By Dilip Vengsarkar
I have known Sachin Tendulkar for a long time and have spent a lot of time with him on the tours of New Zealand, England and Australia to know that he is extremely passionate about the game and simply cannot live without cricket. For him, cricket is everything. I am quite sure the decision to retire must have been very tough for him, simply because he has been playing the game non-stop for close to 30 years. Right from his school days to now, he has been going to the gym, training hard and spending quality time in the nets. Even today, he is as motivated and as committed as he was when he started playing the game. That’s his level of passion. That he won’t be playing the game at the competitive level after the Mumbai Test [against the West Indies] would surely hurt him big time.
Sachin has achieved what nobody in the history of cricket has achieved. I cannot think of anyone even coming close to achieving what he has. It’s tough for a great player to hang up his boots simply because he has spent all his life, or the best years of his life, doing what he knows best besides working hard to keep up the standards he has set for himself. Suddenly, he won’t have to wake up and go to the ground or play in a match. It will be tough, but I guess as time goes by, he will get used to it.
There is so much media hype surrounding his retirement, but Sachin has seen it all many a time in his career. He is no rookie when it comes to big occasions and I feel he will handle it the way he has been handling tough, emotional situations all his life. Surely, this one will be different; people will expect him to score a century in his last Test match.
Expectations are always high whenever Sachin goes in to bat, not just within India but also from all over the world. I guess those who have watched Sir Don Bradman or Sir Garfield Sobers must have had the same feeling or expectations whenever and wherever they played.
When he first arrived on the international stage, he was extremely mature for his age. He was ready for big cricket. He had the head of a 24-year-old on his 16-year-old frame. Skill-wise, there is not much of a difference among most 15 or 16-year-olds, but those who are mentally tougher, play the game at the highest level earlier than those who are late bloomers.
Sachin looked exceptional for a schoolboy cricketer. When I took him to the nets to face Kapil Dev and other India bowlers, he was not at all overawed by the presence of some of the great players of that era. Besides, he had a lot of time while playing the pacers.
For all that Sachin has achieved, Sachin has remained a wonderful human being, respectful towards his elders and being ever so humble. Even after achieving so much fame and fortune, his feet are rooted firmly to the ground. He hasn’t changed much since I saw him first in 1988. He is always helpful to newcomers and tries his best to make them feel at home. Which is why he is loved by everybody.
—As told to G Krishnan
(Dilip Vengsarkar played 116 Tests for India from January 1976 to February 1992. He led India in 10 Tests and has the unique feat of scoring three centuries in successive series at Lord’s. The above article first appeared in DNA)
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