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Tendulkar keeps it real

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Ben Dirs | 12:15 UK time, Thursday, 17 February 2011

As a small boy I was something of a stats geek, poring over old record books in those pre-internet days and wondering how it was possible anyone could score 18 Test centuries - as my hero David Gower had - let alone the 34 Sunil Gavaskar had amassed. Then along came Sachin Tendulkar, whose figures would blow the minds of small boys - and old boys - to smithereens.

On the eve of his sixth World Cup, India's 'Little Master' has scored 14,692 runs in 177 Tests, with 51 hundreds and 59 fifties, while in one-day internationals he has 17,629 runs from 444 matches, with 46 hundreds and 93 fifties.

He holds the record for most runs and tons in both formats of the game, and if Tendulkar does manage to score the three more centuries he needs to become the first man to reach 100 in international cricket, it will likely be a mark that will stand alongside Don Bradman's impossibly lofty batting average until the end of time - or at least cricket as we know it. Which might not be long.

Tendulkar's feats are all the more remarkable because to achieve them it has been necessary to play at the top level for more than 20 years, in the most pressurised environment imaginable - as the signs at his home ground in Mumbai used to say: "If cricket is a religion, then Sachin is God."

"Anyone who starts playing international sport so young [Tendulkar made his international debut as a 16-year-old in 1989, in a Test against Pakistan], they normally burn themselves out very young, too," says former India all-rounder Kapil Dev, who led his country to World Cup glory in 1983.

Sachin Tendulkar

Tendulkar is the highest scorer in World Cups with 1,796 runs and four centuries

"But this guy has something in him that allows him to carry on playing with the same spirit and the same passion. And what makes it even more extraordinary is that he's done it in a country where people expect him to perform at all times."

If cricket is indeed a religion to Indians, then Tendulkar has yet to prove his divinity, because for all his deeds he has yet to lead his country to World Cup glory. However, there is a school of thought that India has finally accepted his mortality.

"The dependence on Tendulkar was once enormous," says Sharda Ugra, a cricket writer for India Today. "But that has changed over the past decade. People are now saying they want India to win the World Cup for Tendulkar - I don't think anyone is saying he's the guy who will win it for us."

Having come to world-wide prominence with an unbroken 664-run partnership with Vinod Kambli in a schools game in 1988, Tendulkar was playing Test cricket barely a year later. He scored two fifties in the four-match series against Pakistan and showed he was more than a prodigious stroke-maker when he was hit in the face by a Waqar Younis bouncer in the final Test and continued batting in a blood-soaked shirt.

Tendulkar toured England the following year, scoring a maiden, match-saving hundred at Old Trafford - an innings Kapil, who was playing in the same side, says marked him for greatness.

"For anyone to score a hundred in those conditions is tough," says Kapil, "for a kid of 17 to do it, when he had barely played outside of India, was astonishing. He played each ball on its merits, was so cool and calm. He showed he had what it took to be a special cricketer with that hundred."

Tendulkar's ODI wagonwheel

Former fast bowler Angus Fraser, who played for England in that Test, adds: "You can see the player now he was then. He was incredibly well-organised, knew what balls to leave or block and what balls to go after - and some of the strokes he played were beautiful.

"He's so still at the crease - you see pictures where the ball has left the bowler's hand and is almost halfway down the pitch and Tendulkar hasn't moved yet. That shows incredible judgement of line and length, that he's able to make his move that late.

"Like all great players he can score runs all round the wicket, there's not an area you can tie him up. Bowlers only have to be marginally out for him to find a stroke to get the ball away, as cleanly and as clinically as any batsman has ever done."

Success in the one-day game was more elusive and Tendulkar did not score his first ton until 1994, in his 79th match. But at the 1996 World Cup on home soil he found top gear, powering his side to the last four with knocks of 127 not out, 70, 90 and 137, before India came a cropper against Sri Lanka amid disgraceful scenes in Kolkata.

Ask any former players and they will tell you the foundation of Tendulkar's greatness is his consistency. But Fraser believes it was when things started to go wrong, if only for a relatively short period, that Tendulkar opened himself up to reveal the inner workings that make him such a formidable foe.

"In the 2006 Test series against England, England's bowlers really did get after him, he looked completely out of sorts, was getting hit quite regularly and you wondered if the reactions had gone," says Fraser.

