Former Australia fast bowler Damien Fleming has credited Sachin Tendulkar for helping him improve during his career. Fleming, who shares his birthday with Tendulkar said the margin of error while bowling to the former batsman was a bare minimum and that brought out the best in the entire Australian bowling unit.

“In a way, he not only helped me improve but also other Australian bowlers, because when we first bowled to him we had no idea (where to bowl). Obviously, you started bowling better and better because the margin of error got smaller and smaller. He forced you to be more accurate. If there’s any swing, you had to make most of it. If you bowled a bouncer, you needed to be right on the money,” Fleming told Times of India.

Looking back at the second of the two famous knocks Tendulkar played in Sharjah, which in fact, happened to be on his 25th birthday, Fleming recalled how he drew a loud jeer when the crown was reminded it was his birthday too.

“I remember halfway through the innings, they put ‘Happy 25th Birthday Sachin Tendulkar’ on the scoreboard. It drew a massive roar from the crowd and he seemed to kick on from there, taking more control,” Fleming said. “As he brought up his hundred, there was another massive cheer. The game drifted away from us. As we were losing, they put up ‘Happy 27th Birthday Damien Fleming.’ And it was booed by 15 thousand people.”

The year Fleming was referring to is 1998, one of Tendulkar’s fondest year in international cricket when he racked 1894 runs in ODIs with nine centuries. Australia had come to tour India for three Tests in 1997-97 after which the two teams headed to Sharjah, UAE to play the Coca Cola Cup Tri-series. It was there that Tendulkar smashed back to back centuries, the first one taking India qualify for the final and the next one helping his team win the tournament.

“I am not sure how Sachin looked at his batting at that stage but that was the best batsman I bowled during the 1998 tour of India. He carried his form to Sharjah, scoring big hundreds. The final itself was amazing. We had a great team and scored a lot of runs in final,” Fleming remembered.

“It was weird because despite India’s good batting line-up, we seemed to have everyone in check, except for Sachin, who was probably doing it by himself. We had a handy attack led by Shane Warne. It was great to watch the battle between one of the greatest batsmen of all time and one of the greatest bowlers.”