It’s been 22 years since Sachin Tendulkar lit up the Sharjah Cricket Stadium with a glittering innings of 143, a knock that would later get to be known as “The Desert Storm”. It was one of those nights everything Tendulkar touched turned to gold; one of the many instances where was one step ahead of the opposition.

That five years later Tendulkar would finish with 673 runs in a World Cup without hitting the nets even once remains a classic example of how when a batsman is in the zone, everything falls in place. The former batsman, looking back at the first of his two Sharjah classics, remembers how he wanted to win that match for India than just help the team qualify for the final.

“Sometimes, I don’t know… you look at the bowler and whatever you’re thinking, the bowler exactly bowls that,” he told ESPNcricinfo.

“It was a little bit of that. I knew more or less what they were bowling and I was ready to play that shot. Sometimes that happens, I wouldn’t say every ball, but whenever one is planning to play a big shot, you say okay, if the ball lands in this area I am going to hit. And exactly that is where the next ball has landed and I have gone for that shot. You have those days where whatever you are thinking, that is what exactly happens.

Two days later, Tendulkar smashed Australia again, the occasion being the Coca-Cola Cup final and his 25th birthday. Tendulkar followed his 143 with a sublime 134 as India chased down Australia’s target of 272 and won the final. More than two decades later, the game has changed considerably. Double hundreds in ODIs are nothing new and it is extremely batting-heavy. Moreover, the traditional shots have been taken over by innovative strokes, the lap scoop and what not, thanks to the IPL and T20 cricket.

However, if Tendulkar was to be playing cricket today, the former batsman admits he would be happy batting the only way he knew.

“I would have continued to be myself in today’s cricket, I don’t think I would have changed anything,” Tendulkar said.

“I don’t see there would have been any need to do something out-of-the-box different. Because if I had continued doing [what I did] the same way, the boundary line is only 70 yards [away]. So if you are going to back yourself to clear [it], then you work on consistency more than anything else, depending on the surfaces. There are surfaces that compel you to play differently, I would have been flexible in my mind, my thought process. I think that flexibility has to be there.”

There is nothing special planned for Tendulkar’s 47th birthday due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although he did touch upon topics that are doing the rounds now. Unlike many, Tendulkar does not endorse the idea of cricket being played inside closed doors, for it taken the sheen away from matches.

“That would be odd. Because you get so much energy from the spectators also. If India is to win a crucial game, you want people to be around you to celebrate – to amplify that. But no one inside the stadium? It’s not going to make anyone feel special. It is going to be a weird feeling, and I don’t know how players will react,” Tendulkar said.

“Can you imagine Roger Federer and [Rafael] Nadal playing on the centre court of Wimbledon with nobody there? It’s going to be such a strange thing to watch. Not just cricket, any sport needs to have that energy.”

As long as the word Tendulkar exists in Indian cricket, there would be comparisons. The debate surrounding Tendulkar and Kohli, making comparison to find out who is the better batsman is something that refuses to die down. Tendulkar sees hope in today’s youngsters but insisted each has his own way.

“Since we are talking about promising youngers, there are a number and the names would be Prithvi [Shaw], Shubman [Gill] and [Sanju] Samson,” Tendulkar said.

“They all are different players. Just like how when we were playing, Rahul [Dravid] was different to me, I was different to Sourav [Ganguly], and Laxman was different from all of us. Similarly these guys are different but have a promising future. They have their own styles.”