By Daren Ganga
I first heard about Sachin Tendulkar as a teenager — when I was already a huge cricket fan and playing for youth teams and leagues in Trinidad. Back then, it was a thrill to wake up early at my parents’ home and watch international cricket being played across the world, even on our small black and white television. It was exciting to see this young man living the dream of playing international cricket for his country and I was inspired to do the same. I thought to myself, “If this young man can achieve such feats, then I can do the same.” Sachin’s outstanding success early in his career had a profound impact on me; I admired him and was motivated to pursue my own cricketing success.
In my opinion, Sachin and Brian Lara are fantastic cricketers with their own unique style of play. Brian was flamboyant and stylish whereas Sachin is complete, compact and more textbook-like in his approach. Both batsmen were successful and consistent in their own way, which led to most people like me having a great appreciation for them. Ultimately, I think that young people all over the world could appreciate Sachin’s diligence, work ethic, consistency and the positive demeanor he displayed overall.
The first game I played against Sachin was a Coca-Cola Cup Tri Nation One-Day International (ODI) Series encounter in Zimbabwe in 2001. India won the first game against us by six wickets at Bulawayo. Sachin led the way for India with an unbeaten 81 and I made only two. I can recall that during his knock of 81, I was fielding at short third man with Carl Hooper bowling. Sachin was placing shots delicately to my left and right. No matter how Hooper — my captain at the time — adjusted me, the master had me chasing balls played with precision. I played that match almost as a spectator in awe, witnessing Sachin at his very best. It so happened that we met India in the final of that series at Harare and guess what… the tables turned. I top scored for the West Indies with 71 and Sachin was out for naught, caught by yours truly! West Indies won and I enjoyed the most amazing series and a highly memorable interaction with the great man Sachin himself.
I remember my conversation with Sachin which took place during that series. He advised me on batting and more importantly — the mental side to the game. He was particular about one’s state of mind while going to bat and always stressed on the importance of preparing yourself to be in that ‘state’ or ‘zone.’ This is the key to success in batting and everyone had to be consistent in finding the right mental balance — not over thinking, but by being relaxed and aware. This piece of advice stuck with me throughout my career.
In 2006, I was immensely disappointed when Sachin was unable to tour the Caribbean. I was playing for the West Indies at the time, and it was a fantastic year in Test cricket for me as I scored the most runs for the team in that calendar year. Of course, I was looking forward to playing against the master batsman. Lara was our captain and many were excited at the prospect of a clash between two of the world’s greatest batsmen. In 2011 too he didn’t make the tour. I reckon Sachin was eyeing his hundredth international century and the West Indies fans thought that he had a great chance of creating history here in the Caribbean — becoming the first batsman to do so. We were all very disappointed when he did not come.
Sachin’s retirement is the end of an era for one of the greatest, if not the greatest, player to have played the game of cricket. His departure will take away quite a bit of viewing interest of the spectators, players, officials and cricket aficionados. Sachin has an aura, a presence and he brings a certain level of excitement that can never be replaced. World cricket has lost a mega star — its biggest asset and the ultimate ambassador for the game.
As your bid farewell, dear Sachin, I congratulate you for having inspired so many around the globe. You have performed consistently, exceptionally and above all, you have done it with class. It was a great pleasure to compete against you and to have had the opportunity to watch and learn from you. I wish you God’s choicest blessings and may you continue to serve this great game in other capacities so that your legacy can live on forever.
— As told to Nishad Pai Vaidya
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(Darren Ganga is a former West Indies opening batsman who has played 48 Tests and 35 One-Day Internationals. He also captained West Indies in two Tests. Ganga led Trinidad and Tobago for nine seasons and also took them to the final of the inaugural Champions League T20 in 2009. Recently, he has been a known face on television and is seen in the capacity of a commentator at many games)