G R O U N D   Z E R O

To each his Sachin moment, this is mine
Ever humble in his achievements, few will disagree that Sachin Tendulkar has made the impossible possible by achieving a rare perfection in the game.
Raj Chengappa

Raj ChengappaWhile watching Sachin Tendulkar play in his final Test match in Mumbai and listening to the reminiscences of cricketing greats on television, it brought to mind my own ‘Sachin moment’. The year was 1992, the place Australia, and the occasion the India-Australia series followed by the World Cup. I was covering the matches for India Today and had the privilege of not just watching the blossoming of Tendulkar in that series but also profiling him for the magazine as the ultimate cricketing machine.

Though just three years into his career and just 19 years of age, Sachin already epitomised the new breed of players who brought total commitment to the game in every department and form it was played. I had watched hypnotised as he scored a towering 148 in the Sydney Test that saw him become the youngest player to hit a century in an India-Australia series, overturning Neil Harvey’s 44-year-old record. Though as a journalist I had to maintain my objectivity, when Sachin batted I confess I so wanted him to succeed that my heart would miss a beat if a ball troubled him.

Sachin walks down to the field on the final day of his last Test in Mumbai on Friday
Sachin walks down to the field on the final day of his last Test in Mumbai on Friday. PTI

I had the same emotion when I watched him play his final Test in Mumbai. I applauded and sighed in relief when he crossed 50 runs and like a billion others was dismayed when he was out after scoring 74 runs. He had played some vintage cover and straight drives, apart from some delectable shots of the back foot and I thought the only other player I would go miles to watch or sit glued to a television channel was the other Great Master: Sunil Gavaskar.

Gavaskar was in Australia commentating during the 1992 series and I asked him what made Sachin special. He told me: “There are no masters in this game, only students. And Sachin is the rare cricketer who is learning all the time. He is growing at a phenomenal rate and the sky is the limit for him.” That he was going to be a great player was evident even then. As Tony Cozier, the well-known West Indian cricket commentator, said, “Every era produces its freaks. These fellas are special and seem to have the magic touch. Pele in football, Boris Becker in tennis, Muhammad Ali in boxing... Sachin is in that league. In international cricket today he is without parallel.”

More than anything else the determination to excel was writ large on his face. In an interview he told me, “I don’t want to be remembered as just another member of the Indian team. I get tremendous satisfaction from being a winner. My ambition is to become the topmost player in cricket.” He more than surpassed that ambition and the balance, equanimity and zeal with which he went about achieving it was truly extraordinary. Even at 19 he demonstrated a maturity far beyond his age, telling me, “Cricket’s a mental game and you have to be mentally tough to hang on. The moment you relax you are out of the game.” Who were his favourite cricketers? His reply: Gavaskar and Richards. Reason: “Mr Gavaskar for being so perfect in concentration, dedication and application and Mr Richards for his effortless batting.”

Allan Border, who was captaining Australia during that series, thought: “Sachin, oozed talent and class and has a remarkably old head on young shoulders”. He predicted that Sachin would be “the biggest headache for bowlers all over the world.” In the one-dayer with Australia, Sachin scored a solid 69 runs that almost took India to victory. Yet he was dissatisfied by his performance and with his eyes brimming with tears he told me that he could not sleep that night and had agonised over the shot that got him out. “I will never make that mistake again,” he said with quiet firmness.

He was ever the learner and when “Mr Gavaskar”, as Sachin respectfully calls him, told him “to wait for the ball and then play my strokes”, he took his advice and benefited immensely. As he said, “The problem earlier was that I saw the ball early and went for it. And I tended to concentrate on hitting the ball too hard.” With that out of the way, Sachin began dictating the pace of the game apart from dominating bowlers, and never looked back.

His identification mark for his gear even then was Number 10. I asked him whether his life’s mission was to score a perfect 10 at the game and he replied, “I know it not possible but I would love to be perfect in the game.” Few will disagree that Sachin has made the impossible possible and achieved that rare perfection.

PS: I met Sachin Tendulkar in person again at a reception in Chandigarh hosted by Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil last year. He barely remembered me but was as usual polite and deferential. I comforted myself that it had been 20 years since we met and there were many millions who wrote about him after I did.





HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |