Sachin Tendulkar is the greatest: Sourav Ganguly

It was at Indore that Sourav Ganguly (left) met Sachin Tendulkar (right) for the first time, when they were 13 at a camp conducted by Vasu Paranjpe under auspices of Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association © Getty Images

By CricketCountry Staff
 
Mumbai: Apr 20, 2013
 
Sourav Ganguly’s finest hour in international cricket came when he opened the innings with Sachin Tendulkar in One-Day Internationals. The duo changed the face of Indian cricket and imbued a much-needed sense of confidence among the team. In the latest article in Outlook, Ganguly talks about the talismanic man of Indian cricket and a possessor of several world records that are very difficult to break.
 
It was at Indore that the two future Indian batting stars met when they were 13 at a camp conducted by Vasu Paranjpe under auspices of Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association. “The first thing I noticed was that the curly-haired boy from Bombay just loved to bat. He was the first at the nets and just kept batting. Such was his passion and intensity that Vasu had to eventually pull him out on occasions. Sachin would just bat, bat and bat. At the camp itself, everyone was talking about him and it was apparent to us all that he was blessed with special talent. He would hold the bat lower than the norm; this would mean that he’d not feel the pressure of his heavy bat. He already had all the shots in the book and timed the ball beautifully,” says Ganguly.
 
At 16, Tendulkar broke into the national Test team courtesy of stellar performances in the Ranji Trophy and Irani Trophy in 1989. “I did not watch many of his knocks in Pakistan as I was touring with the Bengal [Ranji] team. However, the one match I watched was the one in which he took apart Abdul Qadir,” says Ganguly. “When Sachin came out to bat, the asking rate had gone well over 10 an over and India needed a miracle. That nearly happened, thanks to Sachin. He went ballistic and scored 53 of 18 balls, and in the process hit four sixes off Qadir to all corners of the ground. It was incredible hitting. Once again, it was an announcement to the wider cricket world that he was special.”
 
Ganguly was selected in the Indian team in the 1991-92 tour of Australia.”Sachin was gradually establishing himself as the team’s premier batsman. Importantly, we were roommates during this tour and I clearly remember him in Sydney, on the night before he went on to get his first century in Australia. India was down 0-2 and we needed to play well in Sydney to regain some confidence. Sachin just refused to sleep that night.”
 
” I remember telling him that if he was to play next day he desperately needed to sleep. He said he just couldn’t, and started telling me where he would hit McDermott and the others! By midnight I was asleep, leaving him to his devices. The next day he told me that he was starved of sleep and that he’d nap on the dining table in the team dressing room at the SCG. Later, I was asked to wake up him up at the fall of the next wicket. Sachin was about to bat at number six, and I woke him up when Azhar got out. He said he was refreshed, now that he’d had some sleep. It was odd how he could sleep on a dining table! He played an amazing innings of 148 not out and I believe we should have won that Sydney Test,” recalls Ganguly.
 
Many pundits rate Tendulkar’s  effort at Perth in the fourth Test match as one of his best innings. “I can say with certainty: it was the best innings of his career. To score a hundred on that wicket against the Australian bowling attack was simply sensational. Most of our other batsmen weren’t even able to get bat on ball and here was an 18-year-old putting together a batting master class,” says Ganguly who was a teenager back then.
 
Ganguly was dropped after Australia tour. He made a comeback five years later. In the second Test match at Lord’s, Ganguly made his Test debut. Ganguly recollects: “I was to bat at three, while Sachin was to bat at four. We were both not out overnight in our first partnership and he kept telling me to play straight and get behind the line of the ball. Next morning, he got out to a peach from Chris Lewis while I managed to get to a century. At tea when I went back to the dressing room, my bat had started to make a creaky sound as a result of the pounding it had taken. Sachin came up to me and said that as I had to go and bat I should drink my tea while he would tape my bat up. He did so, and I could keep playing with it through the innings. At the end of the day he said it was just a start and I should not give it away. That I had a long Test career ahead of me and should make the most of my talent.”
 
