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HindustanTimes Wed,27 Aug 2014

Unlike Don, Master pads up amid unflinching loyalty

Sai Mohan, Hindustan Times  Kolkata, November 05, 2013
First Published: 00:37 IST(5/11/2013) | Last Updated: 02:25 IST(5/11/2013)

Mamata Banerjee hoardings still outnumber Sachin Tendulkar's in the City of Joy. But do believe the hype - everyone's breathing, eating and talking only Tendulkar.

The Tendulkar hoarding most striking is placed some six kilometers from the airport. It highlights Donald Bradman's famous quote: "I never saw myself play, but I felt that this player (Tendulkar) is playing with a style similar to mine."

Now, it's worth noting that the account underlining the two exits - spread across 65 years - are poles apart. Bradman was still captain of a side that remained unbeaten for 34 matches. He was already an administrator and selector. As Arthur Morris and Keith Miller would reveal in their books many years later, the Don wasn't the most loved, for he would retire to his hotel room and crave for alone time. In fact, many journalists wrote of "bittersweet feelings" when Bradman was through.

Study in contrast
Tendulkar hasn't captained for almost 14 years. He hasn't hit a Test century in close to three years. The ICC issued a press release on Monday, claiming that Tendulkar enters his last series ranked No 24 in the world. And that "he will hope to finish his illustrious career inside the top 20." Admittedly, Tendulkar is not even close to the best, in the team or in the world. Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli are more valuable today. But Tendulkar is loved by his teammates and fans. While the Don capped off still as the man, Tendulkar walks off into the sunset as a senior statesman with nothing to gain, or lose.

Sachin Tendulkar gets ready for one final hurrah at the Eden Gardens on Monday. (Subhankar Chakraborty/HT Photo)

There's one similarity: Bradman was nine days shy of 40 and Tendulkar is already there.

In Bradman's book 'Dream Team', author Ronald Perry wrote: "Tendulkar asked Bradman (when they met in 1999) how he prepared himself before a big match. Bradman replied that when he was in Adelaide he would go to his job as a sharebroker for several hours before going to the ground. Sometimes, he would even toss the coin still wearing his suit. After the game, he would return to the office for several more hours. When he was playing games away from Adelaide, he would go for a long walk before and after the match."

In right earnest
Tendulkar began preparation for his final two Tests on Monday. There are surely no long walks possible here, he'd probably be mobbed. Since being bowled by Shane Watson in the Champions League final a little over a month ago, Tendulkar has come a long way. He capped off his first half-century for close to six months during the Ranji Trophy match last week.

His arrival in a Test atmosphere has helped. He began by rolling his arm over with some off-breaks. While he continued to bond with Ajinkya Rahane, seeking the youngster's help on his footwork and technique, Tendulkar also chatted with coach Duncan Fletcher for close to 20 minutes.

Despite a near quarter century of international cricket experience, the bouncy Tendulkar appeared like one of the junior members of the squad. And unlike in Lahli, where he was content facing throwdowns, Tendulkar faced proper fast bowling and spin at the nets for a little over half-an-hour. He dealt with Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav with ease.

But don't forget that twice in over a month has Tendulkar been bowled while driving away from his body.

And Darren Sammy, who never let Tendulkar off the hook in 2011, will look to find his own Eric Hollies while claiming to be the last captain to plot Tendulkar's final dismissal in the near future.

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