Sunday, September 20, 2009

T20 = Tendulkar 20 years of Glory

On November 15, 1989 a young curly haired boy made his debut for India against the arch enemy Pakistan. It was a winter morning in Karachi typified by the subcontinent hazy fog. I doubt whether those who were priviledged to watch the Little Master on the field that day, realized that they saw him take his first baby steps to immortality.

Early Days
(Click here for more)

The test series against Pakistan was expectedly baptism by fire - whoever says that the Ashes is the greatest Test match rivalry should come watch India and Pakistan clash! He made just 15 runs on debut, being bowled by Waqar “Wrecker” Younis, who also made his debut in that match. His teammates however knew that here was some special by the way he handled numerous body blows at the hands of the Pakistani pace attack. In the final test in Sialkot, he was hit on the nose by a bouncer, but went on doggedly to score a fifty despite his bloodied nose. His ODI debut was unspecatular too and he got out for a duck. But, he gave the world a glimpse of his class and talent in a 20 over exhibition game (earliest known example of T20 perhaps?) in Peshawar, Tendulkar made 53 runs of 18 balls, including an over in which he scored 28 runs off the legendary Abdul Qadir.

Meeting the expectation of a billion people all the time isn't easy...

Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar had begun his journey into the hearts of a nation. I bet he did not know then that for the next two decades, every time he would go out to bat, he would carry the weight of expectations a billion people on his shoulders.

The Sachin Story

I was studying in class three – still about three months shy of my ninth birthday. The grainy highlights of the 20 over match on Doordarshan caught my imagination like nothing else ever has. I was hooked by the sheer talent of the man and became a fan for life. Such was the extent of my hero worship that I had to have every picture, every newspaper article, every poster, every postcard of Sachin for my scrap books – it was a passion that continued for well over a decade and half - till I finally got my job and ‘matured’... (BTW, I still have all ten of them, along with the numerous old Sportstars and Sportsworlds featuring my hero on the cover and other memorabilia neatly stored in my ratty old suitcase. Opening this bag from time to time still gives me the greatest joy!)

The man with the golden arm...
(But thank God Dennis Lillee rejected him!)

I watched a CNN IBN exclusive tonite with the great man talking about his two decades of playing for the nation. I just couldn’t believe that this November Sachin will complete two glorious two decades of cricket. Sachin’s career has coincided with my formative years and the memories are intertwined. I still get ribbed at home by Ma who reminds me about the time when I was inconsolable when Aquib Javed got a hatrick in Sharjah (that was 1991 and I was all of ten) and dismissed Sachin LBW for a first ball duck – till date I am sure that the umpire had got it wrong!


It was around this time that Sachin along with Dilip Vengsarkar and Sanay Manjrekar visited my uncle at his residence in Delhi on some official work. My cousin (who I doubt still follows the game) had the chance to meet Sachin before I did and that day on, one of my burning ambitions was to meet Sachin Tendulkar. To add to the heartburn, my cousin also managed to get an autographed book!

My father managed to get me Sachin’s autograph a couple of years later. He had met Sachin at the Calcutta airport en route to a Guwahati for an ODI. It was perhaps the best gift that I have ever got! My ma’s cousin, a local photographer in Guwahati, later gifted me a couple of photographs he had clicked of Sachin at the nets in Guwahati – needless to say I was on cloud nine…

The chance to meet Sachin finally came in 2002 and coincidentally I met him twice on the same day. My father arranged for me to meet him at the afternoon nets at the home of Indian cricket – the Eden Gardens just before the second test match of the Exide Cup versus West Indies. The same evening my uncle asked me to join him for a party hosted by Exide at the Taj Bengal that Sachin would be attending. What a "double century" days before I turned 21! Couldn’t have asked for more. (Well, there was more to come when the test match was played: Sachin scored his maiden ton at the Eden Gardens in the test match - a classy 176 in the second innings - his 31st in Test matches, won the Man of the Match and the skipper Dada (Sourav "Bengal's Gourav" Ganguly - an alumni of my school BTW) lifted the Exide Cup as India beat West Indies 2-0! What an absolute treat...)

28/10/2002: Meeting God
(and some other special mortals...)

So on 28th October 2002, I went to Eden Gardens and watched the Indians sweat it out in the nets for over two hours patiently, perched comfortably on a cane chair on the hallowed grass. Finally it was time for the moment of truth – meeting God! I stood nervously in front of the home dressing room when Sachin walked by. Someone introduced me to him – we shook hands and he patiently signed me an autograph and allowed me to click a photograph with him. I remember being awestruck by the 5’ 5” giant. What I will remember to the day I die was the humility and politeness of the man – not for a second did he seem to be in a hurry or be irritated to have to meet someone after two hard hours at the nets – true greatness personified. And this was not a fluke – my sister too had the opportunity to meet him last year and she too has a similar experience. Something perhaps of a lesson to the young upstarts of today, eh?

His record speaks for itself - have a look at how he's dominates every form of the game:


Sachin Tendulkar has been the most complete batsman of his time, and arguably the biggest cricket icon as well. His batting is based on the purest principles: perfect balance, economy of movement, precision in stroke-making, and that intangible quality given only to geniuses, anticipation. If he doesn't have a signature stroke - the upright, back-foot punch comes close - it is because he is equally proficient in each of the full range of orthodox shots (and plenty of improvised ones as well) and can pull them out at will – just ask Ajantha Mendis about the reverse sweeps that he was struck while Sachin went on to score his 44th ODI ton! While every Cricketer dreams of being the best in his time, this boy dreamt a little more - of being the best there ever was and is today the only batsman ever to have been compared with the greatest batsmen of all time - Sir Donald Bradman by Bradman himself. Need I add more?