"But what came through during that period was that not only did you have a man blessed with genius in the strokes he played, you also had someone with determination, fight and pride. You were used to see him play like a god, but in working hard for his runs and visibly struggling he showed there was a very, very strong character underneath."

Tendulkar year by year

Adds Ugra: "When he came along as a young cricketer in the late '80s, he was this teen prodigy and it was almost like he made his success inevitable. But now we realise that's not a common thing, a lot of prodigies fall by the wayside.

"He's stayed that way because he's very respectful of the game - more than a student he's a devotee of the game. It's as much a spiritual thing as the physical act of batting. Speak to anyone who has played with him and they will tell you he's got an astonishing memory of every innings he has played - it's like his whole brain is wired for cricket."

Having recovered from his blip, Tendulkar has been as prolific as ever these last few years, continuing to surprise, continuing to confound. In 2010 he played only two one-day internationals, and in one of them became the first man to score 200, against South Africa in Gwalior.

As a result, he remains the most marketable athlete in India, currently endorsing an estimated 15 blue chip companies, including Coca-Cola and Adidas. "Tendulkar is a very safe pair of hands," explains sports sponsorship and marketing expert Nigel Currie. "He has an impeccable reputation as a player and there's never really been any controversy.

"The Indian market is massively important for brands and his name is probably the biggest in India. MS Dhoni [India's captain] may be a more glamorous, more youthful alternative, but Tendulkar is an icon, an almost god-like figure, and his longevity will outlast Dhoni's."

However, Ugra is keen to stress Tendulkar is far more than a mere marketing tool to the Indian people, who suddenly find themselves assailed by human brands. "India was a fairly quiet and deferential country until the 1990s," she says, "but the economy has taken off and it's changed the way the country sees itself and its place in the world.

"But as India has changed, Tendulkar has stayed the same. He retains a lot of what are seen as old-fashioned, un-hip Indian values. A lot of other stars, in sport and cinema, have become brands. But Tendulkar is not a brand, he's himself - constant and real."

The Indian people may have embraced Tendulkar's realness, but to opposition bowlers at this year's World Cup it will feel like it has almost always felt - as if it is the Hindu goddess Mahakali waiting for them at the other end, replete with 10 arms and 10 heads.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Good article Mr Dirs far more focused than some of the pre-tournament hype blogs for the sake of it.

    We must enjoy Sachin's performances in the ODI World cup and I guess this summer in England because they maybe some of the last opportunities we have to see the little master on the world stage. Well earned international retirement beckons but it will be our loss.

    I defy any cricket lover to pick their best ever or just modern day international team without him.

  • Comment number 2.

    Excellent article Ben! I must admit that when Tendulkar was suffering from tennis elbow a few years ago, I was one, of many people, to say that Tendulkar should retire while he still had his pride and was relatively on top. However, he has showed that he would not be swayed by critics and would continue to play as long as he knew he could at the highest level. I have to say that when he got to 200 in the ODI vs SA, I jumped out of my chair and nearly broke the computer in excitement.
    There will probably not be anyone that can beat his batting records and I would like to say Thank You, Mr Tendulkar for gracing the cricket world.

  • Comment number 3.

    PS Mr Dirs what do you know that we don't?

    I Quote: or at least cricket as we know it. Which might not be long.

    The administrators of the game seem set on overkill but Tendulkar is an example to all that is good in cricket and demonstrates that the basics can succeed & excel.

    Coaches should laud his like rather than the modern flash in the pan cricketers - they get enough attention from the media and advertisers.

  • Comment number 4.

    An excellent article.

    What seperates Sachin from his contempories is his humbleness and first rate attitude. A true icon if ever I have seen one.

    I only watch India games to see him bat, and will (hopefully) finally get to see him live this summer when India come to England.

  • Comment number 5.

    Well balanced article unliked Biswas's article about the world cup fever. Thanks.

  • Comment number 6.

    He is a total legend and deserve the most respect.

    I love the fact teams dont sledge him as he gets angry and scores even more runs (Lets hope the ozzies forget this)

  • Comment number 7.

    Great article Ben. I really hope he manages to get the three centuries he needs to get 100 international tons during the World Cup. Some of his batting against South Africa this winter was a masterclass in batsmanship - he stood up to Steyn & Morkel and came out on top more often than not.

    I really hope to watch the "little master" play in one of the Tests this summer; probably as close to watching Bradman play as we'll ever get...

