Kapil Dev has an interesting story about a young Sachin Tendulkar. I bowled a good out-swinger, he recalls, which most batsmen would have defended. But Sachin came forward and hit it flat over mid off, the ball went into the stands for a six. Kapil was stunned as the shot was completely effortless.
Today, Tendulkar is a powerful symbol of a youthful India, yet, when you look at what makes him extra special, there is a feeling that he is somewhat un-Indian. Sachin stands for sustained excellence, complete focus and relentless determination.
These are not qualities normally associated with Indians who accept mediocrity, compromise on effort and lack the edge that keeps one ahead of others. Sachin is a true champion who dominates his sport. After twenty years at the top, he is still running is like a marathon runner who finishes the race half an hour before others. During his long journey, Sachin has shattered practically every batting record but his genius cannot be reduced to statistics. Forget for a moment the million runs he has scored and the centuries smashed.
Also, ignore the minor cribs that he stumbles in tournament finals or has not scored a Test triple hundred. Instead, celebrate the joy he provides and remember the amazing pushed drive off the quicker bowlers, the powerful square cut and neat flick off his hips to square leg. For his monumental achievements, Sachin is a picture of humility even though he has every reason to be immodest. Unspoilt by fame and achievement, there is no arrogance and he remains composed even in the most competitive situations.
It is said he has time to play his shots, what is equally apparent is he displays the same sense of balance and sound judgement away from the cricket field. Gavaskar is a hero to Sachin because of his technical brilliance and Test centuries but he also admires Viv Richards for his ruthless attitude. Sachin is a mix of both — he can grind his way to Test match double hundreds and also blow away bowlers when he chooses to.
Some fault his recent careful approach in Tests, a criticism Sachin shrugs off saying these are normal changes which come about over a period of time.