Ganguly even borrowed Tendulkar’s bat. “We played a tour game between the second and third Tests at Hampshire in which I batted with one of Sachin’s bats because mine was broken. Our bats were of the same weight and I remember walking up to him to ask if I could borrow a bat of his. He was accommodating as usual and once again I got a hundred. Most of the other teammates were way senior and hence I couldn’t really ask them for their bats. Sachin and I were friends for close to a decade and it was par for the course.”
 
In the third Test match at Trent Bridge, Ganguly got his second hundred in Test cricket. Even Tendulkar got a hundred in that game. He remembers: “[In] one particular session before lunch, he was finding it extremely difficult to negotiate the swing. He was beaten a number of times but being a true great was still not out on 30 or so at lunch. I was unbeaten on 44 when we went back for the breather. Watching from the other end, I felt Sachin was going too hard at the ball when he could have just timed the deliveries. Over lunch I told him in a hushed tone where he was going wrong. Post lunch, he was a different batsman. In fact, he reached his hundred before me.”
 
Ganguly considers Tendulkar as the greatest cricketer he has ever seen. “I haven’t seen Bradman, but he [Sachin] is as close to perfection as you can get. His insatiable hunger, combined with incredible talent, makes him a real genius. When people criticise him, all I point out to them is the 100 international hundreds. Can you imagine the hunger and motivation of a player who has achieved that? The difference between Sachin and a really good player is that the latter, if he scores a hundred in the first innings and has once again scored a fifty in the second, will, in all likelihood, play one loose shot thereafter. It happens to us all. Sachin, however, will leave nothing to chance and will get the second innings hundred as well. That’s why I always say that Lara was a great and Ponting too was brilliant, but Sachin, without any hesitation, is the greatest,” says the stylish left-hander who brought renaissance in Indian cricket because of his captaincy.
 
Talking about their combination, Ganguly says: “I will not be exaggerating if I say that barring Sachin, no one knows his game better than I do. In fact, on occasions I could read his mind with consummate ease. If he shuffled across to the off side with his feet at an angle, I could sense that he was lining himself up to go over square leg. In fact, it once happened that he was trying to hit Shaun Pollock over square leg and was moving towards his off stump to do so. The pitch did not offer enough pace for the shot and it was apparent that the wily Pollock wouldn’t bowl him a short one. I went up to him and told him as much, and he soon changed his plan of attack.Of course, he would do the same to me and on many occasions cautioned me from trying to play too many shots on the off side. Having batted for years together, we could read each other’s mind and that made batting together enjoyable.”
 
Ganguly took India to the final of the 2003 Cricket World Cup in South Africa. But before the tournament began he was not sure if it was right to open with Tendulkar. ” Before the tournament there was a debate over his batting position. I felt he should bat at number four and guide the middle order. Needless to say, I was wrong. We had a meeting in South Africa between John Wright, Anil Kumble, Sachin and myself, and Anil suggested that he should open the batting for us. I asked Sachin what he wanted to do and he preferred to bat at the top of the order. I had never imposed my wish on my teammates and agreed to the proposition. The rest, as they say, is history. Sachin tore into opposition bowling attacks and was instrumental in guiding us to the final. And this included playing one of his best knocks ever against Pakistan at Centurion on March 1, 2003.
 
Pakistan had scored a challenging 273 batting first. While walking out at mid-innings I asked Sachin if we should have a team talk. He was clear we shouldn’t. He said we were already playing very well and there was no need to disturb the momentum. Talk would only end up confusing the boys. I dropped the idea and left it to him to go out there and play his game. Needless to say, he did. We hit 60 in the first five overs; soon it was all over for Pakistan. Sachin had once again done it for us with an innings of the highest calibre. It was definitely the tournament’s most high-pressure encounter and he had delivered when it mattered the most,” recalls Ganguly.
 
“While wishing him a very happy 40th birthday, it is time I say it for one final time. He is the best I have seen and will perhaps ever see. No batsman in the next fifty years can score 100 international hundreds. Well done, my friend.”