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.


... announcement of genius - 4 sixes of Qadir

... Interview

... test century

... man to score 50 test centuries

... ODI Runs

... innings as ODI opener

... ODI double century ever!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sachin's century @ Lords

This was at Lords, 1998: Two strong teams were assembled for this match, played on the 150* anniversary of W G Graces birth in aid of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, which was benefited by some 5,20,000. MCC XI made 261 for four off 50 overs with Shivnarine Chanderpaul making unbeaten 127. In reply, the Rest of the World XI were superbly guided by captain Sachin Tendulkar who made 125 and Aravinda De Silva wit 82, to win by six wickets with 39 balls to spare.

MCC XIMichael Atherton, Aamir Sohail, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Mohammed Azharuddin, Saurav Ganguly, Brian McMillan, Ian Healy, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Allan Donald, Glenn McGrath.

Rest of the World Aamir Sohail, Sanath Jayasuriya, Sachin Tendulkar , Saeed Anwar, Aravinda de Silva, Graeme Hick, Tom Moody, Andrew Flower, Wasim Akram, Chris Cairns, Ian Bishop, Mushtaq Ahmed.

MCC XI 261 for 4 off 50 overs (Shivnarine Chanderpaul no 127) Lost to
Rest of the World XI 262 for 4 wickets in 43.3 overs (Sachin Tendulkar 125, Aravinda De Silva 82)