My first interaction with Sachin came when we played the Ranji Trophy semifinal in 1989. I was the captain of the Delhi team and we were playing on a square turner at the Wankhede Stadium.
In our midst, we had some high-quality spinners including Maninder Singh and Kirti Azad, but young Sachin batted quite brilliantly to make 78, if memory serves me right. Bombay went on to lose the match on the first innings lead but you could not but marvel at the technique, the composure and the confidence of Sachin. At the end of the game, I told my Delhi teammates that this kid was a special talent and would go on to play for India. Not all my Delhi mates were convinced, but here we are today. I didn’t know then, of course, that he would smash all records in cricket.
I ran into Sachin several more times after that, and I was at Old Trafford when he made his maiden Test century against England in 1990. I was playing professional cricket in England, and obviously couldn’t miss India playing a Test in Manchester. I was particularly thrilled to watch Sachin take on the English bowling in the second innings. He had made a half-century in the first innings, but India were under pressure to save the match in the second and Sachin batted like a true champion. He was only 17 then, but he displayed maturity way beyond his years. The English spectators took him to heart. Here was a little fellow who was not only standing up to the big fast bowlers, but he was doing so with some style and success. And I remember Richie Benaud, and his ‘Áh’ every time Sachin played one of his trademark punches through the offside.
The one thing that Sachin loved the most was a challenge. He was a man of not many words, particularly in a group, because he was and is still extremely shy. But throw him among a group of five or six that he is extremely close to, and you can see the kid in Sachin come to the fore even today. Sachin has never behaved like a prima donna.
In the dressing room, he is the silent prankster, but he is also the first to make a newcomer welcome and feel at home. His greatness doesn’t lie with his batting alone. As a human being and a team man, he is beyond compare. The legacy you leave behind at the end of the day is not measured in terms of runs and wickets but in terms of the respect and the adulation of teammates, peers and fans like. Even there, Sachin Tendulkar stands head and shoulders above the rest of the cricketing world.
HAWKEYE / CHIVACH SPORTS