By Nishad Pai Vaidya
It was an Irani Trophy game in 1989 that Sachin Tendulkar showed the first signs of his greatness on the biggest stage he ever played at that point of time with a century that people who were privileged to see still remember. It was during this match that he gained his entry into the India team.
Since then, in an epic 24-year old career, he has bulldozed his way to leave records in huge rubble. Friday was another such day when he scored 140 not out in the Irani Trophy against the Rest of India. It saw him draw level with Sunil Gavaskar for the most hundreds – 81 – by an Indian in First-Class cricket. Tendulkar also surpassed 25,000 First-Class runs and is close to beating another Gavaskar’s 25,834 – the most runs by an Indian.
When Tendulkar burst on to the international scene, a lot of the talk was about him being India’s next big hope after the great Gavaskar. In the two years between Gavaskar’s last appearance and Tendulkar’s international debut, India searched for that one player who inspired confidence and symbolised their hopes on the cricket field. Gavaskar had left behind a rich legacy for the young Tendulkar to emulate. But, Tendulkar went on to carve his own niche.
There was a sense of occasion whenever he surpassed Gavaskar’s benchmarks set while redefining batting in the modern era. Tendulkar not only grasped the baton but traversed the extra mile.
During the 2004 tour to Bangladesh, Tendulkar equalled Gavaskar’s feat of 34 Test centuries – which was a record then. It may have come against Bangladesh, but the greatness of the moment was unmistakable. Here was a veteran who was struggling with injuries and trying to match his best. With a more tempered approach, he was extending his charge and serving his country.
He had to wait patiently for the 35th hundred; it took him almost a year to become Test cricket’s leading centurion. He came agonisingly close once in that one year when he was dismissed for 94 against Pakistan at Mohali. In the same series (third Test at Bangalore), he beat Gavaskar’s tally of 10,122 runs.
Coincidentally, Gavaskar’s 10,122th run came at Bangalore against Pakistan. The similarities in this scenario are uncanny.
A few months down the line came the big moment. In fading light at the Ferozshah Kotla in Delhi, Tendulkar quietly tucked Chaminda Vaas to the leg side to score his 35th Test century. There was joy and relief on his face as the helmet came off and the bat waved to the heavens. It was an unparalleled summit – one he would go on to extend beyond 50.
Through all that, Gavaskar has been effusive in his praise for Tendulkar. Listening to him describe a perfect Tendulkar straight drive on commentary shows the kind of regard he has for his successor. The appreciation is mutual as Tendulkar has often spoken about the effect Gavaskar has had on him. However, some of Gavaskar’s gestures reflect on the greatness of both men. When Tendulkar got to his 34th Test hundred, Gavaskar was waiting on the boundary to congratulate him.
The most stunning moment came when they met for the first time after Tendulkar scored his One-Day International (ODI) double. Gavaskar bowed to him repeatedly – similar to what the fans would do in the
stands. A young Tendulkar who grew up idolising Gavaskar would never have dreamt of such a moment.
Today, Tendulkar stands at an interesting juncture. The fire to perform is obvious, but the body has to hold on. He would be itching to have a go at the Aussies and plunder runs to silence the critics. One thing is sure though – if he gets to that record-breaking 82nd hundred during the series, Gavaskar would be the first one to shower accolades on him.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_