Sachin Tendulkar is more than the game — beyond the realms of cricket: Matthew Hayden

Matthew Hayden (L) and Sachin Tendulkar share a lighter moment during the fourth Test at Sydney in 2003-04 season © AFP

By CricketCountry Staff

Former Australian opener Matthew Hayden also had a few good words for Sachin Tendulkar.

“I have been witness to the kind of hope and interest Sachin generates in people. The level of expectations when the little warrior goes out to bat is staggering. Everyone hopes that India’s performance will lift around him. The euphoria of spectators in the stadium and the buzz around the town when he bats is second to none,” said Matthew Hayden, while speaking to Outlook magazine for its special issue to commemorate Sachin Tendulkar’s fast-approaching 40th birthday.

Hayden drew similarities between what Don Bradman meant to Australia and what Tendulkar means to India. “They [Indians] will write books and do movies on him in the coming years because he has taken Indian cricket to a new level, and played a big part in winning many series at home and abroad. He is India’s most prolific player; the country’s Don Bradman.”

Recollecting what he thought was Tendulkar’s best knock, Hayden said, “My favourite innings of Sachin was at the Sydney Cricket Ground where he scored 200 plus. He just played so effortlessly yet with such discipline! It’s like the venue — the SCG — was made for him. He has a phenomenal record there. But one of his most skilful innings was in India in 1998. He negotiated spin beautifully. We had a world-class spin attack in 1998, with Shane Warne, one of the greatest, versus the king of Indian cricket, Sachin, and he had a well thought-out methodology of scoring runs. His performance was exceptional. He just took apart the opposition in a very measured and calculated way.”

Hayden also said he often wondered how it would have been if Tendulkar was an Australian cricketer of his [Hayden’s] era. “That would have meant playing without the weight of expectations to perform every time. It would have been remarkable to watch him bat with Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and others. He has carried the weight of the Indian cricket team for a very, very long time. That’s the weight of the accumulated hopes of 1.4 billion people. Expectations and stakes are always high. Despite this, he has a great ability to flow through life with a simple smile and a polite manner.

“I have enormous respect for Sachin. It’s very hard for me to understand the pressure he goes through because we don’t have the numbers, eyeballs and profile like he does. But what I know about Sachin is that he seems to have this great energy. It’s almost like a membrane around him, where he allows things to come into his space that he needs to deal with. Otherwise, he just flows along with life,” he added.

To sum up what Tendulkar means to Indian cricket, Hayden said, “I would place Sachin at the top of any list of the greatest cricketers ever. It’s not about his cricket. Sachin is not just cricket anymore; he is an embodiment of abstract superlatives. Sachin is hope personified, of people overcoming adversity and rising out of the ashes. He’s more than cricket. None of the great cricketers are simply great cricketers, they are more than that. We don’t really see Sachin as Indian anymore; he’s more than the game. Beyond the realms of cricket, Sachin is country. He is home. He is hope. He is culture.”