Sachin Tendulkar has been called the God of cricket. For most individuals that would be an unbearable burden. But then few individuals could even dream of posting such statistics as a 100 international centuries, or over 15000 test runs, the first batsman to get a double century in one-day internationals.
And then again, the purists will say, don't look at numbers, look at his game. Then, they too will sigh at the craft of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, the man with almost every stroke in the book.
What separates the Master Blaster from others is his unmatched ability to adapt to format, physical conditions and the situation the team is in; this has assisted him in amassing runs in all parts of the world.
He is revered. And yet when he takes over a year to make his 100th ton, an incredible statistic, there are those who point out that India lost to Bangladesh in the effort to notch that hundred. Sachin is compelled to explain that he plays for the team, that he will continue playing. And it goes on - a national obsession. We heard it all before. At heated canteen debates, on long facebook discussions, in every nook-and-cranny of the country.
Born in Mumbai on April 24, 1973, his father Ramesh named him after music composer, Sachin Dev Burman. But it was his elder brother Ajit who encouraged Sachin to take up cricket and took the 12-year-old to Mumbai's legendary cricket coach Ramakant Achrekar. The master-blaster still credits 'Achrekar Sir' with building his technique and powers of concentration
Sachin Tendulkar has been talked about ever since he notched a 664-run partnership with Vinod Kambli as a schoolboy playing in the Harris Shield, an inter-school tournament. At 14, Tendulkar was a ball-boy for India's match against Zimbabwe at the Wankhede Stadium during the 1987 World Cup; few would have thought that they had caught a glimpse of greatness.
Sunil Gavaskar, who was the most successful Test batsman of that era, presented the promising youngster a pair of his own ultra-light pads, a gesture that Sachin says was the biggest encouragement for him. He said that after smashing Gavaskar's long-standing record for the most number of Test centuries.
Tendulkar scored 100 not out in his debut first-class match for Bombay against Gujarat and went on to score centuries on his debut in the Deodhar and Duleep Trophy.
He was selected to play for the Indian side in the 1989 tour to Pakistan. His performances were not thoroughly convincing, but what was credible was his urge to perform despite being hit by potentially lethal bouncers from the Pakistan pacers.
Sachin's first century came almost a year later on the tour to England, he scored an unbeaten 119 and was highly praised for his style and discipline. He had five Test tons before he turned 20 and was a the youngest to reach a 1000 runs in Test cricket.
His flamboyant display not only allowed him to score runs freely but also went a long way in intimidating the bowlers. Sachin went on to establish an indispensable position in the Indian middle order. Though he waited 79 innings to get to his first ODI hundred (in 1994, against Sri Lanka, in Colombo), Sachin was the first to get to 10,000 runs in one-day cricket and has scored 49 centuries in that format.
At a time when Indian cricket lost track of its past glory and balance, Sachin Tendulkar seemed to be the only guiding light. The Indian batting was virtually circled around Sachin Tendulkar, inviting awe and anticipation to his presence on the field. Sachin would go on to break the records of the most number of runs and centuries in either format of the game. He also scored the first double century in One Day Internationals, almost 40 years after the format was introduced.
He has been widely compared with the greatest batsman of all time, Don Bradman, who himself admitted that Sachin's style was the closest to that of his own.
Tendulkar's achievements hold even more significance considering the weight of expectations carried by him. He is the only Indian cricketer to get the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, the Arjuna Award, the Padma Shri and the Padma Vibhushan ( India's second-highest civilian honour). Sachin is also a honorary Group Captain in the Indian Air Force.
Surprising as it may sound, the 39-year old, possesses child-like enthusiasm for the sport, a fact revealed by former teammate Rahul Dravid. A passion that is shared by his family ; his wife Anjali doesn't eat or drink whenever Sachin is at the crease.
By Sachin's own admission, winning the World Cup in 2011 was his 'biggest dream' come true.
The only question mark in an otherwise glittering career is Sachin's captaincy record. In the 25 tests he captained India in, he won just 4 and lost nine In the 73 one-dayers he was captain, India managed to win just 23.
His style and approach have changed over the past few years. Some say it is to elongate his career while some say it is the sport that has brought about the change. But the most suitable explanation seems to be the evolution of a man who has never shown signs of complacency despite having almost every record in the book. Sachin may use the heaviest bat in international cricket (over 3.2 pounds) but what is admirable is that after 23 years of international cricket, it remains one of the broadest that there is.
In a nutshell, Sachin Tendulkar turned a sport into a religion, something that no one had ever done.
Story first published:
April 25, 2012 15:04 IST