Mumbai: Dec 28, 2012
Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram paid rich tribute to master blaster Sachin Tendulkar who announced One-Day International (ODI) retirement recently.
Tendulkar, a veteran of 463 ODIs played many memorable and match-winning matches for India but his innings against Australia at Sharjah in 1998 will remain Akram’s favourite ‘Sachin Tendulkar knock’.
“I saw his knock against Australia in the final of the 1998 series in Sharjah. He scored 134 against the tough Aussie attack and under immense pressure. He has played some great knocks in limited over cricket, but that one, in my book, is the best Sachin Tendulkar knock,” Akram said.
Akram feels it would be difficult for cricketers in future to break Tendulkar’s record. While speaking about Tendulkar’s achievements, he said, “Over 18,000 runs, 49 centuries – forget beating that record, I don’t think anyone will even come close.
“While those who have seen him play in ODIs will obviously miss his genius, the coming generation will never know what they’ve missed.”
A calm demeanour, according to the former Pakistan cricketer, was Tendulkar’s biggest strength.
“Personally for me, when he came out to bat, he looked very cool and calm. He never looked anxious or under pressure,” Akram was quoted by the BCCI’s official website. “With 98 percent of batsmen I saw walk in to bat, I could tell they were under pressure, but this guy was always so calm; and that I think was the secret of his success as a batsman.”
Praising the Little Master’s technique, he added, “From a cricketing point of view, he was a difficult batsman because of his technique. His defence was solid and his shots were proper. As a bowler, you hardly had a chance to get him out unless you bowled a magic delivery.”
Akram, who was a part of many famous cricketing battles with Tendulkar, recollected a particular ODI in Sharjah in 2000.
He said, “In that same Sharjah ODI he hit me for a couple of boundaries off short deliveries. Every batsman was struggling against my short-of-a-length delivery, but he pulled me twice. And then I said, ‘No more bouncers to him’. I realised that the best way against him is to keep bowling the middle-and-off line. I always looked at containing him because I knew that as an opening batsman, he is always going to play proper shots to an opening bowler and never slog.”
Tendulkar’s name has often been mentioned along with Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, and Jacques Kallis as one of the modern-day masters. According to Akram, what separates the Indian batsman from the rest was his brilliant technique that never changed over the years.
Observes Akram, “He was the only batsman I noticed over the years who never changed his technique. When an Indian or Pakistani batsman goes to Australia they change their technique and go on the backfoot, but he never did that.
“That’s because he was so good at picking up the length of the ball. I don’t think any batsman picked up the length better in world cricket.”
Despite his greatness, Akram feels Tendulkar had his weaknesses and Pakistan exploited them well.
He said, “We knew his weakness and that’s why we had Abdul Razzaq have a go at him all the time. Sachin didn’t like facing those medium paced slow, out-swing bowlers, and every time Razzaq bowled to him, he got him out.”
Akram’s Yorkers were considered lethal and more often got the better of many of the supreme batsmen of his era but the former Pakistan captain regrets bowling it to the Indian genius in a particular Test match.
He said, “It was stupid of me to bowl him a yorker in the 1999 Chennai Test when he was batting on 70-80 odd. It was a very good yorker with the second new ball and I had the mid-on and mid-off standing straighter as well. And he straight drove me for four. His straight drive is the best in the world.”