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"The world has seen my commitment for nine years"

 

When it comes to timing, as it is with other facets of batting, Sachin Tendulkar is the absolute master. Some, however, need reminding. Indeed, Sachin’s world record unbeaten 127 today — century No.18, one more than Desmond Haynes — is not merely a statistical achievement. More than that, it has been a point authored with flawless timing.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) would do well to note. Just a few days ago, it was left to Sachin to do the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI’s) job: Defend the team which, admittedly, fared poorly in the Commonwealth Games. Shockingly, the BCCI had ducked the no-commitment-bouncer hurled by the loose-talking IOA.

But for Sachin, the remarks had been a bit too much: He fired an unusual verbal volley, shortly before emplaning for Zimbabwe. After all, what is usual for him is to let his MRF bat do all the talking. Sachin, of course, chose not to leave it at that. Clearly, this evening, the Queen’s Sports Club, in Bulawayo, did not just host a world record. Typically, Sachin’s first post-match thoughts centered around the impressive Indian victory (“It’s important we won...’’), not his own personal achievement. But, then, be it Brisbane, Bangalore or Bulawayo, India has always come first for Sachin.

Contacted by The Telegraph at the Bulawayo Inn, a somewhat fatigued Sachin remarked: “I’m just plain happy.’’ But was the effort all the more sweeter as the lack-of-commitment bit had been given a quick burial? Sachin’s response was interesting: “Hmmm... Actually, I don’t have to prove my commitment to anybody. The world has seen that for nine years... What counts is my own satisfaction. No matter what you achieve, people will still talk.’’

Having already reached century No.18, did he now have his sights on a specific figure? Sachin laughed: “You know, when I got my first century (Colombo, 1994), I never thought I would one day be the record-holder... Today, now that the record is mine, I’m not setting a target. I’m going to take things as they come. That’s my cricket.’’ Sachin said he would skip the cocktails being hosted by the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. “We’ve got to play tomorrow. Then, I’m quite tired, too.’’ He actually has been on a globe-darshan. Exactly a week ago, when India gifted the Sahara Cup on a platter to Pakistan, talk in Toronto revolved around whether Sachin, who arrived in time for the (inconsequential) last match, would get past Haynes. As it turned out, Sachin fell 23 short. But for fans there, many of whom had motored down from neighbouring US (the international border is only 100 miles from Toronto), Sachin’s stay was worth 277 and not just 77 runs. Initially, the jet-lag was all too apparent. Yet, Sachin realised he not only had a responsibility towards the team, but the spectactors as well. So, as someone put it beautifully, “Sachin did a Michael Jordan.’’

In other words, Sachin acted as the quintessential pro. There was little at stake for India. Moreover, Sachin’s failure would have been attributed to jet-lag. But despite cramps all over, Sachin held firm. Really, not just his stroke-play, but his attitude separates him from the rest, too.

For Sachin, commitment has always been the key word, though the IOA may believe otherwise. Sachin could not care less though. It is significant that Sachin has posted all 18 centuries as opener. He moved to the top slot in early 1994, in New Zealand, and the rest is history. The idea, it may be recalled, had come from Sachin himself.

And while he does admire Haynes, who almost always had the equally brilliant Gordon Greenidge as partner, Sachin obviously does not believe in two being company. For him two is akin to a crowd. No wonder, Sachin moved quickly from being joint record-holder to emerging the record-holder: Two innings, to be precise.