Monday, March 14, 2011

Why Sachin Tendulkar is the greatest cricketing legend

"आला रे आला! आमचा सचिन आला!"
That is the cry you will hear when Sachin comes on the field - he is proudly referred to as आमचा सचिन (Our Sachin). The pride is justified - every kid, teen and adult acknowledges Sachin Tendulkar as the greatest living legend in the world of cricket. No argument about that, of course, as Sachin Tendulkar keeps cricketing statisticians on their toes, amassing runs and records at a heady pace (Check out: list of  Sachin's first 50 tons). 

However, there is much much more to Sachin than his prowess on the cricketing field. 

Read on to know all about Sachin - his childhood years, his cricketing debut, his role as a family man, his humble short, Sachin Tendulkar's biography, career and profile.

A definite treat for Sachin fans!

Sachin The Debutant
Making his debut at age 16 against Pakistan, Sachin was not at all unnerved by a Waqar Younis ball that hit him right on the face. He did not even bother to return to the dressing room to change his blood-streaked shirt. It was an early hint of his calm demeanour in facing all kinds of bowlers on every type of pitch at cricketing venues across the world.
A year later he had got his first Test century at Old Trafford. Before celebrating his 25th birthday, Sachin had hit an incredible sixteen hundreds off his bat. More records were to follow: first batsman to score 50 international hundreds (in 2000) and the first to reach 12,000 runs (2008). Even more incredible is the fact that although he hit his first century in a One Day International (ODI) after 78 games, he holds the record for the maximum hundreds in this version of the sport too. A further record was reached in February this year, when the Master Blaster as he is rightly called, hit a massive double century against the top-rated South African side. 3 sixes and 25 fours studded his superb time at the crease. 
Sachin The God
The little master's seemingly invincible aura was appropriately depicted in the Master Blaster comic book published by Virgin Comics. His character was sketched out in body armour and wielded a cricket bat that was aflame. Zillions of Sachin’s fans always envisage him in this super-hero garb, not expecting less than a perfect 100 each time he walks on to the field. The unreasonable fans realised that he was not exactly an immortal God but just an ordinary human during the 2006 India-England Test series

India had won the first game. A day before play began for the second Test in Mumbai, Sachin was felicitated for appearing in his 132nd match – it was the highest by an Indian cricketer. On the first day of the match, Sachin was dismissed for a lone run after being caught by wicketkeeper Geraint Jones. The home crowd booed him all the way back to the pavilion, angry that their cricketing God had failed to deliver. England went on to win their first Test in India after a span of 21 years; and the series was drawn. 

It was at this time that people first started murmuring that Sachin’s career was practically over and other cricketing legends too felt that his time had come. This was supported by the fact that Sachin’s body was giving in to injuries. First it was his right shoulder that put him out of contention for the ODI series against England, and in later years a back injury, then the groin and, more seriously, the tennis elbow problem. 

Many media persons were aghast by the ill-mannered jeers of the Mumbai home crowd. It was shameful, in the light of the fact that Sachin had given so much to India – and not just in terms of record centuries. As one BBC writer put it "Cricket is one of the strongest glues that holds this disparate country together and since his Test debut in 1989 Tendulkar has provided much of its adhesive force. Without question, he is the most unifying figure in the entire country. Arguably, he is the most universally popular Indian since Mahatma Gandhi." 

Sachin not only went on to prove that there was still a lot of power in his willow, but recently completed 20 years in the sport – a superb longevity in any sport.

As Indian tennis ace Leander Paes once said of Sachin, “I am convinced that he would have been world-class no matter what sport he played. Cricket is lucky he chose to redefine that particular sport.” This was in reference to a game of table-tennis which Sachin won hands-down. Sachin and table tennis?! Yes, that's right, Sachin can smash the little ping pong ball across the net with ease. What’s more, did you know that he can play this sport with both hands? Hmmm…what if he could play cricket too with either hand!! 

Sachin The Gentleman 
Sachin truly embodies the label of ‘gentleman’ in the sport nicknamed as the sport of gentlemen. You will never see him throwing temper tantrums on the field, angrily kicking the grass, banging his bat in fury on the ground or walking off in a huff, muttering curses under his breadth when a poor umpiring decision goes against him. He calmly walks off, his head unbowed. 

Even celebrations of reaching a landmark of a half-century or a century are without over-the-top gestures – simply an upward look at the sky, both arms raised, one holding the bat and the other his helmet, quietly accepting the standing ovation of team mates and spectators. If you have visited the  Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in London, you will notice this famous pose. 

