued that Tendulkar has clambered onto Bradman's plinth, and is as good as, if not better, than him.

Of course, Tendulkar is nowhere near Bradman's iconic Test average of 99.94, and comparing batsmen from two different eras is fraught with difficulties, but Tendulkar has managed to excel in Test cricket while also playing over 450 One-Day games, and he is set to create his own iconic figure by becoming the first batsman to reach 100 Test and One-Day centuries. He is currently on 99, with Ricky Ponting in second place with 69. His great rival Muttiah Muralitharan says Tendulkar's haul might not be surpassed for 100 years.

In the aftermath of his One-Day double century last year, the former England captain and Sky Sports analyst Nasser Hussain became one of the figures in the game to utter the once unthinkable: Sachin Tendulkar is better than The Don and the greatest batsman of all time.

"Sachin was the most complete batsman I played against," says Hussain. "As captain, I could make plans for any of the opposition batsmen. Even Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Brian Lara had their weaknesses. But Sachin gave you virtually nothing. Barely a sniff."

Sam Pilger is Executive Editor of The Official Sachin Tendulkar Opus.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Legend of Sachin by Boria Majumdar

A resurgent Sachin Tendulkar continues to give India moments to rejoice. After all, he is the engine on which Team India runs.

He missed out at the world cup final. That faint edge of Lasith Malinga and the dream of a 100 hundreds at cricket’s biggest stage had turned into a non-starter. But with India victorious, Sachin Tendulkar did not even spare a thought for what could have been. He was candid and categoric in declaring it was the best moment of his life.

Immersed in the moment and knowing full well that the 100 centuries is just a statistic that will soon be ticked off, he moved on to captaining the Mumbai Indians in trying to achieve yet another unfulfilled dream, winning the IPL. And from what we have seen so far, the man looks to be on a mission.

Two out of three wins so far in the IPL, incredible personal form and a tremendous batting line-up to stand up for him, Mumbai definitely looks the favorite at the end of the first week of the IPL.

For Sachin personally, a 100 at IPL stage is yet another reminder how fit the man is. It was an important century given the context and the near full crowd at the Wankhede. Some of the shots he played en-route can make their way to any cricket-coaching video. For example, he played the helicopter shot better than MS Dhoni, the upar cut better than Virender Sehwag and the straight drive in a way only he can play.

Leading the race for the Orange Cap for the second consecutive year, Sachin Tendulkar continues to make a statement to every cricketer of this generation - to achieve your dream be prepared to go that extra yard and make the extra effort.

When I asked him this very question, i.e., how does one chase ones dream, he did not spare a second in giving me the answer: “Every human being has a dream. It all depends who is prepared to go that extra yard and how badly you want to chase your dream. Take that extra step whatever it takes and you will be nearer to your dream.”

While it is easier said than done, you can’t not feel inspired seeing the man in action day in and out, a routine we have loved to enjoy and savor for well over 21-plus years.

Once we take stock of the staggering nature of the man’s achievement, we can then put the sacrifices he has made in context. In a recent conversation he said to me, “At the start of the World Cup, Arjun was an inch shorter. He is now an inch taller. That’s what we are missing out on.” The statement, simple and straight, gives an insight into a side of Tendulkar we have hardly known.

In thanking Anjali and his family, he wasn’t doing his duty. Rather, he was lamenting what he, the family person, has missed out on in serving the nation. While we celebrate the legend of Sachin, it is important to remember the pain and the suffering the man has gone through and continues to go through in giving millions of Indians pride and joy.

I shudder to think of the day Sachin Tendulkar will call it quits. For him personally, it will be the most difficult decision he has ever taken for he knows nothing else in life but playing cricket. All he has done in life is served India by wielding the willow to the best of his ability.

And for the Indian cricket fans, it will be a day of mourning - a void that will, perhaps, never be fulfilled given the overwhelming nature of the man’s achievement.

Sachin Tendulkar not stepping out to bat in India colours will be a moment that we will all find extremely difficult to digest. More than anything else, our cricketing sensibilities for well over two decades have seen one constant - Sachin shouldering the burden of a billion.

It is for this reason alone that we need to celebrate the resurgence of Sachin even more. Given his current form, he can easily continue to entertain and enthrall for another couple of years. Then we can push him for a year or so more. The legend of Sachin is growing. Let’s just say long live the legend.

Among India’s Greatest? by Rohit Mahajan

Bharat Ratna for Sachin Tendulkar: arguments for and against 

In Nagpur last week, in the last over during the desperate defeat to South Africa, Sachin Tendulkar ran in from the third man, swooped on the ball and hit the wicket with a direct throw. His fielding bared the spirit of Tendulkar. It’s made of iron and passion, forged by qualities increasingly  old-fashioned—discipline and respect for the game. A month before his 38th birthday, Tendulkar was quicker on the field than most teammates, diving around and throwing with a strong, unerring arm. He’d also made a dazzling century earlier in the day, taking the number of centuries he has hit in international cricket to 99—48 in One-day Internationals and 51 in Tests.

As he nears the astounding mark of 100, it’s an irony that the man who stands for every desirable value—perseverance, commitment to one’s job, grace under pressure, humility despite being lionised—isn’t eligible for the highest civilian award of the land, the Bharat Ratna. “He’s not taken one step wrong,” film-maker Shyam Benegal told Outlook. “He is disciplined, clean and embodies all the values that we tell youngsters they should inculcate.”

You are likely to wonder why Outlook has decided to spark off the ‘Bharat Ratna for Tendulkar’ campaign months before such awards are announced. Well, the reason is that the Indian state needs time to change the guidelines which state that the Bharat Ratna can be given only “for exceptional service towards advancement of Art, Literature and Science, and in recognition of Public Service of the highest order”. Sport is excluded. And therefore, Tendulkar too. Athletics legend Milkha Singh told Outlook, “Sportspersons should get the Bharat Ratna before politicians, for the former unite people and make them proud.”

Politicians have had a strong grip on the Bharat Ratna—they constitute 24 of the 41 winners, six of them prime ministers. Perhaps it’s time to bring sports into the ambit of the Bharat Ratna. And though it can be argued that hitting a cricket ball has no intrinsic value, Tendulkar, in a way, has done great service to India, giving the greatest joy to the greatest number. “The divide between what’s high and popular in art or culture isn’t valid anymore,” says social commentator Santosh Desai. “Why is sport acceptable for Padma Vibhushan but not for Bharat Ratna? This is the kind of thinking you had in the 1950s, when the Keskar regime (B.V. Keskar, minister for information and broadcasting) didn’t allow Hindi films songs on All India Radio.”
But change has been afoot. In 1992, 38 years after the first award, someone from the world of arts bagged it—Satyajit Ray. In 1988, actor-politician M.G. Ramachandran was awarded, but was cited for “public affairs”. In the 1990s, when 17 of the 41 awards were given away, the arts gained, with Bharat Ratnas announced for M.S. Subbulakshmi and Ravi Shankar. Curiously, in the 2000s, only arts have been rewarded, through Lata Mangeshkar, Ustad Bismillah Khan and Bhimsen Joshi.

Shashi Tharoor, politician and cricket-lover, says Tendulkar should be awarded the Bharat Ratna the moment he retires. “It’s India’s highest possible honour and is reserved for those who climb the pinnacle of achievement in their fields—whether politics (Jawaharlal Nehru) or economics (Amartya Sen),” Tharoor told Outlook. “Tendulkar’s accomplishments are of the very highest order and to quibble about whether cricket is an ‘art’ or a ‘science’ is as pointless as debating if Sen’s economics qualifies under the original terms of the award. Giving the Bharat Ratna is simply India’s way of saying, ‘We can’t imagine anyone better in your chosen field. Thank you for the joy and pride you have given us all’.”

Among the reasons cited to not give Tendulkar the award is his relative youth. Says former Indian captain M.A.K. Pataudi, “Most sportspersons retire in their youth. Their contribution to society subsequent to their sporting careers has to be evaluated. This applies to Tendulkar too.” His daughter, actress Soha Ali Khan, agrees, “They should wait until he retires and then evaluate. Only then he may be given it.”

