Zaheer Abbas feels lucky to have been invited to witness Sachin Tendulkar’s (above) final Test match © Getty Images
By Amir Husain
At some point between the dates of November 14-18, 2013, the normally boisterous streets of Mumbai will wear a deserted look as the city, and indeed the whole India will come to a virtual standstill with the arrival at the crease of the man dubbed as the successor to the great Australian batsman, Don Bradman.
When the 40-year-old Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar enters the field to bat for the last time in his 200th Test match appearance, amongst the millions of misty eyes present to witness the event will be Pakistan’s own batting great Zaheer Abbas, who has been given a special invitation by local Indian television stations to witness first hand and comment upon this memorable occasion.
Known to many as the Asian Bradman of his age, Zaheer was known for his silken touch and uncanny run getting abilities. A Test average of 44.79 from 78 Test matches, in which he collected 12 centuries and 20 fifties during the golden era of fast bowlers, is a testament to the skills of Zaheer, who featured in many of Pakistan’s spectacular successes in the 70s and 80s.
The 66-year-old Zaheer who regularly features as a television analyst in Pakistan, will be heading to India in a few days to commentate on Tendulkar’s final innings. In exclusive remarks to PakPassion.net, spoke about the honour of being a witness to this event as well as his desire for the restoration of cricketing ties between the two great cricket playing nations.
Sachin Tendulkar’s achievements with the bat are the stuff of legends, a total of 199 Test matches, with 15,487 runs to his name and 100 international centuries to his credit and now the diminutive Mumbaikar is all set to make his 200th Test appearance in his home city at the Wankhede Stadium. Zaheer Abbas, whilst recognising the significance of the occasion, reminisced about his own introduction to the batting maestro.
“I’ll be one of those lucky 34,000 people who will be watching him bat in his last match in person at the Wankhede Stadium. It was almost like yesterday that I watched him making his Test debut in 1989 at the National Stadium, Karachi, and I will be present at his last appearance as well. It’s obviously an occasion that anyone would like to witness and I will be honoured to be part of this great occasion.”
Zaheer Abbas took his place of pride amongst Pakistan’s most well-known cricketers such as Imran Khan and Javed Miandad, but he has no doubts in his mind about the stature of Tendulkar amongst the cricketers of all eras.
“He is definitely someone who is miles ahead of his competition. In our days, cricket was played less, but in Sachin’s time, there is relentless pressure to perform. And the way he has carried on batting throughout his career is phenomenal. As for myself, I have many videos of Sachin’s best innings which I will watch from time to time to reminisce about his batting achievements when he has retired.”
Zaheer featured in some memorable encounters against Pakistan’s arch-rivals India, and he excelled with a phenomenal Test average of 87.0 which included six centuries and three half centuries. It is therefore no surprise that he is also a great proponent of the resumption of bilateral cricketing ties between the two nations and is also keen to convey this message to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
“If I get a chance to meet senior BCCI officials, I will definitely speak with them about the restoration of cricketing ties between the two countries. This is a popular sport and a great art and it is also important that this happens as the standard of cricket will definitely improve. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh played a full series against one another earlier this year and we have seen that the quality of players coming from these countries has increased. It was once the case that Pakistan was a better team in all respects but India has overtaken us and produced some of the best batsmen in the world, more than likely inspired by Sachin Tendulkar.”
It is perhaps a mark of a great sportsman and therefore no secret that there is great respect for India’s living legend — even amongst his detractors and fiercest opponents on the field. Pakistan may have been at the receiving end of his blade on many occasions, but Zaheer’s words, as the little maestro takes his final bow, will be echoed by many in Pakistan as they would be by millions around the world.
“I am not sure if I will be able to meet him, but if I do, I would like to thank him for the pleasure he gave to the world. I’d like to say, ‘Thank you very much, Sachin. You have given us the chance to watch you bat. Your batting, which is of the highest class, was there for the world to watch and admire and we are proud of your achievements as fellow Asians. I hope you enjoy your life outside cricket as all cricketers have to leave the game one day to retire but rest assured, you will have great memories with you to live with.’ “
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(Amir Husain is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net)