'Sachin Tendulkar is a global sporting phenomenon’

Sachin Tendulkar… the Boy Wonder who went on to become a legend in his lifetime © Getty Images

By Mir Ranjan Negi

The first time when I heard about Sachin Tendulkar was when he hit Abdul Qadir for four sixes in an exhibition match in Peshawar in 1989. Even as lot people, including many cricketers in the Pakistan cricket team, were wondering how a child could play international stalwarts, Tendulkar tore one of the greatest spin bowlers in the world to shreds. He literally toyed with the great Qadir in a manner, I think, none before or after have. Tendulkar had served big notice at the international level of his prodigious talent and in that very moment convinced many that he belonged to the highest class. And we all saw how he shaped up to the fearsome pace of Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis in that series. It’s been a phenomenal graph since then.

If you have seen actor Tom Alter’s interview of Sachin (on YouTube) before he got into the Indian team, you would have noticed how very young he looked then. He was very shy, someone who spoke in monosyllables, in sharp contrast to the confident and fluent speaker he is now.

Sachin’s growth in stature also helped the growth of cricket in the country. When Sachin came in, hockey and cricket almost enjoyed the same popularity. Tom Alter was close to the hockey players, as a result I saw that interview of his with Sachin. Even at that young age, I could sense that there was something extraordinary about Sachin. He seemed much focused even then.

Vinod Kambli, a very dear friend of mine who attends many of my functions, and Sachin started their careers together. There were no questions that both were supremely gifted. Yet, Sachin’s career has rocketed into a different orbit, in contrast to Vinod’s. Sachin’s amazing focus ensures that the trapping of fame and glamour does not come in the way of his priorities. Sachin dreams big and goes after it with unflinching sense of purpose to fulfill it. And which is the reason that there’s hardly anything left for him to achieve on the cricket field.

Every sport needs inspirational role models, and Sachin is undoubtedly the greatest of all time. In hockey, we had the genius of Dhanraj Pillay. However, the hockey federation tried to bring him down. Indian hockey would have bloomed if, the federation had realised the worth of Dhanraj. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), on the other hand, realised that cricket needs Sachin, the game needed the man and they allowed him to grow.

I have met Sachin many times, at award ceremonies. And what struck me most about him was his simplicity. In spite of being such an iconic figure, there are no airs about him. There are any number of players who become arrogant and have an attitude after tasting success. They even tend to forget the people who helped them get them to the position they found themselves in. Again, Sachin stands out from that arrogant breed. He has always been available for those who helped him along the way and his attitude of gratitude has never been in question.

As someone who has played for the country myself, I know it takes a lot out a player to remain at the top. It involves lot of sacrifices on the family front, personal front and many areas of one’s life. There are far too many things one needs to let go, including family weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, festivals etc. And then there are sacrifices to make when it comes to eating; one has to let go lot of goodies to stay fit. One has to practices endless hours day in and day out, be away from home and face huge criticisms when things don’t go write for you. Players reach a point when they start questioning if all what they are doing is worth it for all that they are suffering and sacrificing. That’s when they call it quits. That Sachin has handled mind-blowing expectations and criticisms to last for nearly a quarter century at the top boggles the mind. Sachin Tendulkar is one of a kind — a global sporting phenomenon, the likes of whom comes on this planet once in a few lifetimes.

— As told to Sudatta Mukherjee

(Mir Ranjan Negi is a former goalkeeper of the Indian national field hockey team. He was also involved in the development of the 2007 super hit filmChak De India)

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