'You give Sachin Tendulkar a bat to test and he will play music with it’

Sachin Tendulkar would understand the quality of a bat simply by knocking his knuckles on it a few times © Getty Images

By Mithali Raj

The first time I met Sachin Tendulkar was during the 2002 Castrol Awards. Being a young player, it was quite unnerving when he came up to talk to me. I could see an aura around him, which made me conscious. However, what I noticed then, was that within no time he had the ability to make me comfortable in his presence. He would get down to converse at the most basic level. I’ve probably not followed his cricket as much, but his personality caught me in awe.

After that, I met him quite a few times and saw him practice at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bangalore. The way he trained showed why he was a master on the field. Generally it is easy to take training lightly and not get bothered by a few lapses here and there. With Tendulkar, it was different. There was a sense of perfection in his training methods as well. If I’ve to consider men’s and women’s cricket together and spot as to who train with as much precision as Tendulkar does, I haven’t seen anyone do that, except Rahul Dravid.

And the results bear fruit on the ground. His consistency as a batsman has stood out in all these years. Even if I have to compare him with Brian Lara, the other great during the 1990s and 2000s, Tendulkar stood out for his consistency. Maybe Lara had the flair, but Tendulkar was dependable and it came from his aim to achieve perfection during net practice.

That dependability also comes a lot from his personality. I believe that every player has a shade of his/her personality in the game. While he plays, Tendulkar is much focused. Many a times while batting, he gets into a zone where from where he doesn’t allow anyone else to penetrate into his mind. It can be highly discomforting for a bowler and make him feel helpless.

But nothing is more striking about him than his ability to select bats. It was something that one of my close friends and a club coach had observed. Tendulkar would understand the quality of a bat simply by knocking his knuckles on it a few times. You give him a bat and he will play music with it. That just goes to show how well he understood his equipment. It was something I had never seen or heard of, before or after. His understanding of everything cricket is simply mind-boggling!

—  As told to Aayush Puthran

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(Mithali Raj is the captain of the Indian women’s cricket team. In August 2002, she scored 214 against England —the highest individual score in women’s Test. She has since been surpassed by Pakistani Kiran Baluch. Mithali also held the No 1 rank for batting in women’s ODI cricket)