  • Comment number 8.

    Having seen him pummel hundred after hundred against my beloved Sri lankans over the years, it very easy for me to be sick of his sight. But...what a player, what a man. If there is one innings I can choose to watch before I die, it'll be one of the many by this man. If someone sat down to create the perfect cricketer, he'd do well to use Tendulkar as a blueprint!

  • Comment number 9.

    Went to see Sachin bat in the 99 World Cup but he got out for a blob whilst I was ferrying beer to the stands, but fortunately I saw him play in a ODI at Headingley a few years ago, sauntering around the outfield when England batted, looking very much like it was his domain, his theatre. His self belief to go on so long is astounding, I for one hope India win the WC if England dont, so he can have the plaudits he so thoroughly deserves.

    He has been a faithful servant to the game in a time when the values he exhibits have been eroded - the eternal batsman.

  • Comment number 10.

    Good article, but I'm not sure of what relevance or credibility is "Don Bradman's impossibly lofty batting average".

    How many statisticians recorded it (and from which countries)? or was it just one yellow jaded "record" book lying in a local club?

    How many different international teams did Bradman play against? What was the variety of the attack? What was the range of environment, pitch surface and quality? How much pressure was there on him to perform?

    Personally, I feel Bradmans cricket "record" is akin to a local clubs rough notes of play against other local clubs with little or no international verification.

    Sorry - but there is no comparision between an internationally verified and credible legend like Tendulkar and the hearsay of Bradman.

    If you want to compare Bradman, then maybe do it against a cricketing "legend" from my neighbouring village called Hundreddulkar. He lived some 300 years ago, and there is a "record book" which "illustrates" his batting average. It beats both Tendulkar and Bradman's averages hands down! (oh and did I mention he was a bowler too! with figures to shame the likes of Murli, Shane & Co).

  • Comment number 11.

    billion_plus - You appear to be labouring under the misconception that Don Bradman was playing cricket in neolithic times. They did have scorers in Bradman's time, with pens and scorebooks to record every ball. Oh, and there are newspaper reports of every Test innings, largely thanks to Gutenberg and his printing press. There's even some TV footage of him - fancy that! "The hearsay of Bradman"? You talk about him as if he's Australia's answer to Bigfoot.

  • Comment number 12.

    Yes.. so did Hundreddulkar! slightly before Bradman though, but no TV footage unfortunately since there was no TV in those days. There are some pencil and paper records jotted down by his father (impartial of course!).

    Also I think Hundreddulkar played against three different teams. One was his younger brother and the other was his cousin (can't recall the third).

    Not sure whether Bradman had that variety of opposition.

  • Comment number 13.

    Haha Ben, good comeback!

    I do reckon that Tendulkar could be described as the best cricketer of all time once he's done & dusted but the Don was in a class of his own. The pitches were not covered, the bats were not as good, the protection (or lack of it) meant batting was dangerous, and the reason he didn't play against many sides was because there weren't many sides to play. If there were ODIs and Twenty20s in his time I bet his average would have been lower, but I still reckon he'd have been averaging 65+!

    It's always hard to compare though. Sachin is a great and we should just enjoy watching him whilst we can.

  • Comment number 14.

    Ben, I thunk billion_plus may have been pulling your leg somewhat - good comeback though.

    On a more serious note, we get excited when somebody scores their 100th 1st class hundred and celebrate it as a big achievement. Even given the mammoth number of games he's played (an achievement in itself), a century of international hundreds is an unbelievable, almost unthinkable achievement(even over a 20 year career its five per year - anybody scoring, say two ODI hundred and three test hundreds in a single year would be lauded - he'd averaged that for 20 years on the bounce.....) .

    Just out of interest, who's next on the all time lest of international century makers?

  • Comment number 15.

    Billion_plus; not sure what the point of your comments is. But certainly not worth retorting to.

    Sachin Tendalkar. Thank you for making my life so much better. I have tickets 2 4 days of the tour in England this summer and I want - no need - to see you bat, just so that I can tel my grandkids about it...

  • Comment number 16.

    Fantastic article. I really hope he gets to 100 international centuries in this tournament. And I cannot wait to watch the great man at Edegbaston this summer.

  • Comment number 17.

    Excellent article! However a small correction is needed. Towards the end Benn Dirs mentions "....Hindu goddess Kali ...... replete with 10 arms and 10 heads".

