The world at Tendulkar's feet

Sachin's equanimity makes him stand out in a crowd of international players, writes Pradeep Magazine. Way to 100

india Updated: Dec 29, 2005 13:35 IST

Many, many years ago, 21 to be precise, an 11-year-old boy, shepherded by his elder bother, was taken to a coaching school. The coach had a look at the boy in the nets and shook his head. "Take him home. He is not good enough."

The elder brother, Ajit Tendulkar, was shocked. So was the young boy, who loved to bowl fast and bat and fancied that he would play for the country one day.

"My brother pleaded with Sir and finally he agreed to take me under his wing," is how Sachin Tendulkar remembers that moment which changed his and a nation's destiny. On such tenuous threads, at times, hangs a man's fate.

As he looked at the world on Saturday from a summit that no man has scaled so far, he thanked his coach -- Ramakant Achrekar -- for all he had done for him. One couldn't help but marvel at the man's modesty.

All the seconds, minutes, hours and days spent at Achrekar's coaching and at Shardashram school and later with more skilful players and teammates have made Tendulkar arguably one of the finest batsmen of all time.

It was more or less a matter of time before he would have achieved the feat of becoming the world's highest century maker. The final hiccup, more than his lack of form (by his exalted standards), was the state of his injuries. His body has taken more blows than a man does in a lifetime, and when he finally achieved the feat at the Kotla and looked skywards to thank the almighty and his father, he had tears in his eyes.

"I have never become so emotional in my life,'' he said later. Very true. This man, despite all his talent and the adulation he receives from a nation which loves to bathe in sentimentality, has always remained calm and composed. His poise and equanimity make him stand out in a crowd of international players who fall prey to the worst facets of stardom.

He knows he is no longer the player he once was. He understands the grammar of batting. If his Perth century, scored when he was only about 19 and one he rates as his best, was Richardsesque in its execution, there have been many others that have been constructed with patience and care.

There are some made against heavy odds and since India has not won too many matches, a lot of them have been played for a losing cause. Like his breathtaking century at Birmingham in 1996 or the heartbreaking one against Pakistan in Chennai in 1999.

And then that mind-boggling assault on Shane Warne in 1998. That was the innings that gave him a new identity in the world and his comparisons with Donald Bradman started from that time. One can go on and on. One can also be critical and fault him for changing his style of play and becoming more a Sunil Gavaskar than a Vivian Richards.

If Gavaskar could wear down an attack with his patience and technical mastery, Richards could destroy one with his brutal hitting. The world loves a heroic, aggressive conqueror and that is why Tendulkar in his first avtaar became the nation's darling.

That is one reason they hate watching him play a waiting game. We won't know what goes on in a man's mind. We won't know how this man handles the pressure of expectations of an entire nation. But we do know that ageing is a natural process and a sportsman's reflexes and responses never remain the same.

Tendulkar may not be batting like a Brian Lara today, but that does not deny him a place in the history of world cricket as one of the very best ever.

First Published: Dec 11, 2005 01:00 IST