Aamir Khan (left) with Sachin Tendulkar (Photo Courtesy: DNA)

Sachin Tendulkar has been an inspiration for thousands of cricketers all around the world and Mumbai opener and former India teammate Wasim Jaffer feels no different. Jaffer recalls how Tendulkar inspired him and narrates instances that underline his greatness.

In 1988, I was playing the Harris Shield for the Bandra Urdu School and the first time I watched Sachin Tendulkar bat was when we played against his school Sharadashram Vidyamandir in the pre-quarter final. For us, it was a huge thing to reach that stage and then we came across him. He had just made his Ranji Trophy debut against Gujarat and then came to play for his school after that match got over. As it turned out, he smashed his way to 192 against us. We all had heard about him, but to watch him bat was something else, though we knew he had the potential and was called “Boy Wonder.” 

I started playing when I was in sixth and Sachin instantly became a role model. Having potential is one thing and converting it into performances is a different ball game. Many times, we have seen players who have had the ability, but who failed to fulfill the expectations. Sachin always had the talent, but he has gone way beyond expectations people had when he started.

That is because of his hard work and passion. It has allowed him to play for almost 24 years at the highest level and that is no mean feat. Brian Lara and Sachin have been the greatest batsmen of our generation and we are lucky to have watched them play.

I made my debut for Mumbai during the 1996-97 season, but it was only during my third year that I played alongside Sachin. But, before that, he used to come to bat in the Mumbai nets and it was an education to watch him tackle the bowlers. We had a good attack comprising the likes of Paras [Mhambrey], Abey [Kuruvilla] and Salil [Ankola] — bowlers who could clock between 85 to 90 mph. One could see the difference in batting class when Sachin batted and then when others batted. We were awestruck by Sachin’s batting. Wherever he has gone all these years, he has been the centre of attraction. And, he has fulfilled all those hopes and expectations quite remarkably.

When I was picked for India in 2000, I made my Test debut under Sachin’s captaincy; it was a great experience. He presented my India cap to me, something I will cherish most. Those two Tests I played against South Africa were his last as captain. The Indian team had just come from Australia, where they lost 0-3 in the Test series. Although Sachin was scoring runs, the team wasn’t winning and he wasn’t enjoying captaincy. He was feeling the pressure and did the right thing. Dada [Sourav Ganguly] then took over and formed a strong side, of which Sachin was an integral part. 

Methodical planner

Sachin goes into elaborate details when he goes in to bat. For example, he thinks: What is the bowler doing? Where is the fielder being placed? Aamir Khan, the Bollywood actor, also goes into minutest of details while making movies. Sachin is similar kind of person on the field of play — he thinks far ahead. 

There are many innings that right through his career which reflects Sachin’s greatness. At the young age of 18, he smashed a ton at on pacy Western Australian Cricket Assocaition (WACA) in 1992. The 241 not out at Sydney also stood out. In the three Tests prior to that game at Sydney, Sachin wasn’t in form and hadn’t scored too many.

However, he bounced back with his huge knock. It was an innings that showed his self-discipline. He controlled his natural instinct and decided that he would not play the cover-drive. It is easier said than done as you go out there and you may actually be tempted to chase a delivery. He ended up scoring over 300 runs in the game as he was unbeaten on 60 in the second innings.

The 103 not against England at Chennai in 2008 was also a great hundred. In 1999, he hit a valiant 136, but Pakistan won the game. He later went back to the same venue and won a game for India. Emotions were running high as it came in the backdrop of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. And, people said that he didn’t score in winning causes, but he proved his critics wrong with a brilliant hundred. 

His best innings on the domestic front came during the Ranji Trophy semi-final in 2000, when he smashed a double hundred against Tamil Nadu. He single-handedly helped Mumbai chase down a 450-plus score in the first innings and take the lead. The last few runs were scored with the No 11.

He was so uncharacteristically animated that he punched the air when the job was done; it just showed how much it meant to him. He batted for two days in the sweltering April heat to score that magnificent knock.

His entire career has been a huge inspiration for all of us. We watched him go to Pakistan as a 16-year-old in 1989 and then score those two tons in Australia in 1991-92. Wherever he played, he never looked out of place. At 16, he faced the likes of Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, which speaks of his quality as a batsman. There was a time when people used to switch off their television sets once he got out. He single handedly carried the burden of the Indian batting everywhere, be it England, South Africa or Australia. Later on of course, others batsmen also emerged for India. He was always there and will remain an inspiration.

Sachin has given us immense joy all these years and we all are very proud of him. We all felt so happy whenever he scored runs. I just wish he does the same in his last two Tests. The crowds would give him a great send-off, but if he scores big, it would certainly make it a bigger occasion. I hope he enjoys his retirement. Every dream has been fulfilled and every accolade is well deserved!

— As told to Nishad Pai Vaidya

(Wasim Jaffer is a former India international who played 31 Tests and two One-Day Internationals (ODIs). He shot to fame by scoring a triple hundred in his second First-Class game for Mumbai. Since then, he has been one of the giants in Indian domestic cricket and has over 16000 First-Class runs and 48 tons. At his best, he could dominate attacks with his lazy elegance, which were evident during his memorable double tons for India at Antigua and Kolkata)

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