And here are his individual honours & appreciations:

  • Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian award, 2008.
  • ICC World ODI XI: 2004, 2007
  • Rajiv Gandhi Awards - Sports: 2005
  • Player of the tournament in 2003 Cricket World Cup
  • Padma Shri, India's fourth highest civilian award, 1999
  • Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, India’s highest honour given for achievement in sports, 1997-98.
  • Wisden Cricketer of the Year: 1997
  • Arjuna Award, by the Government of India in recognition of his outstanding achievement in Cricket, 1994.
In January 2008, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown suggested that Sachin should be conferred with an honorary knighthood for his contribution to international cricket. He was mentioned in the TIME magazine as the "The greatest living exponent of his craft." (Click on the photo to read the article)

Passing every Test of time in style...

It’s been pure joy watching him wield the willow and weave his unique mesmerizing magic. Even today if I need a break, I just watch the Desert Storm video where he pulverized Australia in Sharjah (prompting Shane Warne to say "I'll be going to bed having nightmares of Sachin just running down the wicket and belting me back over the head for six. He was unstoppable. I don't think anyone, apart from Don Bradman, is in the same class as Sachin Tendulkar. He is just an amazing player.") or a rerun of the match where he opened the batting in ODIs for the first time in Auckland and scored a whirlwind 82 of 49 balls against New Zealand - a Sachin special can do wonders to lift my mood… and the World Cup is the stage he chooses to play some of his best knocks – the best being the annihilation of Shoaib Akhtar & Co. in the 2002 edition in South Africa! His ton against Kenya in the 1998 World Cup, coming back to join the team after his father’s demise, was outstanding too… and a shining example of his commitment to the game and his country...

Special Knocks

Another all time favourite knock was his electrifying 125 in the company of Aravinda de Silva to lead Rest of the World XI to a comfortable six-wicket victory over Marylebourne Cricket Club XI (MCC) in the Princess Diana Memorial Cricket tie at the Lord's in 1998.

In test matches, his sublime 169 against South Africa in Cape Town in 1996-97 was perhaps his best innings along with his clinical annihilation of the greatest leg spinner Shane Warne on a dust bowl at Chennai when the Aussies were threatening to run away with the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 1998 to score an unbeaten 155. Most recently, his match-winning hundred also at Chepauk (Chennai) against England was very satisfying to watch and it almost compensated for loss to Pakistan at the same venue where he scored a century (136) but India lost as there was no one to back him up – a loss which still rankles me and perhaps haunts the Master Blaster too. His double century at the SCG was very special too since he silenced his critics with a knock where he did not play a single shot on the off side!

Amongst his more recent innings, my favourite is the one in IPL II where he and Sanath Jayasurya turned on their charm and made mockery of Twenty20 cricket being a young man's game as both posted breezy half-centuries to guide Mumbai Indians to a 92-run win over Kolkata Knight Riders (my home team) – the 36-year-old elder statesman, Tendulkar's 45-ball 68 was laced with six boundaries and four sixes, including one that went over the park. (For the record, the 39-year-old Jayasuriya scored 52 off 32 balls with four sixes and two boundaries at St George's Park!)

"He is improving with age. He is becoming greater with time. I don't know when he will stop playing cricket. He is just amazing. At the end of his career, Sachin would set all the possible batting records," says Wasim Akram, the legendary Pakistan fast bowler who had bowled to Sachin in his debut match and knows a thing or two about the game.

So what do I wish for my hero in the future – well if wishes were horses then I would want him to score atleast 15,000 runs in test cricket (well that’s only 2227 runs away), complete a century of international centuries (only 14 more to get!), to break Lara’s record of the highest test score of 400* (it’s sad that Sachin hasn’t got a triple ton till date…) and break Saeed Anwar’s record of the highest ODI score of 194 (well Sachin came close in Hyderabad scoring 186* (150b) on 8th Nov 1999 – a game I was priviledged to have watched at the Lal Bahadur Stadium)… but above all else, he must win India the World Cup (his stature demands it!).

At this point in his life, he doesn't need money, fame or power as motivators (as if he every required!) to play the game... it's absolutely incredible how he's sustained his will to win and endeavoured to excel for his country for two decades! Guess how he would like to mark his 20 years? He is hoping he can mark his 20 years in international cricket by leading India to become the world's top ranked one-day team. That's passion!


I think we should just leave the man alone and not insult him by asking when he'll retire - rather let's enjoy his vintage performances and appreciate the master class while we can...


My admiration for the man has only grown with time. Even today, I still have a Sachin Tendulkar poster in my room and it reads “Impossible Is Nothing”. (I loved the adidas ad too - click on the poster above to view the ad...)

In April 2009, when I finally became an MBA, guess where I celebrated with my parents – Tendulkar’s, of course! The occasion was even more special because it happened to be the Master Blaster's birthday...

And yes even today, I change channels when Sachin gets out. It will be a sad sad day when I have to finally hold up a poster similar to the one shown below...

PS: If you've recd. a mail showing his "new house" check this out: