Shane Warne said that a master batsman had got the better of him.Steve Waugh said that one could only stand back and watch a genius at the crease, and that it was no disgrace to lose to such a man. With tributes pouring in from the Australians, Sachin Tendulkar has become another cricketing icon in the land of Don Bradman. Inevitably, comparisons between past and living legends, already having made, have now increased manifold.
After all Bradman once said that Tendulkar batted much like he used to. That is high praise from the man who epitomized batting at its pristine best. Unfortunately, for Indian cricket fans, the don never played in India. So, old-timers cannot reminicse about it.
But there is one exception, and an outstanding one at that. Lala Amarnath is not only a contemporary of Bradman, but played against the Australian when he led the Indian team on the tur of Australia in 1947-48. Lala, who is still 86, still goes to matches and has seen Tendulkar play often.
However, it is difficult to get him to speak on the subject. It is unfair to talk about batsmen of two different eras, separated by half a century who played in vastly different conditions and circumstances, he says.
It was possible though, as the conversation progressed, to discern where Lala's preference lay. He kape repeating that Bradman had an average of 999.94 in test matches (there were no one-day matches those days), and asked "How can you compare any person with him? " When reminded that Bradman had said that Tendulkar betted the way he did, lala said "It shows the greatness of the person when he talks that way". Lala repeatedly emphasised that conditions were vastly different now from the time when Bradman batted. Wickets were not covered, he noted, adding "You really get to show your art of batsmanship on such a surface".
On any comparison of tendulkar and Bradman Lala was lear saying "We should compare them after 5 or 10 years." But he was unstinging in his praise of tendulkar : "He is a great player who will go far" he said. "He is the backbone of Indian cricket".
Lala said he had not met a better batsman than Bradman. That would automatically put Tendulkar into the lower category, though Lala would not say so.
His final comment was typical of him "Bradman was a Derby horse. All others were cart horses". But did that apply to Tendulkar of the present generation?