By Balvinder Singh Sandhu
Sachin Tendulkar was naughty, just like any other kid of his age, when he was in school. Vinod Kambli and he would constantly be at each other’s throats — playfully though. And when they were not talking or thinking cricket, they would spend their time playing pranks on their teammates. Even today, when the two of them meet in the dressing room or elsewhere, there is constant banter between the two. They behave like two teenagers and keep pulling each other’s legs, oblivious of the attention they get from the others around them.
Vinod Kambli, who made a greater initial impact at the international level, could have become an all-time great, with better emotional support at home and a circle of friends and advisors who would have kept him grounded. Sachin was luckier in this aspect. He could fall back on people he trusted for advice, and the values he had been imbued with while growing up in a stable family. It stood him in good stead when fighting the battle for survival at the Test level. A professor for a father; a mother who quite simply doted on him and siblings who loved and cared for him. A coach who believed in his ability and friends who were friends rather than sycophants; what was more important was his ability, from a very young age, to differentiate between what was right for him and what wasn’t. The coming of Anjali into Sachin’s life further strengthened him. A doctor of medicine, she has willingly remained backstage and looked after the family affairs portfolio so that her husband could single-mindedly destroy bowling attacks the world over.
Sachin may have missed out on formal education, having turned pro at 16, but he made up for it with a hyperactive mind lot of thought to his actions. His planning is meticulous and his fantastic visualisation skills were advantageously used to demolish opposition bowlers. He is a keen observer, and despite breaking every record in the book, he strove to learn new things about the game.
His quest for knowledge is almost childlike. In 1997, as coach of Mumbai team, a week’s practice was organised at the Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers (RCF) ground due to unavailability of Wankhede Stadium. I was behind the net, observing him bat, when Sandeep Dahad, a left-arm seamer who later played for Mumbai, was about to start his run up. Sachin said, without taking his eyes off the bowler, “Balluji, he is going to bowl an out-swinger.” After the ball swung away and the li’l champion shouldered arms, I asked him how could he predict what the bowler was going to bowl. “The rough of the ball was on the outside when he gripped it,” he replied. I was amazed at his eyesight and intense concentration, for it wasn’t easy differentiating the rough side from the shiny side from a distance of around 50 yards.
Studying him that day, I noticed that he was making mental notes of every bowler in the nets and learning from every delivery.
I was fortunate to have worked with the l’il genius during my tenure as the Mumbai coach. Every interaction with him was not only a learning experience, but also a lesson in humility. He is like a sculptor who keeps chipping away till the time he feels that the work of art will satisfy the critics. Having done that, he then sits and introspects and starts working on the sculpture to iron out the faults that he, and only he, observes. Sachin is always open to suggestions to improve any aspect of his game.
Over the years, I have observed one human frailty in the l’il genius; if it could be called a fault at all. He does not like to be dominated and provoked. In the ’95 Ranji match that was played at the RCF ground, medium-pacer Mukesh Narula angered the great man by bowling a bouncer and mouthing some expletives. Provoked, Sachin not only tore him to shreds but also went after the other Baroda bowlers too, scoring a hundred in no time at all. The Baroda players must have cursed Narula for his imprudence that evening.
Sachin was nicknamed the ‘Master Blaster’ after an electrifying knock in one of his early Test matches. One journalist had asked me to comment on his great knock and I had replied, “He is a combination of Sunil Gavaskar, the ‘L’il Master’ and Viv Richards, the ‘Blaster’. Hence, he should be called the ‘Master Blaster’. That nickname stuck with him for a long time. He is now the master of all he surveys. Having surpassed all records, he now has to set his own benchmarks and keep motivating himself to break his own barriers. It is indeed an unenviable task, but then Sachin is ‘God’, isn’t he?
Sachin has gone on record saying that he was inspired by the 1983 World Cup win to take up the game. Only 10 years of age then, he is said to have celebrated the victory with friends from his building till early hours of the morning. India winning the World Cup of 2011 was a fitting tribute to the genius of Sachin. I am sure World Cup 2011 triumph will inspire a few more geniuses like him to take up cricket as a profession. Big thanks to the blessed child of God, for the joy and pride brought to all Indians with your performances and impeccable behaviour of the field.
An emotional and passionate farewell to Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar by Mumbaikars, burst his calm exterior as he walks back to the pavilion for the last time in Test cricket.
(Balvinder Singh Sandhu played eight Tests and 22 ODIs. A crafty bowler who moved the ball both way, he was one of the heroes of the 1983 World Cup triumph. His delivery that bowled Gordon Greenidge, shouldering arms, in the epic final is etched in every Indian’s memory. He was an useful later-order batsman who scored 71, batting at No 9, on Test debut against Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz, Abdul Qadir and Iqbal Qasim, and in his fourth Test 68 against Michael Holding, Andy Roberts Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall. After retirement, he became one of the finest coaches in the country and now imparts his knowledge through his site http://www.balvindersinghsandhu.com/)
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