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Sachin Tendulkar: India's jewel in the crown

KN PrabhuIT will need a Roget’s Thesaurus to do justice to an article on Sachin Tendulkar, wrote a columnist. So I thought I would deal with images rather than words, for images seem more appropriate to this auspicious occasion and besides, down the years, I have had enough of thesaurus.

The first image that comes to mind is from a story told by Raj Singh Dungarpur. It must have been at the time Sachin was jousting with his friend Vinod Kambli for supremacy as a batsman. Raj Singh’s father, the Maharawal of Dungarpur, who knew all there was to know about cricket, persuaded him to stay and watch a match of no great consequence, for he was bound to spot a star in the making.

Sachin Tendulka

And Raj Singh was not disappointed, for he saw a young kid play some marvellous power-packed drives. Apart from this was the thought that went into his game, for the strokes were often cut to the minimum by the deep field that had been set for the lad. So Sachin checked the power of his strokes, drew the fielder forward and got two runs for what was once just a single. Here, Raj decided, was a lad destined for greater things. The second of the images concerns a TV interview in which Sachin tells Ayaz Memon that he wished he had been picked for the West Indies tour of 1988, for “even if I had got hit, I would have learnt to play how to avoid getting hurt”. He said this, noted Ayaz, “without any fuss or drama, but only showed his urge to play, learn and excel”.

This put at rest the fears of this aging cricket writer who had been present when Nari Contractor had suffered a grievous injury when playing Charlie Griffith. Even then he had his reservation when Sachin toured Pakistan, for he felt that country was not a suitable place for a kid to make his debut. It was indeed a tender age, for Sachin was just past 16 years of age. His first century came in 1990 yet he was still a kid at heart, for he confesses to having shed tears when he failed to get his maiden hundred in New Zealand; he was to put this right when he went to Australia in the summer of ’91 when Bill O’Reilly hailed him as one of the most exciting prospects on the scene since the arrival of Don Bradman and Archie Jackson in the 30s. Later, Bradman after watching a split picture, admitted that “this fellow is playing much the same way I used to play;” his compactness, his technique and stroke production all seem to gel together. But the keen observers noticed one vast difference. There was none of the mechanical perfection one had marked in Bradman.

As Neville Cardus pointed out, when a similar comparison was made with C K Nayudu, the essential difference was that “CK’s skill is his servant and not his master”. The glorious uncertainty of cricket was not endangered by Nayudu. Or by Tendulkar one would add. The difference between the two may be seen in their respective averages.

When Don Bradman came to England as captain in 1938 he was then at the same age at which Tendulkar is now. He had then scored 18 centuries from 33 Test matches; today Tendulkar has made 31 hundreds from a series of 105 Tests. Such comparisons are odious for Bradman’s cricket was interrupted by World War II; besides he played under different conditions. As Hazlitt wrote: “First rate powers defy comparisons and can only be defined by themselves. They are sui generis and make the class to which they belong.”

The comparison with Don Bradman makes one realise that Sachin has many years ahead of him — to please and entertain followers of cricket. Like a film star he has captured a captive audience, winning more adherents with each appearance. Thanks to the media, Sachin will always be a shining presence among us, and the electronic images will keep his many performances fresh in memory. There are several to pick from; most memorable will be his battle with the Australian paceman Merv Hughes in the Perth Test and Allan Donald at Johannesburg and of course the recent World Cup match against Pakistan when with one stroke he put an end to Shoaib Akhtar’s pretensions.

And then of course there are the TV advertisements -- the most touching of which is the one presented by TVS as Sachin with the broad elfin smile urges his viewers to indulge in “lots of smiles” for as the old lyric goes “when you’re smiling the whole world smiles with you”.

This piece first appeared in MiD DAY on Tendulkar’s 30th birthday in 2003 

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