Sachin Tendulkar's extraordinary talent is every fan's delight and pride of India. Martin D'Souza on the world's No. 1 batsman who had added a new dimension to his batting - terrorising bowlers!
Reams have been written about Sachin Tendulkar ever since he and Vinod Kambli rattled up that mammoth world record score of 664-runs for the third wicket for Shardashram High School against St Xaviers in the Harris Shield Cricket Tournament. His entry into the Indian team then was a mere formality. However, Raj Singh Dungarpur, the chairman of selectors then, decided to save the teenager from the tough tour of the Caribbean in 1988. His reasoning was not to expose the youngster before the West Indian fast bowlers.
Perhaps, Dungarpur & Co. might have done the best thing for Sachin then. Not that the lad would have been shaking in his boots at the sight of the demon bowlers. Although he was just 16, he was an extremely talented and a confident batsman. When he got his chacne on the next tour to Pakistan, he stamped his class in no uncertain terms, even taking a Waqar Younis deliver across the bridge of his nose and yet continued to face the hot deliveries of Imran Khan, Younis and Wasim Akram.
Abdul Qadir will remember Sachin the most in that series for the mauling he received in one of the one-dayers. While skipper Krishnamachari Srikkanth stood at the non-striker's end struggling to find form, Sachin gave such a hiding to Qadir which stunned the Pakistani spectators as much as the famous leg-spinner. Srikkanth, normally the slam-bang striker, was left shaking his head in disbelief.
Another image that has stuck in the mind is of 'Tiny Ten', as he was called then, staying calm and unruffled at the crease in England. Even as the English players hovered around his bat, he batted with amazing temperament to notch up his maiden Test century to save India from defeat. If proof was ever needed, here was one which said Sachin was in a class of his own.
Recently, before the start of the India-Australia series, none other than Sanjay Manjrekar, who made 'Tiny Ten' feel at home in his debut year, had stated: "I will be surprised if that gentleman (pointing at Sachin seated in the audience at a function hosted by the Sports Journalist Association of Bombay) does not have a good tour." And who should know better that Manjrekar. The man was class himself. That he was treated in a shabby manner is another story altogether, but Sanjay had seen a genius from close quarters; an extra-ordinary batsman who could decimate any bowler who crossed his path.
Shane was warned in the tour opener itself of the mood of the 'Terminator' when Sachin said 'Hello Shane' with a huge six at the Brabourne stadium. He failed in the first innings at Chennai, but got back in blazing form in the second. Sachin in full flow is a sight to behold.
Sachin's best stroke, however, is the cover drive. No cricket watcher will dispute that. Watch the man execute the stroke and it is enough to have you sit in awe and marvel at the ease with which he picks the ball and then dispatches it with technical finesse. Any youngster interested in playing cricket should follow Sachin. Even the 'Little Master', Sunil Gavaskar, doffs his hat every time Sachin executes that stroke. Oohs and aahs flow freely from the commentators' box as well as from the spectators.
Terrorising the opponents comes easily to Sachin and they are happy to see the back of him as quickly as possible. But of late, even after dismissing him cheaply, Sachin the Menace is not done with. He has plenty in store. Like the Aussies learnt in the first One-dayer at Kochi. One was amazed to see the amount of spin Sachin obtained. Even Warne, the world class leggie, must have been wondering how the guy managed those leg-breaks that had his teammates in a web. The simple explanation is that Sachin is a very good student of the game. He learns fast and is many steps ahead of the others.
This also gives an insight into his character. He is an allrounder in all respects on and off the field. Always ready to learn and share his experience with youngsters. A team man to the core _ whether batting, bowling, fielding or discussing strategies he is always involved. He gives more than one hundred per cent, a lesson learnt on the maidans of Mumbai. Play well and compete hard, do not give up till the last wicket is claimed or the last run is scored. He is a classic product of Mumbai cricket, but his singularly distinguishing benchmark, 'genius' is all of his own. He is often referred to as 'God's gift to cricket'. Very true.