"Who writes your script?" is a question often put forth to an exclusive class of cricketers. When games like the first Test between India and Pakistan at Karachi in 1989 is put in perspective, it is easier to understand why the query does not apply to everyone who has ever held a bat or ball.
During the five fateful days between November 15 and 20 in 1989, two players each from India and Pakistan made their Test debut - Sachin Tendulkar and Salil Ankola (India) and Waqar Younis and Shahid Saeed (Pakistan). While two of them achieved great heights, the other two were lost into obscurity.
Lack of supernatural ability like that possessed by Tendulkar and Younis, apart from fitness issue meant that Ankola and Saeed merely managed a solitary Test each. Whereas, Younis ended up being regarded as one of the most lethal bowlers, as he retired with 373 Test wickets. Similarly, there is hardly a batting record that is not owned by Tendulkar.
As Tendulkar gears up for his final Test against the West Indies on November 14, Ankola recalls the Test in which he debuted with Tendulkar before both the players ended up on contrasting tracks.
"Back then I played the Test with Tendulkar. After which, I got injured and missed out on matches. When I was fit after a year, the selectors seemed to have other plans," Ankola told HT.
Ask Ankola what made Tendulkar stand out and he is certain that the Little Master was destined for greatness. "I used to call him Tendlya when he started and changed it to Sachin later but now I call him Master. That is how my respect has grown for him," Ankola said. "It was a short tour (of Pakistan in 1989). Despite being the youngest member, Tendulkar was the toughest guy in India team as far as mental toughness was concerned."
Ankola reminisces how even before Tendulkar's startling debut at the tender age of 16, the word about his talent had spread. "Pakistan had a potent pace attack with Waqar debuting for them and Wasim Akram and Imran Khan already in the squad. Since the first Test and a few side games, Wasim had very high views on Tendulkar. He even asked the cricket world to watch out for this young boy (Tendulkar)."
In fact, the former India pacer claims that Tendulkar's determination to succeed was not restricted to himself. "Sachin expected every member of the team to give 100%, as he always gave his best irrespective of the matches he had played."