It’s said the award is given late in people’s lives so that the character of recipients can be judged. Says historian Ramachandra Guha, “My wife, who is profoundly indifferent to cricket, thinks Sachin Tendulkar should get the Bharat Ratna because of the pure pleasure he has given millions of fans. Sportswriter Suresh Menon thinks that Vishy Anand deserves the Bharat Ratna as much as Sachin because chess, unlike cricket, is a properly world sport. I agree with both Menon and my wife, with this caveat—the award shouldn’t be given to either while they are active players, in fact it should be delayed till 10 or 15 years after their retirement, when we have a better chance to assess their careers, and equally importantly, their characters.”

It’s ridiculous to think Tendulkar’s 100 international centuries will diminish  in value in an assessment 15 years hence. And character, well, is a controversial area to stray into. With what certitude can we say that Indira Gandhi, a  recipient, possessed a strong moral character? Nor has the Bharat Ratna always been accorded to luminaries late in their lives. Take Amartya Sen, who obviously had a long career still ahead of him when he was decorated in 1999. Perhaps the state was spurred by a bigger award, the Nobel Prize, being given to him in 1998.

But there remains a question mark over whether service through sport is any service at all. Says Michael Ferreira, former world billiards champion, “I don’t think it should be given to sportspersons. Even Lata Mangeshkar and Bhimsen Joshi should not have been awarded. This award should be for a person who’s galvanised millions of people to do something.” Social theorist Ashis Nandy cites three reasons why the award should not be bestowed on Tendulkar or his ilk: “First, it will only endorse the capacity of the Indian state, the politicians and the bureaucrats, to judge sportspersons when they have already shown that they cannot judge even public service, arts, humanities and science. Second, it will further politicise Indian sports and turn the sportspersons towards greater sycophancy and kowtowing. And third, it will legitimise state awards in a society that has already used the awards to hierarchise scholars, writers, journalists, artists and performers.” Nandy feels all state honours should be abolished. “Neither the Indian state nor the Indian middle class—nor for that matter the Indian media—knows how to handle them.”

Yet, awards won’t go away, for they are grounded in populism. For Tendulkar to be the Bharat Ratna—which he already is, says Lata Mangeshkar—sport or cricket, part of the consciousness of a very large number of Indians, must enter the consciousness of the awards committee too. It’s happened with the arts over the last 20 years, perhaps it’ll happen with sport too.


Footnote: The calls for bestowing Sachin Tendulkar with the ''Bharat Ratna'' may have got louder after India''s World Cup triumph but giving the country''s highest civillian honour to the batting icon would require tweaking of the criteria that has been laid down for the coveted award. The ''Bharat Ratna'' was started in 1954 and has so far been given to 41 eminent personalities, none of whom are sports-persons, the reason being the criteria for the coveted honour.

Constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap says given the current rules "Tendulkar does not qualify for the honour and giving the award to him would require a change in the rules." According to the criteria at present, the award is given for exceptional contribution in the fields of art, literature, science and social service. The criteria does not have any mention of sports. Kashyap says the government has to decide whether it wants to include sports in the criteria for the award. The Sports Ministry will have to present such a proposal for cabinet approval.

"Once the cabinet gives its approval, the Home Ministry can bestow this honour on not just Sachin Tendulkar but any other athlete," he said. Indian cricket team''s prominent players such as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag have all asked for the honour to be bestowed on Tendulkar after the side''s World Cup win.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Letter from Sunil Gavaskar

In August 1987 Sunil Gavaskar was on the way to airport for international flight with his journalist friend. He happened to hear about a 14 year old budding talent who was playing very well in Bombay but had not the Best Junior Cricketer award from Bombay Cricket Association. Hearing that Gavaskar wrote a letter to that kid:

Gavaskar wrote

Dear Sachin,

I wanted to write earlier but something or the other came in the way. Then I thought it better to write at the beginning of the new season rather than at the end of the last season.

Congratulations on your performance last season. What was most impressive was the way you batted alone when the others around you were not contributing much. Keep it up.

Also please do not neglect your studies. My experience is that education helps you through bad patches in whichever career you choose.

So go ahead and God bless.


Sunil Gavaskar. 

PS: Don't be disappointed at not getting the Best Junior Cricketer award from BCA. If you look at the past award winners, you will find one name missing and that person has not done badly in Test cricket!!""

That kid was Sachin Tendulkar. It little over two years before Sachin made his international debut. This letter written by Sunil Gavaskar to a 14-year-old budding cricketer is one of SRT's prized souveniors. Tendulkar, who has completed two decades in international cricket, still can't thank his idol enough for personally writing in to him.

Remembering the letter, Sachin said: "I remember when I didn't get the best junior cricketer award, he sent me a hand-written letter," Tendulkar said during a function to felicitate Gavaskar and Gundappa Vishwanath on the completion of their 60 years. A hand-written letter by someone who I worshipped, that too at that age helped me get over the disappointment of not winning the award. It's important to get right advice at the proper age."

In the letter, Gavaskar cited his own example of missing out on the best junior cricketer award in the 1960s. Tendulkar was hugely inspired by the feats of his fellow Mumbaikar. And Gavaskar time and again has indicated that he is a huge Tendulkar admirer. Gavaskar says: "He is from another planet. I won’t go into the comparison business of who is greater or the greatest. He and Lata Mangeshkar are the only Indians who have never had bad patches. May that continue. Forever."

"When I scored the 34th Test ton, I think Sir (Gavaskar) was in Nepal. In the evening, he called to wish me. When someone who has been your hero, whom you've idolised, makes an effort to wish on your achievement, nothing else can be bigger and better. When I scored the 35th (ton) [Photo above], Sir told me: "Carry on from here on. Don't stop". I am trying to do just that."

Sachin Tendulkar has earlier said that he made a conscious effort to blend Sunil Gavaskar's defence with Viv Richards' ruthlessness to evolve a batting style of his own. Tendulkar revealed he modelled his batting style on Gavaskar and Richards, two players he idolised: "Sunil Gavaskar, needless to say, and Vivian Richards are the batsmen that really inspired me," said the champion batsman with more than 29,000 international runs under his belt. I wanted to be as solid as Sunil Gavaskar and as destructive as Vivian Richards, because that combination was always going to be lethal. I felt truly inspired by these two individuals on the field."

Sachin was also given a pair of pads by his cricket hero Sunil Gavaskar when he was a schoolboy - and he made his Test debut for India against Pakistan aged just 16-years old in 1989 wearing those very pads. But during a camp after that one fellow camp mate mistook those for his own and Sachin lost those pads. Recently after his 20 years in cricket Sachin in the media told this story of lost pads.

As for SMG, here's what he had to say on the eve of SRT's 21st season in International cricket: "I think, apart from Sir Garfield Sobers nobody else has played 20 years in international cricket and 20 years playing at the very highest level and to the very highest standard is an achievement beyond compare," Gavaskar said of the 36-year-old, who completed his two decades in international cricket today. No place can be too high for this young man and he is young because as far as his enthusiasm for the game is concerned, he is almost childlike. That is what is keeping him going on and on."

Gavaskar, himself a celebrated batsman of his era, said he started understanding cricket only post 1960 and is yet to see a batsman as complete as Tendulkar. "Since 1960, from when I started to understand a little bit of cricket, he has been the greatest batsman that the game has seen," he said.

Part of the select few to whom Tendulkar turns to advice for batting, Gavaskar said he likes to set challenges for the Little Master. "I prod him a little all the time. I ask him to get to that next double hundred, that next century or those next thousand runs. I always challenge him a little bit," he said. "The immediate target that I have set for him is the 2011 World Cup. I want him to win that for India," he added.

Looks like the bonhomie between the two Little Masters is pivotal to India's cricketing success - with 51 Test tons and an overall 99 international centuries, methinks SRT has SMG's words imprinted on his mind and heart forever. And he has achieved SMG's latest target - he just won the World Cup!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Purani World Cup Yaadien

World Cup Memories till 2011



I saw this one live at Eden Gardens - perhaps my saddest memory of a cricket match :(



20 years of Glory - The Interviews

Article on schoolboy Sachin Tendulkar aged 15, written 21 years ago by Harsha Bhogle

Author's note: This piece was written 21 years ago for Sportsworld magazine (and was only retrieved thanks to Mudar Patherya, who was a young cricket writer then). Sachin Tendulkar was 15, a year and a half away from playing Test cricket and four months short of his first-class debut. I was not yet 27, in an advertising job out of business school, with one Test match and a handful of one-dayers on Doordarshan behind me. We were both looking ahead in our own spheres. What a time it was, it was, a time of innocence...