Sachin’s gentlemanly conduct on field and his mannerisms off it commands respect from all, both rivals and team mates. That same graciousness is to be seen in his encounters with the media. While he is often in the spotlight, he has successfully managed to protect his family, wife Dr. Anjali Tendulkar and kids Sara and Arjun from the media glare. The kids enjoy a normal childhood, away from all the hype. 

Sachin The Prankster and Cricket Student
Speaking of childhood, did you know that Sachin was a very naughty boy at school? He and his best friends Vinod Kambli and Ricky Couto often threw ink at classmates from their convenient spot as back-benchers! The trio made a formidable group, always up to mischief and getting punished by the teachers. They studied at Shardashram Vidya Mandir, Mumbai as the school gave students leave to play cricket, a sport that all three loved. In fact, they studied there on the advice of their coach Ramakant Achrekar who trained them at the local Shivaji Park grounds. 
Like these young lads, Sachin honed his skills at Shivaji Park

Cricket, though, was not the only sport that Sachin loved. He was a huge fan of John McEnroe, often sporting a head band and sweat band akin to his idol. Besides the influence of coach Achrekar, Sachin acknowledges the unstinting support of his family, including wife Anjali, in not just getting him to the top but helping him stay there. His elder brother Ajit Tendulkar was instrumental in introducing him to the game and shaping his career. His father Ramesh Tendulkar was a Marathi novelist & teacher and he has another brother Nitin and a sister Savitai

Sachin Tendulkar Playing Style
Whether it is a straight hit into a crowd of happy spectators, a cover drive that has bowlers chasing the ball uselessly to the boundary ropes, a flick off his wrist to send the ball behind a diving wicketkeeper or slip fielder, Sachin Tendulkar has mesmerised one and all.

Sachin’s greatest asset is his mental strength and his ability to concentrate on the incoming ball, his eyes never wavering as the cherry comes hurtling or spinning its way to him. Due to this concentration, he is quicker at assessing the ball than others. Those extra vital seconds helps him to be ready for a shot. Moreover, Sachin can judge line and length with precision and with economical movements sends the ball speeding across the grass or lofted into the stands. The batting maestro also has some skills with the ball, and is a good fielder too. 

Every sportsman has a weakness and so has Sachin. Although technically he is strong, there are some shots that prove to be his downfall time and again. One is trying to get runs while putting the ball to third man, but ending up by edging a catch to the wicketkeeper. Another is succumbing to slower balls that unexpectedly turn away from his bat. 

Sachin The Person 
Out of his cricketing gear, Sachin is a normal guy who loves spending time with family and friends. Whether he is holidaying at Iceland, sky walking in Auckland, or grooving on the dance floor, he enjoys life to the hilt. He is also passionate about cars and his eyes light up when drawn into a discussion on the speed of a Ferrari. Being a star, though, some things he cannot do, such as go to a film screening at a theatre; though once his friends did manage to smuggle him in wearing dark glasses with a cap covering his easily recognizable curly head. Similarly, being deeply religious, he will visit temples – but in the early hours to avoid publicity. Despite his rock star status, Sachin is known to be simple and humble. One of the people who have seen this humility first hand is retired bowling legend Anil Kumble. He tells of Sachin the master blaster once approaching a rookie batsman to ask if he could check out his batting stance & skill.  

Sachin is deeply involved with a Mumbai-based NGO Apnalaya, which works in a few less-privileged areas of the city by providing basic facilities. He was introduced to the organization by his mother-in-law Mrs. Annabel Mehta and has been associated with the NGO since more than 15 years. There was a time when Sachin’s bat had no sponsorship stickers; today, he no dearth of sponsors & puts some of his earnings in various charities. 

Never ready to rest on his laurels, at a media meeting on completion of two decades in the sport, Sachin said "Others talk about the last game, I think about the next one". This statement without doubt proves Sachin’s deep respect & commitment to the sport as, for him, there always be a next game. It is not surprising that the legendary Sir Don Bradman declared that Sachin resembled him the most! 
Meeting of Two Legends: Bradman and Sachin

A few of Sachin’s growing legion of fans will surely be buying his authorised biography, while millions of others will have to be content with following Sachin on Twitter. Of course, those who have watched his game first-hand in a stadium would consider themselves lucky - very lucky!

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