And fewer know that Sachin and myself made their debut in the same month (November) — Sachin playing against Pakistan, while I was playing the Asia Cup in New Delhi. Exactly 24 years later, Sachin is set to retire from the game, while I haven’t officially announced my retirement yet even as Hockey India already considers me retired. Longevity is what I admire Sachin for.
When I made my India debut, my elder brother Ramesh told me: “It’s easy to play for India, anyone can do it. But it’s very, very difficult to continue playing well for India over a period of time.”
And that is exactly what Sachin has done. Ditto five-time world champion Anand and six-time Olympian Leander. It’s no joke being a consistent world-beater for so many years!
Pressure all the way
And particularly Sachin who carries the burden of millions of cricket-crazy fans each time he steps onto the field. Everyone talks about his records — 100 international centuries, ODI double ton, etc but few realise the value of his contribution even when he is not necessarily in the thick of the action in the middle or when he is off the field.
For example, I read Rohit Sharma speaking about one of his partnerships with Sachin. Rohit said that each time he hit a big shot, he wanted to hit more but Sachin kept calming him down at the other end. Sachin ensured Rohit stayed at the crease longer.
Now, even though Sachin’s score in the partnership was not higher than Rohit’s, look at the value he added to the team by supporting and encouraging the junior man to stay at the wicket.
Even off the field, whenever Sachin may have stayed away from a match due to injury or any other reason, I’m sure he would have stayed in touch with his teammates — advising them, urging them to do well.
It’s these invaluable contributions that often go unnoticed. There is a good human behind that great player after all, but people often forget that!
* The author is an ex-India hockey captain