"Once I get set, I don't think of anything" - Sachin Tendulkar circa 1988

All of Bombay's maidans are a stage. Where every cricketer has a role to play. And his seems to be the blockbuster. Ever since he unveiled Act One early last year, audiences have been waiting, a little too eagerly at times, to watch the next scene. Sachin Tendulkar is only, so far, acting in a high-school production. Yet critics have gone to town. And rave reviews have not stopped coming in.

I guess it can only happen in Bombay. That a schoolboy cricketer sometimes becomes the talk of the town. Why, at the end of every day's play in the final of Bombay's Harris Shield (for Under 17s) everybody wanted to know how many he had made. For he does bat three days sometimes! And for all the publicity he has received, Sachin Tendulkar is really still a kid. He only completed 15 on 24 April. And is very shy. Opening out only after you have coaxed him for some time. As his coach Mr Achrekar says, "Aata thoda bolaila laglai" [He's started talking a bit now]. And it's then that you realise that his voice has not yet cracked.

His record is awesome. He has scored far more runs than all of us scored looking dreamily out of the window in a boring Social Studies class when we were his age.

For a prodigy, he started late. When he was nine years old. And it was only in 1984-85 that he scored his first school-level fifty. But 1985-86 was a little better. He scored his first Harris Shield hundred and played for Bombay in the Vijay Merchant (Under-15) tournament. And 1986-87 was when he blossomed. Still only 13, he led his school, Shardashram Vidyamandir, to victory in the Giles Shield (for Under-15s). He scored three centuries - 158*, 156 and 197 - and then in the Harris Shield scored 276, 123 and 150. In all, he scored nine hundreds, including two double hundreds, a total of 2336 runs.

By now everyone had begun to sit up and take notice. The beginning of the 1987-88 season saw Sachin at the Ranji nets. Once again the top players were away playing Tests and perhaps the Bombay selectors felt it wouldn't be a bad idea to give Sachin first-hand experience of a higher category of cricket. He was named in the 14 for the first couple of games, and manager Sandeep Patil kept sending him out whenever possible - for a glass of water or a change of gloves. All along Sachin probably knew that he was still at best a curiosity, and that while Bombay was giving him every blooding opportunity, he had to prove himself on the maidans.

And that is exactly what he did. Season 1987-88 was a purple patch that never ended. Playing in the Vijay Merchant tournament he scored 130 and 107 and then at the Inter-Zonal stage he made 117 against the champions, East Zone. Then in the Vijay Hazare tournament (for Under-17s) he scored 175 for West Zone against champions East Zone.

Then came the avalanche. A 178* in the Giles Shield and a sequence in the Harris Shield of 21*, 125, 207*, 329* and 346*! A small matter of 1028 runs in five innings! And in the course of that innings of 329* he set the much talked-about record of 664 for the third wicket with Vinod Kambli, who, it is not always realised, scored 348*. Perhaps the most fascinating of them all was the innings of 346*. Coming immediately, as it did, in the shadow of the world record, a lot of people were curious to see him bat. Sachin ended the first day on 122, batted through the second to finish with 286, and when the innings closed around lunch on the third day, he was 346*. And then came back to bowl the first ball. In April's Bombay summer.

But when did this story begin? Like all children, Tendulkar took to playing "galli" cricket. His brother Ajit was a good player and persuaded Mr Achrekar, probably Bombay's most famous coach, to look at him. Achrekar recalls, "When he first came to my net four-five years ago, he looked just like any other boy and I didn't take him seriously. Then one day I saw him bat in an adjacent net. He was trying to hit every ball but I noted that he was middling all of them. Some time later he got a fifty and a friend of mine, who was umpiring that game, came and told me that this boy would play for India. I laughed at him and said that there were so many boys like him in my net. But he insisted. 'Mark my words, he will play for India.' My friend is dead now but I'm waiting to see if his prophecy comes true.'

