There has been much innuendo about Tendulkar's batting in recent times, with many suggesting that the destroyer of old had given way to a nudger and accumulator. After the initial circumspection however, Tendulkar took out both bludgeon and rapier, driving, pulling and cutting with immense power with the cascade of boundaries that followed was all the more impressive for the fact that he was clearly struggling with cramps.
All such comments are worth nothing and are written by newbie journalists who have nothing better to write. The same journalists wrote Tendulkar off when he had a niggling back problem back in 1997-1998. They pledged their life savings when Tendulkar was absent from the game for 6 months after he had a problem with his left elbow.
Tendulkar's response in all the cases against him throughout his career has been exemplary. Rather than argue with journalists (who think they "know" cricket), he has quietly sidetracked the questions and let his willow do the talking.
The last 17 years, Sachin has performed incredible feats while bearing the entire weight of the nation on his shoulders. Just imagine, that there are 100 crore people who are expecting the world from you EVERYTIME you are on the field and yes, Sachin Tendulkar has delivered time and again. He has rescued India out of hopeless situations. He has taken the bull by the horns with both bat and ball. Remember Hero cup 1993? Sachin volunteered to bowl the last over when SA needed 4 runs to win? He did and India denied SA those 4 runs and went on to win. A 19 year old youth carrying the burden of expectations of an entire nation had done it with nonchalant ease. He has taken on the other side all by himself. 1998 Sharjah: After losing to India in the final Steve Waugh remarked, "We did not lose to India today, we lost to Sachin Tendulkar"
The reason the "Endulkar" cartoon incensed me was that there was some journalist who thought that Tendulkar's time has come. Who is he to decide whether Tendulkar's time is up? The correct question is "Who is to decide whether Tendulkar's time is up"? The answer is simple: It is Sachin Tendulkar himself.
Sachin holds a special place in my heart. 1986: I was 10 years old and used to play cricket under the tutelage of Anna Vaidya. Cricket for me was purely a hobby and I knew then that I was not cut out to make a career out of it. Anna, having seen some talent in me, was grooming me to be a wicketkeeper and batsman. I used to have difficulty in playing the pull shot. After many unsuccessful tries in the nets, Anna told me to go and watch a certain Sachin Tendulkar in the Achrekar sir' nets, a few hundred feet next to Anna's. So I went, wondering who this "Sachin Tendulkar" was. There was a kid, short in stature, who was padding up and I politely went and stood behind the nets. Achrekar sir put 1 Re coin on the top of the stumps and then handed out brand new balls to the fastest bowlers in the nets. The 1 rupee coins were up for grabs and would go to the bowler who would shatter the stumps. I said to myself that this little fella is toast. These guys were about 21-22. They were huge. Since I was a wicketkeeper, I was accustomed to rising behind the stumps with the bounce of the ball. Mentally I prepared to do the same. The fast bowler started his run up. The kid lifted his bat and as soon as the bowl was released from the bowlers hand, the kid stepped out and smashed the bowler long-on's head. I swear I did not even see the bowl, while the 13 year old kid not only anticipated the pace, swing and bounce of the ball but he also selected a shot from his armory and executed it to perfection. The thing that had happened in fast forward for me had happened in slow motion for the kid in front of me. It was like he had all the time in the world to play that shot. I was stunned. That kid was Sachin Tendulkar. That day, Achrekar sir pocketed the coins which he kept on the stumps. The bowlers were found wanting. I knew that the little kid was destined for greater things and he has vindicated the faith that everyone has had in him. Sachin gave me ample examples of the pull shot needless to say, since I have not had any difficulty after that. After all, I was taught by the master!
Sad as it may seem, there will come a day when the razor sharp reflexes will start to dull, the hand to eye coordination will start dropping, and Sachin will have difficulty in keeping up with youngsters. But then, Sachin knows about it and will retire long before any thing happens which will prevent him from performing at 100%. He will bid adieu when he is at his peak. It is just not in Sachin's character to be an "also ran".
Sachin does not play international cricket for fame and fortune. He plays, for he truly loves the game. He has been playing international cricket for more than half of his life and consistency is his key. He has adapted his game to the changing circumstances. There are times when he will fight with a rapier and there are times when he will bludgeon the opposition into submission. Even after smashing all records in both variations of the game, he still is a student of the game and above all, he is humble and down to earth. He celebrates India's victory in a final and Mumbai's win in a Ranji trophy match with equal zest.
Endulkar? Time to end such trash talk...
From Cricinfo: 2/13/06
One can pull out the thesaurus and combine different adjectives to describe Sachin Tendulkar's 95 at the Gaddafi Stadium at Lahore, but nothing may convey the influence it had on the course of the run-chase. A buoyant Rahul Dravid, speaking at the post-match press conference, described Tendulkar's effort as "absolutely incredible" and went on to add that it was "one of his best innings".
"I think he assessed the situation beautifully," he said. "He realised there was something happening with the ball, realised we needed to keep wickets. The way he controlled the game, played positively without doing anything risky, was great to watch. He scored at a great pace on a difficult wicket in difficult conditions. I thought it was one of his best. There are so many he has played but this was really a special one."
Tendulkar's knock was one of the three main components of India's run-chase, with Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni complementing him admirably. "Sachin, Yuvraj and Dhoni all played critical parts in this win," he continued. "All three played different kinds of knocks in different stages. Yuvraj's maturity in stepping back, after playing positively initially, when he realised he needed to be there till the end shows that he's a very good cricketer. He's always been one and has had a lot of success in the one-day game. This tour has taken him to another level.
"Dhoni was outstanding too. It's terrific for someone new in international cricket to handle the pressure so well. He can adapt his game to the situation, knows what his team requires, and has got a good head on his shoulders. His performance over the last 6-8 months has been critical in our success."
Dhoni himself admitted felt that this was one of his best innings, putting it above his whirlwind maiden hundred at Vishakapatnam. "My 148 helped my team to win and it was at a crucial time. It was an opportunity to grab for me but the amount of pressure here was much more. This was a much better innings that way."
Dravid was candid when speaking about his decision at the toss and felt it didn't matter at the end of the day. "Even I was unsure about the toss because we're not used to the 11:00am start," he added. "Playing in the evening, we had doubts about the twilight period and whether we could sight the ball then. I don't think toss was that important. We were chasing well so we decided to field. The new ball helped in both innings so it didn't make too much of a difference."
While refusing to find fault with Pakistan, he thought his side had been the better on on the day. "I don't think there was any problem with Pakistan. They played well and their batsmen put on 288. I don't think there was any fault. We need to be given the credit for doing well."
What really heartened Dravid, though, was the improvement his side had shown in the last few months, winning 10 of their last 14 games. "Every game is different and we need to keep performing. Pakistan are not an easy team to beat at home and we need to play well to win. We're leading 2-1 and a couple of games to go. Irrespective of the results, the strides and progress we're taking as a ODI team is really heartening."