    If one clicks on the link (highlighted for the words "Hindu goddess Kali"), the Wikipedia entry will show that "Mahakali" has ten arms and ten heads. If one only says "Kali", then she has four arms and one head.

    Looks like Ben Dirs got carried away a bit in using a metaphor!

    Of course that should not detract one from the otherwise excellent article.

  • Comment number 18.

    Answer to Rich Owl above; next on the list is Ponting with 68, followed by Kallis with 57 and Lara with 53.

  • Comment number 19.

    Essar - Good spot - it's been a while since I studied my Vedas...

  • Comment number 20.

    Steak and Ake Pie - nice username!

    Thanks. Puts the 97 by Sachin on an even higher pedestal....

  • Comment number 21.

    Great article as always Ben.

    Too many people get tied up with who's the best player of all time. As with all these things it's very subjective (even with statistics) as it comes down to opposition, pitch, pressure etc. etc.

    Let's just enjoy the magnificence of one of the greatest cricketers to grace the field. Sadly, this summer may be the last time we get to watch Sachin in England. I will watch with a tinge of sadness as we may not see his like ever again. Hopefully, we will get Ben to do justice in his on-line commentary?

    I for one have been truly blessed to watch his 20 year career.

    @Rich_Owl_Save606: Ponting is next 68 international centuries. Then Kallis 57.

  • Comment number 22.

    Excellent article!
    He is simply the best in the world and most importantly in any format of the game.
    There are some batsmen who are lauded as great and saviours of teams after an innings or perhaps one series and then live off that for the rest of their careers.
    Sachin has shown over the years that he can perform on any stage against any bowler in any format of the game whether it be test, ODI or even T20 games!
    Even with all this success he has remained as humble and keen as when he first started - legend!!

  • Comment number 23.

    probably his last world cup has the skill 2 lead india 2 the final and win

  • Comment number 24.

    From Ben's article:
    "Tendulkar is a very safe pair of hands," explains sports sponsorship and marketing expert Nigel Currie. "He has an impeccable reputation as a player and there's never really been any controversy.

    Is Nigel sure about this? Only tax issues, a suspiciously damaged ball and a suspect testimony spring to mind.

  • Comment number 25.

    Tendulkar - greatest batsman of my generation. 16 years old against the likes of Akram, Younis, Ambrose, Walsh, Donald, and Derek Pringle. That's some bottle he has

  • Comment number 26.

    @wombletiltheend: The tax issues arose due to the lack of clarity in Indian law with regard to vehicles received as gifts. As for the ball tampering incident: have a look at the video footage, if thats ball tampering then every cricketer is guilty. And you cannot label a testimony 'suspect' because another player (Gilchrist) did so. He was at that hearing on the grounds of his seniority and honesty.

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    At 5:12pm on 17 Feb 2011, Kapnag wrote:
    Tendulkar against the likes of Akram, Younis, Ambrose, Walsh, Donald, and Derek Pringle

    The only time Tendulkar faced Derek Pringle was when Pringle bowled 7 balls at Tendulkar in an odi at Perth.

  • Comment number 29.

    Only tax issues, a suspiciously damaged ball and a suspect testimony spring to mind.

    Muppets like you come to mind as well lol

  • Comment number 30.

    Sachin Tendulkar is truly a magnificent player and a credit to sport - he transcends cricket - and one of the true worldwide icons his nation.

    I ran out of superlatives to describe his batting technique a long, long time ago.

    He deserves a World Cup, but he will still have to earn it when one looks at the Indian bowling attack!

  • Comment number 31.

    What a fine article. Lovely stuff. Thanks.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 32.

    I remember seeing Tendulkar play for the first time (on television admittedly) when India were touring England in 1990, the series where Gooch got his 333, and another century in the second innings to boot. It was also the series where Azharuddin was providing the main opposition to England.

    I don't remember Tendulkar's batting so much as I remember the one handed catch he took running in front of the side screen following a big hit down the ground from one of the England batsmen. I recall plenty of praise from the commentator's, and commenting how young he was. It's amazing that in the modern age, he has played in four separate decades. It's something you tend to only hear about in the more distant past with cricketers playing top level cricket into their 50's.

    As to the "contibutor" in #10 and #12, some basic research will tell you that he was a leading part of the invincibles side that Australia brought over to England in 1948 that obliterated the home team that summer. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but bearing in mind we have plenty of film from the Second World War, would it be a massive leap in imagination to suppose that we would also have film from events in 1948 as well?

