Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cricket World Cup: The Sachin & Sourav show | By Tim Peach (BBC Radio Producer)

There was a banner at the VCA Stadium in Nagpur on Saturday night saying 'countdown to God's 100 hundreds'.

The 'God' in question is India's Sachin Tendulkar, a man whose cricket genius has elevated him to a stratospheric level of fame on home soil.

India may have lost a fantastic match to South Africa by three wickets , but with the home side as good as qualified for the quarter-finals, it was the moment that Tendulkar got his 99th century for India that will stay with the 40,000 people present.

As Tendulkar made his way through the nineties, anticipation grew each time he was on strike, dropping to a virtual silence when he only took a single.

Finally, as the Little Master took strike on 99, an expectant roar grew round the stadium. Everyone rose to their feet; Simon Mann, commentating on Test Match Special at the time, had to stand on tip-toes to see.

Sachin does it for the people and for himself. It's his hunger for the game and his love of batting - Ganguly on Tendulkar

The adulation that Tendulkar and co receive around the clock is simply astonishing. Former India captain Sourav Ganguly has been part of our commentary team for TMS during this tournament, as well as commentating for television.

As producer, I was responsible for getting him from the TV commentary box to ours. Usually, these boxes are next to each other. But when it is on the other side of the ground, and you are revered as much as Ganguly, that can be quite a problem.

As we walked around the outside of the ground, I soon realised that my tactic of politely asking people to give Sourav some space was not working. I commandeered a passing policeman who was only too happy to help 'Dada' and we soon made our way to the TMS commentators.

Which was where another problem arose. Despite the great match in front of them, the nearby crowd were more interested in turning their backs on the game to see the former Indian captain.

Crowds gathered to the extent that we could no longer see the game - the flash bulbs were almost blinding. One man even blew Sourav a kiss (unless it was to Lee James commentating alongside him).

Later on in the match, I walked around the outskirts of the boundary with him. This created a Mexican wave-effect, as both tiers of the crowd stood up to shout and scream at their hero.

The noise was so loud all the Indian fielders on the off-side turned to see what was going on. Even when I walked back on my own, I got a huge cheer from the crowd, shouting 'Dada's friend!' at me.

Sachin Tendulkar celebrates his 99th international century

"What happens when you go out to the shops?" I asked Ganguly afterwards.

"I don't," came the reply.

"What happens when you go out for a drink?"

"I don't."

I was beginning to see what life is like for the likes of Ganguly and Tendulkar here in India. Both have houses in London, where they can walk the streets without traffic grinding to a halt.

As for his former team-mate, Ganguly is full of praise.

"Sachin does it for the people and for himself," he said. "It's his hunger for the game and his love of batting. He wants to bat and score runs, it makes him happy.

"His family, wife and two children stay away from him quite a lot - that's the sacrifices involved in being a cricketer."

Ganguly believes Tendulkar will retire from one-day internationals after this World Cup, but carry on in Tests for a couple more years - good news for those hoping to see him in action in England this summer.

By that time, Tendulkar may well have become the first ever batsman to make a century of international centuries. What chance it happening in the final on 2 April, in his home city of Mumbai?

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