Sachin Tendulkar is born to greatness. There cannot be any doubt about that after the way he has run cricket writers out of superlatives to describe his exploits. He has established new standards of strokeplay as runs flowed majestically from his bat much to the delight of crowds all over the cricketing world.
A willow-wielder gifted with such an exciting co-ordination of brain, eye and foot can make the bat do anything. It all unfolded in that blooming cricket desert Sharjah on two days, the first day to take India into the final and on the next, to win the cup, outclassing the Australians.
The thrilling display of batsmanship is the kind which is all too rare, and for which cricket is better off in this era of packaged sport to match market expectations. It is this hype that is responsible for the young man's larger-than-life image. At 25, he has already played nine seasons of international cricket and has 16 hundreds in Test matches and another 14 in one-dayers.
Scoresheets, aggregates and averages are poor statements of his run-getting style. Tendulkar has achieved so much that people seem to want more and more. His rare failures and a fractional dip in his averages seem to get magnified. One such phase came when the selectors unwisely entrusted to him the reins of the Indian team. Mercifully, by relieving him of captaincy, Tendulkar the batsman has been saved and he is now able to meet even the unreasonable expectations of his team, like bailing them out with his bowling.
Naturally, comparisons, both odious and invidious, are being made. Australian captain Steve Waugh called him the greatest batsman after Sir Donald Bradman, and that greatest leg-spinner Shane Warne, haunted on his return home by nightmares of Tendulkar charging down the pitch, has also expressed his admiration in similar hyperbole.
Now Tendulkar's skipper Mohammad Azharuddin has called him ``the greatest''. But the most authentic words came from the great Don himself two years ago when he said he saw some traces of him in the youngster's batting style. But then the Australians cannot think of anyone else except Sir Donald, and few could have mauled their attack as Tendulkar did, to the tune of over a thousand runs on their twin tours. What they do not seem to understand is that Bradman has not played the junk version of cricket, the limited-overs game. Why not compare Tendulkar with our own Ranjis, Duleeps, Nayudus, Mushtaq Alis and Kapils? Perhaps, that's not fashionable enough for global marketing.