    In addition, there is film footage from the Bodyline tour in Australia, which was in the 30's. Yes, Bradman played in that series as well.

  • Comment number 33.

    I'll bet even Derek Pringle would be surprised at being named in the same breath as those bowlers! He had his moments, but he was never in their class. He was also an all-rounder, whereas apart from Wasim Akram, the others were all specialist bowlers. Akram could bat, but his primary skill was also his bowling.

  • Comment number 34.

    Sachin Tendulkar - quite simply the greatest batsman of the modern era, and will be mentioned with Grace, Bradman and Murali as Colossi of cricket forever. And to do so under the intense pressure of the Indian nation for over 20 years, remarkable.

    Make the most of a rare talent. He won't be around for many more years. I don't really care who wins the Pyjama Cup, but I hope Tendulkar shows the world he still has the ability and desire on his (possibly) last big stage. Give me 10 minutes of Sachin over a careers' worth of other over-hyped media favourites.

  • Comment number 35.

    Nice article.

    Absolute legend (Sachin...not Ben Dirs).

    Not often you can say you've seen 'one of the best ever' in the flesh doing their thing in anyone's lifetime, but Sachin is the one for me of any sport/art.

  • Comment number 36.

    Hats off to this man - Not only the best cricketer by far but a very humble person. I only see cricket to see the likes of Tendullkar. Lets embrace opportunity to see him playing in world cup and reading 50 tons in ODI's in world cup would one of the best achievement in this world cup.

  • Comment number 37.

    Ben, good article. Could have been even better with a bit more reality. The hoardings in Mumbai and many other cities actually read as - Cricket is our religion and Sachin is our God. I remember seeing one in 1996 CWC (prolly at Taunton). It just goes like that. His stature as demigod in India is undeniable. A quick search on google gave me few links -

    The reference to Hindu Godess was totally uncalled for, especially when it doesn't relate at all.
    I wish along with Kapil, views from other greats were sought.

  • Comment number 38.

    Why is a reference to a Hindu goddess uncalled for?

    It was meant to be a metaphor as you will clearly understand if you re-read what Ben has written.

    If Ben had started including quotes from other "greats", the blog would have become too long. It would be interesting to hear other peoples' opinions, but for instance, there is another article on the BBC website about Farokh Engineer, and you will see he comments about Tendulkar, in addition to other things.

  • Comment number 39.

    It is inevitable that cricket is a very different game if Tendulkar haven't been here.

    "There are many greats who are popularised in cricket but Tendulkar have popularised the game itself"

    Millions of people in India and in the subcontinent started watching cricket just to watch Tendulkar bat.

    The poulation of Tendulkar's state is itself bigger than the combined population of England and Australia. And we are talking about a country that has 28 states and 7 union territories and the nation it self has a population of all the combined poulation of the remaining cricket playing nations.

    I don't think there is any other cricketer who is carrying so much expextations as Tendulkar does.

  • Comment number 40.

    It is inevitable that cricket is a very different game if Tendulkar haven't been here.

    1.)"There are many greats who are popularised in cricket but Tendulkar have popularised the game itself"

    2.)Millions of people in India and in the subcontinent started watching cricket just to watch Tendulkar bat.

    3.)The poulation of Tendulkar's state is itself bigger than the combined population of England and Australia. And we are talking about a country that has 28 states and 7 union territories and the nation it self has a population of all the combined poulation of the remaining cricket playing nations.

    4.)I don't think there is any other cricketer who is carrying so much expextations as Tendulkar does.

    5.)Lot of young Indian cricketers wouldn't have been playing cricket if Tendulkar haven't played cricket.

    6.)Despite of playing 20 Years of the highest level of cricket I don't find any youngster who got the zeal to play cricket as Tendulkar does.It's hard to find a sportsman as humble as Tendulkar.

    7.)It is inevitable that Bradman is the greatest batsman ever and still you have to say that Bradman have been watched for the sake of cricket, but with Tendulkar you have to say that many a people watched cricket just to see Tendulkar bat.

    Despite of all this one can say that he is the only cricketer who miss his personal life than any other.

  • Comment number 41.

    #33, I think kapnag (#25) may have been having a little joke by including Derek Pringle in the pantheon of terrifying bowlers that Sachin faced-down when he was a teenager.

