May 06, 2012

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SACHIN


THE MASTER TURNS A YEAR OLDER

Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar
He is India's greatest sporting icon; at 5 feet 5 inches he towers over other cricketing legends, over the superstars of the past like Sir Vivian Richards, Allan Border and Sunil Gavaskar to name a few and has raced far ahead of this illustrious contemporaries - the likes of Lara, Waugh, Ponting, Kallis and Dravid to achieve a stature equivalent to, if not more than that of Sir Don Bradman. As Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar turned a year old on Tuesday - 24th April, many believe that like wine, he seems to be getting better with time, skillfully changing his playing style to keep up pace with a game that is evolving on a daily basis.

An orthodox batting style, straight from the batting manual, solid posture, perfect footwork, precise hand-eye coordination, superb timing, the knack of punishing the loose deliveries - the typical features of the best batters from the classical era  way back in the 50s and 60s coupled with the trademarks that the masters of the past paced formats have introduced including excellent running between the wickets, an arsenal consisting of a wide variety of shots, the ability to change the tempo based on the circumstances and clear the boundary at will have made him the most lethal man ever to weld the bat. Apart from blending the best of all forms of cricket, perhaps one of the finest achievement of the 'Little Master' is the fact that in this age of paparazzi and sensational journalism he has largely remained free from all sort of controversies in the 23 year  long career. Thanks to his immense talent yet down-to-earth attitude, impeccable integrity and total commitment towards the country, he has earned the respect of the whole cricketing fraternity, cutting across the lines of nationality. Not only is he the greatest batsman of all times, through his persistent hard work, grit, determination and most importantly, the manner in which he conducts himself, both on and off the field, he is perhaps the best role model for any budding sportsperson around the world.

Every avid follower of the game, whether or not, he/she is a fan of the 'Bombay Bomber' will agree that Sachin has been one of the few players who have consistently performed well across the three formats in the most hostile of conditions against the most formidable bowling attacks. Gifted with a rare combination of a flawless batting technique and exquisite stroke play, one can surely bet on the 'Mumbai Maestro' to bat out a whole day on a deteriorating fifth day pitch to save a crucial Test match or play the sheath anchor's role to help India put on a massive score on the board against the toughest bowling attacks in an important ODI or help the Mumbai Indians chase a stiff target courtesy some fine power hitting in an IPL encounter.
Adam Gilchrist watches as Tendulkar drives Shane Warne at Sharjah 
Even before he made his debut on the international arena in 1989, the Marathi mulga had created quite a splash amidst cricketing circles in the country and many of the top cricketers had predicted that he would go a long way. The first tryst with fame was when a fifteen year old Tendulkar along with school mate Vinod Kambli put on an unbeaten partnership of 664 runs in a match in the Lord Harris Shield inter-school tournament. A sting of consistent performances at various levels soon caught the attention of Mumbai Ranji captain Dileep Vengsarkar and he was called to represent his city at the domestic level. A hundred against Gujarat on his first appearance was the beginning of a dream season that saw the teenage finish as Mumbai's highest run scorer. Next, he crossed the three digit mark on debut in Duleep Trophy and the Irani Trophy. Thus it was very clear even at such a young age that Sachin would one day go on to perform many miracles on the cricket pitch .

And unlike other prodigies that seem to fizzle out and disappear into the oblivion after an initial bang, Tendulkar has managed to live up to the expectations of over a billion people and continues to go strong, even today, nearly 23 years after he walked on to the Gadaffi stadium in Karachi to play his maiden test match against arch rivals Pakistan. Over the years, 'the Master Blaster' has moved from one level to other, lifting his standards with each game, reaching milestones, setting records and most importantly, winning hearts of the fans around the world. Today, the genius batsman holds several batting records, and at least the record books suggest that he is a strong contender to be the best batter of all times. He has made the maximum number of appearances, the highest runs and the most number of centuries and half centuries in Tests as well as ODIs. He's been a part of the team that was ranked Numero Uno in Tests and lifted the ICC World Cup in 2011. Though he has not been able to take the sport's newest format - T20 by storm, nonetheless, he continues to be one of the top contributors for the Mumbai Indians in the IPL each year.

