I look back with great fondness at the fact that Sachin and I made our debut in the same series. Prior to the Indian senior side’s tour of Pakistan in 1989, India ‘A’ had come to Pakistan, if memory serves me right.
Sachin Tendulkar reacts after scoring his hundredth century during the Asia Cup cricket match against Bangladesh at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka . AFP/Munir uz Zaman
As is customary, we got walking about emerging talent in our respective countries and I remember Ajay Jadeja telling me about Tendulkar. He also mentioned Kambli, but much of the talk was about Sachin and what a star in the making he was.
Sachin wasn’t on tour because he had to write his exams and while our interest had been piqued by the repeated references to him, we didn’t give it too much thought until, a little while later, the Indian team arrived in Pakistan towards the end of 1989. We were all very surprised to see this little kid in the Indian side.
And when I say little, I mean little in every sense of the word. Not only was he very young, he was also quite short and we wondered why India, with a proud, rich history of batsmanship, had picked Sachin who was still a schoolboy.
It didn’t take us long to realise why. He could bat! I was very happy that I dismissed him relatively cheaply in the first Test, but by the end of the series, he was showing us what he was made of. In the last game, I struck him on the face and blood was streaming down his mouth. But Sachin didn’t show any pain, he didn’t flinch. He just carried on with his innings and made an excellent half-century which left us all impressed.
Over the years, we have had many occasions to be impressed by Sachin. What has stood out the most, according to me, is his dedication and discipline. To play international cricket for more than 24 years is no easy task. Unless you are completely dedicated to the sport, you just can’t continue to keep on playing, and I haven’t seen a better example of dedication than Sachin.
The discipline to keep working on his game, on his fitness, on his lifestyle, the discipline to keep waking up day after day and turn up for practice with the same enthusiasm, that to me is as impressive as all the runs and records that Sachin has against his name.
Another thing that has stood out so far as I am concerned is how Sachin has always spoken with his bat and not with his mouth. There have been critics, former players who haven’t obviously played even half of what he has played, and some pundits who have asked various questions at different stages of his career, who have criticised him often without justification. Sachin never hit back by saying anything. He listened to everything but reacted on the field, by making runs and hundreds for his team.
For these and other reasons, Sachin Tendulkar will always stand tall in my book. He is a true champion, and has been so for several years now.