    We used to refer to Pringle as "Trundle". Even now, as he approached the wicket at a fast-amble, I could imagine Tendulkar asking himself questions like "I wonder what's for tea tonight?" or "Did I forget to put out the rubbish for collection before I left home?"
    It brings a smile to my face.

  • Comment number 42.

    @ #41 hahaha U are a funny dude. Made me laugh...!

    Tendulkar is an absolute great. I got nothing much constructive to say to fault that... But at times I noticed Tendulkar is not a good match finisher like Laxman, Bevan, Hussey, Dhoni, Mathews etc.. Tendulkar has failed in the final hurdle few times over the years... May be you could argue that it is not his role as a top order batsman (or as an openner). But if there was a weakness with Tendulkar, that could be it...

    Anyway every batsman got their own weaknesses and strengths. But Tendulkar probably could consider as the near perfect batsman of all...! Consistency, records and the image of this is guy is uncomparable..!

  • Comment number 43.

    Gleaming article indeed, As a kid growing up in india, all we knew was out of the millions of gods we had, Tendulkar stood out as the vanquisher he was phenomenal, a score of 20/100 in maths did not bother us but if Sachin got out for a 10 we would be miserable as hell. I play the last man stands league at Regents Park and 2 years ago i was lucky to bump into Sachin playing cricket with his kids in Regent Park, he was so approachable and polite, he stood up with us for a few pictures, autographs and he even agreed to hit a few balls. It was surreal, when billions of people are waiting to even get a glimpse of him i managed to spend a good 15mns with this Spartan of a man. I will always cherish that moment for the rest of my life.
    Now i can’t wait to see the little master free up his shoulders and pound that 3ounce red cherry tomorrow at Mirpur.

  • Comment number 44.

    Excellent blog Ben

    Sachin Tendulkar is a legend and deserves a lot of respect. It would be excellent to see him win the world cup with India. That is the only thing missing in his excellent cricket career. I think Sachin Tendulkar will have an excellent world cup. Sachin Tendulkar has been the best player in our generation in all formats of the game. I think the records he has created will never be broken. I hope he gets his 100th ton. I wish him all the best for this world cup and everyone in India will be doing the same. Cricket is a religion in India and Sachin is the God.

  • Comment number 45.

    Gokulram Arunasalam
    Tendulkar was for a large part, 'THE' Indian team. There will be a lot of pressure on him in this world cup, given it will probably be the last one for him and also the home ground advantage. I hope the team does well and with contributions from the others too. Dhoni will be one to watch. When Tendular eventually retires, he will be missed. But that also means there is more opportunity for the others to shine and cement their positions. The team still is a bit of musical chairs.

  • Comment number 46.

    Great article Ben, Sachin Tendulkar is a colossus of the game, we are lucky to have been able to enjoy his play in the modern era...

    billion_plus - you truly are a Tool...

  • Comment number 47.

    Good blog Ben!
    Good luck to the Indian team for the WC.

  • Comment number 48.

    Nice n healthy cmmnts. . . .
    Yup ! He is special and what makes him even more special is his attitude ,after getting all that a cricketer can even dream about, he is still so down to earth and loves the game as desperately as he used to do when he was 16.
    I just don't want to compare him with anyone, all I know that he is one man I just love to watch again and again and again.
    You are the man, sachin. . .

  • Comment number 49.

    And great blog ben, the good thing I felt about it is that it is so simple, but still so complete and defined, just like sachin.

  • Comment number 50.

    Sachin dedecate his whole life to cricket he is really a great man


  • Comment number 51.

    He doesn't need a World Cup to affirm his genius, but it would be the best cherry on top of the best cake. If it's not too vulgar to shoehorn in, here's my own small tribute to the Little Prince written after he notched his 50th ton...

  • Comment number 52.

    In the eternal Lara versus Tendulkar debate, I will always slightly favour Lara. His innings of 153* against Australia is still my candidate for the finest innings in Test cricket over my 33 years on this planet. Even Grandstand showed highlights of it. Many would argue that Tendulkar's sheer weight of runs makes him the stand-out batsman. I'd argue that Tendulkar has had the luxury of batting in a very strong line up and didn't have the same captaincy pressures as Lara. Tendulkar captained for 25 Tests out of his current 177 Tests: Lara for 47 of his 131 Tests. Tendulkar has played in a side mostly on the up: Lara at times was the lone man fighting for West Indian pride.

