Being Sachin Tendulkar is tough: Greg Chappell

“To think that he (Tendulkar) has carried the hopes and expectations of more than a billion people each time he batted set him apart, even from Bradman,” wrote Greg Chappell Getty Images

Chennai: Dec 17, 2012

Former India coach and Australia captain Greg Chappell acknowledged the difficulties that come with being Sachin Tendulkar and said that he “got a shock” when he realised, during his India coaching stint, how tough it is being the Little Master in India.

In a column for The Hindu, Chappell, who spent a lot of time with Tendulkar between 2005 and 2007 as India coach, wrote that it is “hard to imagine” that Tendulkar started playing Test cricket for India at the age of 16.

“That he played for 23 years is astonishing, because I believe everyone has a finite number of significant performances in them,” wrote Chappell.

The man who captained Australia to 21 Test wins between 1975 and 1983 also compared Tendulkar with the great Sir Don Bradman, saying that the former played in much more testing times.

“Lady Bradman, rather than Sir Donald as has been reported, was the one who remarked on the similarity between ‘The Little Master and ‘The Don . It was assumed that she only meant in the way that they played cricket, but perhaps she saw more than we gave her credit,” he wrote.

“To think that he (Tendulkar) has carried the hopes and expectations of more than a billion people each time he batted set him apart, even from Bradman.

“He also played in many more countries and varied conditions than Bradman. Along the way, he compiled a batting record that may never be challenged. This can be credited to an awesome talent, a unique grounding and an ability to switch off from the distractions around him,” he added.

Reminiscing about his days in the Indian dressing room, Chappell said that he saw a side of Tendulkar that “few people would have seen”.

“I saw the sublime artist with bat in hand, I saw the little boy that he once was, I saw his vulnerability and I saw a man that had to compartmentalise himself in a way that would have tested a lesser individual.

“Being Sachin is not easy. The demands on his time are ridiculous and the privation of withdrawing from what went on around him must have been like torture. But rarely did I see him let his guard down.”

Chappell also recounted what he termed “special memories” with the Indian team and Tendulkar in particular.

“Travelling with the Indian cricket team was like travelling with The Beatles,” wrote Chappell. “People lined the streets waving and shouting as the team bus drove by and crowds jostled at airports and hotels just to get a glimpse of the members of the band.

“And, Sachin was the Indian team s John Lennon! Everybody wanted a piece of him; a look, a touch, a photograph or an autograph.

“Initially I was surprised that Sachin did not acknowledge these crowds. He preferred to sit in the bus with his headphones on, listening to his eclectic music compilation and looking straight ahead as though the crowd did not exist.

“It took me some time to realise that this was an act of survival. Had he acknowledged even a small percentage of those who demanded something from him, he would have been mentally and physically exhausted by breakfast. He, therefore, chose the only path available.”

Chappell remembered one particular instance when Tendulkar had come to his hotel room for a chat during the 2006 tour of Pakistan.

We talked for a few hours during which he bared his soul in a manner that I believe was rare, for him,” wrote Chappell. “He showed a hint of vulnerability that I doubt many had seen as he asked about why batting got more difficult as one got older.

“At the end of our discussion, he thanked me and as he was leaving, I commented on how difficult it must be for him to keep up with his many friends around India. I had seen people coming and going from his room over recent days, so I assumed that some of them were friends. He looked at me momentarily before saying, ‘Greg, you have more friends in India than I have.

“I got the shock of my life and at that moment I realised how tough it was being Sachin. Indian cricket may never see an individual with such an incredible combination of mental and physical skills,” wrote Chappell.