A new book on champion batsman Sachin Tendulkar, who celebrates his 36th birthday on Friday in South Africa where he is leading Mumbai Indians in the IPL, was released in Mumbai to mark the occasion.
The book, titled If Cricket Is a Religion, Sachin is God, authored by two graduates of IIM (Ahmedabad), Vijay Santhanam and Shyam Balasubramaniam, was unveiled by billiards ace Geet Sethi and former India Test skipper Nari Contractor on Friday.
Green baize master Sethi paid glorious tributes to Tendulkar and questioned the title of the book itself.
"No need to ask, cricket is a religion in our country and Tendulkar is the epitome of it. There's a huge visibility to Sachin, but I look beyond visibility. I look at his character and hunger (for the game)", Sethi said.
"He's one of the greatest sportspersons of our times and surely the finest cricketer of our times," the cue ace said.
Sethi said what was most remarkable about Tendulkar was the way he has handled himself and his fame right from his early teens.
"A guy like (Swedish tennis legend) Bjorn Borg quit the game at the age of 24, unable to handle the fame and money.
"But Sachin has handled remarkably the expectations of all the fans, his family, media and most importantly his own with calmness and serenity," Sethi said.
Contractor, back home after visiting the Caribbean to give the Frank Worrell Memorial lecture and inaugurate the blood banks in the late West Indies captain's name, also hailed Tendulkar as a modern-day great whose achievements go beyond mere statistics.
"Sachin speaks for himself. What he has achieved is something tremendous. The enthusiasm with which he plays the game after having achieved so much is an example of his (exemplary) character. He's the only cricketer who has not got into any controversy," the former Test opener said.
"Only the other day I saw him (on TV playing for Mumbai Indians in the IPL) take two catches that would have put any youngster to shame. As long as the burning desire is there, he would go from strength to strength," Contractor gushed.
Recalling the gloomy days of 2007, after India's early and shock first round exit in the World Cup in the West Indies, Contractor said he had then told a TV channel that from among the trio of Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Tendulkar the last-named was the player most likely to extend his career till the 2011 World Cup.
"I pray to God that he remains fit as injuries at the age of 36 take longer to heal. He has had a string of injuries over the years. My only worry is whether he will be fit enough to go through the entire tournament," he said.