    However, if Lara is the better of the two batsmen for me, I will say Tendulkar is the greater run scorer of the two. There is no equal in modern cricket. Kallis is remarkable in his own way but he is no Tendulkar. To start at such a young age, to be showered with fame and wealth, and to still be going after so many years and with such respect toward the game and its followers is remarkable. I feel tremendously lucky to have seen both Lara and Tendulkar at close quarters in the early days of their career and when they were established superstars.

  • Comment number 53.

    I have a lot of admiration for Sachin and he is a great sportsman. However I always feel and believe that in a country of one billion plus eager aspiring people, with may be 200 million 'wannabe' batsmen, there may at least be nine more wizards as him most probably undiscovered,withering away in depravation for various reasons that afflict this local society. Sachin the decent human being he is, was also lucky mostly because of his young talent being nourished at the right time by the dedication of his parents and Mr Tendulkar senior in particular. On another point I find the dizzying commercialization of cricket in India with those vulgar IPL auctions purely dominated by air time selling dollar millionaires and billionaires very depressing. This is slowly eroding the game even beyond the sub continent as this new found wealth attracts more and more performers to this awful circus. Sad to see these over rated super stars grabbing what they can, amidst what really still is a very poor state of affairs, but certainly they are not 'over paid slumdog millionaires'. Mr Dirs is quite right though to quote 'cricket as we know it, which might not be long'. On with the circus and belly dancing at Lords. Rugby?

  • Comment number 54.

    Ben Dirs,
    Nice article. Captures the essence of Tendulkar. The Wagon wheel is absolute amazing. I guess a wagon wheel says more than a thousand words.

    I can understand your sentiment , however it is based more on romantic cliches than fact.
    The facts are as under:
    1)Lara as captain averaged 57.8- well above his career average. Captaincy seemed to affect Tendulkar adversely.
    2)The 153* though a mighty fine innings was more than matched by Tendulkar’s 136 vs. Pak. The difference being Curtly Ambrose had the cojones to stick around for 7 overs on his own and Healy dropped the easiest sitter imaginable off Lara (Warney dropped a tougher caught and bowled off Lara earlier ). The Indian tail had to put up a dozen runs which they were incapable off, Tendulkar’s back had completely given way, and Akram caught a tricky skier off Tendulkar.
    In those days it could easily be argued that the Pakistani line up then – Akram,Waqar,Saqlain etc was superior to the Aus.line up.
    I fully agree that this is nitpicking and that most, if not all, great innings have an element of luck. However, there is no harm in remembering that lady luck too plays it’s part- not just pure skill, as some people tend to think.
    3)In any case using one (or even a few innings) as examples of batting superiority among hundreds and hundreds is borderline foolhardy. It could, for example, easily be argued that Lara actually lost many more matches with his innumerable failures than he won for WI with a few dazzling innings.
    4)Lara’s best years were from 2003-07. A time when the WI team was at its absolute nadir. Tendulkar’s best years were in the ‘90s were when the Indian team could almost be considered minnows as compared to the WI team. A quick look at “away” records of the Indian and WI teams in the ‘90s should be quite revealing.
    5) I mention this because records are often compensated by team factors. For eg. Richards would almost certainly have had a better record if he didn’t have to go out and leather the ball every time after great start . Again, a look at Richard’s record when he batted at No.3 and so had time to build his innings rather than simply come out and start blasting – shows that records are often “compensated” depending on team. Sure, there is more pressure in a weak team, but that’s it.
    6) Also , a quick look at Lara’s “away” records would be revealing. It would perhaps be an exaggeration to say that Lara was a “hometown bully”, but the facts do not flatter. For eg. In supposedly “Bowling friendly conditions” outside the subcontinent and not at “home” :IN Aus :Tendulkar avg. 58.53, Lara 41.97 ; In Eng : Tendulkar avg. 62 , Lara 48.8 ; In SA: Tendulkar avg. 46.4 , Lara 49 ; In NZ Tendulkar 49.5 , Lara 36.9. Outside of the subcontinent (which have supposedly easy batting conditions)only in SA does Lara match Tendulkar.
    7)I have no problem in some people having Lara as their favourite- I adore him too. His style was flamboyant and he produced some of the greatest innings ever seen. But to put him ahead of Tendulkar as a batsman based on style (relative) and a handful of great innings (almost all at “home”) is almost wholly based on sentiment. Most cricket connoiseurs (nevermind the millions of screaming hordes) would put Tendulkar right on top (next to the Don, of course)

  • Comment number 55.