Tendulkar is taking first steps towards getting there. He discovered that his house, being in Bandra, would not allow him to be at Shivaji Park whenever he wanted. He now spends most of his time at his uncle's house, just off this nursery of Bombay cricket. When he is not actually playing, that is.

Quite often, he is playing all day; important because it has helped him build the stamina to play long innings. "I don't get tired," he says, referring to them. "If you practise every day, you get used to it."

And what about that world-record innings? "I could bat very freely then because my partner Vinod Kambli was batting so well that I knew that even if I failed, he would get enough runs for the side."

Isn't there a lot of pressure on him now? Everyone assumes he will get a big score? "Only in the beginning. Till I get set. Once I get set, I don't think of anything."

Wasn't he thrilled at being invited to the Ranji nets? "Definitely. After playing there I got a lot of confidence."

Everything in Tendulkar's life has so far revolved around cricket. Including his choice of school. A few years back he shifted to Shardashram Vidyamandir, only so that he could come under the eye of Achrekar. "It helped me tremendously because 'sir's' guidance is so good," he says.

Strangely his parents were never very keen about cricket. His brother Ajit says, "They were not very interested in the game, though they gave him all the encouragement. You see, in our colony all parents were training their children to be engineers and doctors. And they would say, "Gallit khelun cricketer hoto kai?" [You don't become a cricketer by playing in the alleys]. I am so happy he is doing well because now people think he is doing something."

The question that arises then, given all the publicity is: Just how good is Sachin Tendulkar?

"For his age, unbelievable," says Sharad Kotnis, Bombay's veteran cricket watcher. "He is definitely comparable to Ashok Mankad, who had a similar run many years ago. But remember Ashok had cricket running in his family and his father often came to see him play. I think Tendulkar's strongest point is that he is willing to work very hard."

Luckily for Sachin, there is a calming influence over him, just so he doesn't get carried away by this acclaim. His coach Achrekar knows exactly what he is talking about. "He is not perfect yet. Far from it. In fact, I would say he is not even halfway there. He still has a lot of faults, particularly while driving through the on, which is an indicator of a class batsman. He still has a long way to go, but what I like about him is his ability to work hard. I don't think we should get carried away by his scores. After all, one has to take into account the nature of the wicket and the quality of the bowlers. By his standards the quality of the bowling he faced was not good enough.

"His real test will come this year when he plays in the 'A' Division of the Kanga League. [Sachin will play for the Cricket Club of India, which for him has waived the stipulation that children under 18 are not allowed inside the Club House!] He should get 70s and 80s there and not just 20s and 30s; particularly towards the end of the season, when the wickets get better."

Achrekar, in fact, is quite upset about the publicity Sachin is getting. "People don't realise that he is just 15. They keep calling him for some felicitation or the other. The other day he was asked to inaugurate a children's library. This is ridiculous. These things are bound to go to his head. He will start thinking he has achieved everything. I hope all this stops so he can concentrate and work hard."

Yet both Achrekar and Kotnis agree on when they think Sachin will become a Ranji regular. "I think he should be playing the Ranji Trophy next year. I think it is unfair to compare him to the [Lalchand] Rajputs and [Alan] Sippys yet, but I think he should play next year," feels Kotnis. And Achrekar adds, "Inspite of what I said about him, if he maintains this kind of progress, he should play the Ranji next year."

Clearly the curtain call is still a long way off for Sachin Tendulkar. He has a lot of things going for him. Most importantly he is in Bombay, where the sheer atmosphere can propel him ahead. In how many cities would a 15-year-old be presented a Gunn and Moore by the Indian captain? And in which other city would the world's highest run-getter write to a 15-year-old asking him not to get disheartened at not getting the Best Junior Cricketer award?

Sunil Gavaskar wrote to Tendulkar to tell him that several years earlier another youngster too had not got the award and that he didn't do too badly in Test cricket. For him the letter from his hero is a prized possession. Another great moment was a meeting with him where "… he told me that I should forget the past every time I go to bat. I should always remember that I have to score runs each time."

He is in the right company. And the right environment. The next few years will show whether he has it in him the mental toughness to overcome the over-exposure. If it does not go to his head, surely there is a great future beckoning. This is really just the beginning and I will be watching this little star with avid interest for the next three years.

If he is still charting blockbusters, I'd love to do another review then.