By Aparna Popat
Sachin Tendulkar is an exemplary human and profession — a great ambassador to the sport of cricket right through his playing career. One of the striking aspects about him is that he has remained non-controversial right through his 24-year international career.
Sachin’s records are staggering to fathom. To be at the very top for nearly a quarter of a decade speaks volumes not only for his longevity, but also for his fitness and attitude.
It’s not been roses, roses all the way for Sachin. There have been some very challenging times in his career and his personal life, but he overcame all quite stoically to get to where he is today.
The pressure on him has been astonishingly high. As soon as he came into the Indian side, people were already talking about him the face of Indian cricket in the foreseeable future. He has seen generations of great cricketers make their debuts after him and retire before him. That speaks a lot for his staying powers.
I come from a different sports [badminton] background, but I can tell you that Sachin’s aura is not limited only to cricket. He is unbelievably popular all around the country. He is the eternal topic of discussion in India. Every Indian parent wants their child to be like Sachin. He is truly an amazing role model.
It does not matter which sport you play or what you do for a living, the hard yards have to be put in. I remember during the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, I was part of the Indian badminton team and Sachin was there with the Indian cricket team. By then he was already India’s biggest sporting icon. But he did not have any ego and there were no nakhras; he was just normal. He was always ready to extend a helping hand.
I know many people who played cricket with him in his younger days and under his coach Ramakant Achrekar. All of them have so many stories to say about him. All of them always talk about his dedication and hard work. Despite his prodigious talent, no one worked harder than Sachin.
Sachin’s retirement will leave a huge void. I do hope he contributes back to the game. His expertise will be of immense help. I believe his influence can also help other sports in the country to develop. He is a Rajya Sabha member now, and if he can take up the cause for other sports, I believe they will prosper.
There are a lot of great memories and moments from his career. But I will always remember the way he played took on Australia at their pomp. Even if the Aussies sledged Sachin, he was not rattled. Neither did he sledge them back; he answered them with his bat. Some of his best innings came against the might of Australia — the best team he played against for most part of his career. It shows that he performed against the best. Indeed, he was the best.
— As told to Shrikant Shankar
(Aparna Popat won the national women’s badminton singles title a record nine successive times between 1998 and 2006. She is the only badminton player to have won 16 National singles titles in 17 years that she played professionally. Aparna achieved a career high world singles ranking of 16. She also won the silver and bronze medal at the 1998 and 2002 Commonwealth Games respectively.)
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