    Excellant article!Sachins greatness is not scring runs,its the way he scores and single handedly changes the course of matches..Watching sachin play has helped India bring out a whole generation of batsmen and that includes one of the best batsmen India ever produced,Virender Sehwag.God bless you Sachin!

  • Comment number 56.

    Sachin Tendulkar, we are all fed up of seeing your face for the last 20 years ... during which you have never even come close to winning India the World Cup.
    We are fed up, FED UP of you and your brand (whatever that means) -- and we are also fed up of your long list of chelas who keep oggling over your so called "records" (as in this list of writers/readers).
    It is high time you retire, and even after that for god sake don't do a Shastri or Sivaramakrishnan and bore us for another 20 years with commentary or even worse like Srikkanth with boring kala-kaari !!
    Quit, and Quit in total. Please!

  • Comment number 57.

    Viks of Oz ,
    "Sachin Tendulkar, we are all fed up of seeing your face for the last 20 years"
    Have you actually read the article and the reader comments?
    "You" are the only one fed up !(I'm sure you can add some of our pakistani friends to the list)
    Get ready for some more intense pain for a few years to come at least- as the Maestro continues to pile them on!
    (Luckily this article wasn't about the wonderful Lara. We may then have had imbeciles copy in your comment in ditto , just replacing Lara for Tendulkar)

  • Comment number 58.

    Tendulkar is a great player. But one must never compare two different generations especially Gavasker and Tendulkar or Tendulkar and Kapil Dev.
    The World Cup that Kapil Dev won was far greater. He did not have the supporting cast and the superstar acceptance of the supporting cast. Kapil's team had imposing rivals and colonial overtones of superiority and balls aimed at the head. And lets not forget that they did not have the comforts, facilities and financial securities offered to todays players. Many in their free times went on to their day jobs with their supportive employers.
    And I thought "Little Master" was already owned by Gavasker. Again Gavasker did not have the same benefits and comforts afforded to him. I remember the facilities he practiced at and the grounds he played on. Tendulkar has it a lot better in every way.
    Tendulkar is great for his time and the same for Kapil and Gavasker. We cannot really be sure what would have been if they all played on the same day in the same team. I can only say that we do need all rounders like Kapil.

  • Comment number 59.

  • Comment number 60.

    good article,good luck to Indian team

  • Comment number 61.

    "Commit all the crime when Sachin is batting, They will be unnoticed.. Because even Lord is busy in watching his play"

  • Comment number 62.

    As an India fan I have of course rooted for Sachin whenever he played.
    But I think comparison with Lara ( and in some other contexts - Ponting ) are unfair.
    All of them are great batsmen. Lara in particular had a sublime element to his batting which makes comparisons too difficult because comparisons tend to be based on numbers. In that regard I would put another batsman in that category - probably the best of them all - King Richards. He may not have had the temperament to put in long innings or play that long a career but each of his innings were a masterclass in batting. I am yet to see any batsman since then who has come to the crease with the same authority he used to and bat with that amount of conviction that he did. He had everything that a bowler dreads - confidence, conviction, authority, swagger, and then in batting the style, technique, a quick eye and enormous power. Talk of " mental disintegration ". That phrase is credited to Steve Waugh and the Australians who were then known to be aggressive on the field and used intimidation as a weapon. Probably Richards would be the only case in cricketing history where a batsman was intimidating.

  • Comment number 63.

    he deserves the world cup and with th pwer in batting and bowling india should win

  • Comment number 64.

    Dear Mr.Ben,

    Really Very good and great article,I have ever read.I am a follower of cricket on Radio and TV, Scince 40 Years, from the days Gavaskar to Tendulkar, and almost all the cricketers of the world.What u have written about Sachin is 100% true.He is really a cricket God and a great human being.I have seen some of the great players, who at one moment or the other, are out of line in behaviour,but not Sachin.That is thing, in any way pl, never compare Sachin with Dhoni in any field. Dhoni is just riding on his luck, he is not at all a cricketer.

  • Comment number 65.

    Tendulkar - the man, the legend! For me, certainly one of the greatest cricketers of all time.

    Great article Ben!


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