Neil Harvey was among the eleven who played in Don Bradman’s farewell Test. For him, after Bradman there has been only one name — Sachin Tendulkar. Now 85, and one of only two surviving members from that 1948 historic game, he is keenly following the activity around the Mumbai maestro’s swansong series.
Both captured the imagination of their respective generations like no one else. Bradman’s farewell game had the undivided attention of the entire cricket world; Tendulkar’s final hurrah starting in the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday is commanding similar hysteria.
“Tendulkar has been the best player I have seen since Bradman; he’s been a top class player for a lot and lot of years. It’s sorry to see a great player retire, but it is going to come sooner or later, now it has come for him.”
“But he’s been a real spectators’ man, people have paid money to go and watch him play,” the Sydney-based Harvey told HT.
“He’s got a mystique about him, little bit like Bradman, where guys take the afternoon off and go and watch him bat.”
Ever since Harvey set eyes on him in Sydney in his debut series in Australia (1991-92), Tendulkar has been his favourite player. Every innings of the Mumbai champion is followed keenly. He’s at an age where the memory is playing tricks, but ask him about the Little Master and he is quick to point out he made only 10 in Kolkata.
Tendulkar’s last Test is also his 200th and Harvey said like Bradman’s average of 99.94, it’s a milestone Tendulkar will come to identify with. “No way, anyone is going to break the record of 200 Tests. It’s like Bradman’s 99.94, it will stay forever. They can’t play anymore Test matches than they are playing today. It took me the same amount of time as Ponting and Waugh, 15 years, to play 79 Tests and he played 160-plus in the same time,” said Harvey, dubbed the ‘The Kid’ by Bradman’s men.
The greatest career in cricket ended with a duck, and Harvey wishes Tendulkar doesn’t go the same way. “If you see Tendulkar, tell him to make a hundred for me. It’s a golden era in Indian cricket, a golden era for Tendulkar himself. He’s been an ornament for the game of cricket, all over the world, not just India. He’s made runs all over the world and he deserves what he has done, he’s just a great cricketer,” said the former left-hand batsman.
Harvey said Tendulkar’s game evoked comparisons with the Don for many reasons: “The way they go about their work, they are both strokeplayers, they are great entertainers, their footwork is great. Their choice of shot is great, they get on with their game. They just prove themselves of great value to the sporting public.”
He has watched quite a few Tendulkar specials, including the 155 at Chennai in 1998, but his personal favourite is the first hundred against Australia at the SCG. “(My favourite hundred is) When he was the youngest to make a century in Sydney, it’s a long time ago, I was there, and it’s always been a pleasure to watch him play.”
Even though he wishes from his heart for one last Tendulkar special, Harvey is not so sure if it will happen. “He’s only made 10 in his last innings and he’s got only one go left. I hope he does it,” said Harvey, hinting that Tendulkar may have stuck around for a year too long.
Many stories from his last Test will become part of the Tendulkar folklore, like how Bradman reacted after the duck in his last innings.
Harvey remembers vividly: “He came in, like anybody else, sat down, took his pads off and quipped: ‘Fancy doing a thing like that,’ that’s all he said.
Everybody in the team felt sorry for him, but we still didn’t know he needed only four runs (for averaging 100). Nobody knew.”