A closer analysis of the Ton-dulkar's statistics, beyond the records may help us understand why he is the most worshiped player in the history of the game. Apart from scoring over fifty tons in the five day format, his excellent conversion rate - 65 50s to 51 100s puts him in a select league of players who have the skills and patience to play long innings and seldom throw away their wickets once set. In One Dayers, his strike rate of 86.23, courtesy his ability to clear the ropes by playing elegant stokes rather than reckless slogs has certainly made him one of the most feared  play makers of his times. His is the greatest performer in this format, having been awarded the Man of the Match award on 60 occasions and had been adjudicated the Man of the Series 14 times, both of which are world records. Another feather in Tendulkar's cap has been the fact that he performs exceedingly well on the biggest cricketing stage of them all - the ICC World Cup, a tournament that he has been associated with since 1992 and in which he has scored the maximum number of runs and hundreds. Finally, Tendulkar's record against the best team of his times - Australia has been phenomenal to say the least. While he has been the nemesis of the boys from Down Under, tormenting their bowlers, he also enjoys a large fan base from this part of the world, thanks to Bradman's public acknowledgement of his admiration of the Indian batsman.
Sachin lifts his bat after a Test ton
Though his individual record has been exemplary, Sachin has never allowed his larger-than-life image to adversely affect his or the team's performance. Understanding that cricket is a team sport, he has always given priority to the cause of the team, often at the expense of his personal landmarks. Over the years, all the players who have played with him unanimously agree that he brings in a lot of positivity in the dressing room, lifting team morale even during critical situations and most importantly, helping the younger lot in getting adjusted to playing at the international level. For the youngsters, who have grown up idolizing the 'Little Genius', the fact fact that they get to be in his company is within itself, a dream come true. With over two decades of experience under his belt, Tendulkar is the best mentor for these players and all the tips that they can pick up from him will surely come in handy during the future. And it is not only the young guns that come to him seeking advice. It was he who in 1996 convinced a reluctant Azharuddin to come out to bat during an ODI against Pakistan at Sharjah. The former captain who was going through a lean patch made a blitz-kreig 29 off 10 balls and helped India win the match.

Apart from cricketing skills, what the younger player can and should learn from this 'Cricketing Star' is the manner in which he handles pressure. Ours is a cricket crazy nation and the public can be quite harsh and unrealistic at times during criticism. Nobody knows this more than Sachin who is expected to score a century each time he walks out onto the field to bat. And with the 'Magician from Mumbai' smashing a majority of batting records on a regular basis, the expectations that the people have from their favorite cricketing hero has only multiplied. In the early and mid-nineties when Indian cricket was going through a lean phase, it was Tendulkar's effortless batting which brought cheers to the masses. All hopes were pinned on him and people would literally switch off their TV sets once he fell. Which Indian fan can forget that fateful day in summer of 1996 when an upbeat Indian team slumped from 97/1 to 120/8 after Sachin was stumped by Kaluwitharna off the bowling of Jayasuriya after a gritty knock of 65 in the semi-finals of the 1996 Wills World Cup? Fortunately enough, India did find a number of match-winners in the subsequent years but the pressure on Sachin still remains to be the same for there is an air of invincibility that will always be associated with him. 

In spite of all his heroic on the cricketing field, the numerous awards in recognition of his selfless service towards the game and the nation, perhaps the biggest achievement of the great Sachin Tendulkar has been that even today he continues to be deeply rooted onto the ground. In a country where cricketers are worshiped as demi gods, probably, his biggest asset is the fact that even though he was exposed to public spotlight and media glare at an early part of his life, he displayed rare maturity, never allowing the hype around him to affect his game all thanks to the excellent up-bringing in a middle-class Marathi family. Thus while they both started their cricketing journey at around the same time in Mumbai's Sharadashram Vidyamandir High School, the more flamboyant Vinod Kambli fell prey to the temptations of success, failing to  realize his full potential whereas the more restrained Sachin who concentrated more on the game rather than off field activities went on to win laurels and accolades. Even after years of hard work, the physical strain and the mental stress that he has endured in his long and eventful cricketing journey, he continues to march on, flashing the same child-like smile that had captivated an entire nation 23 years ago.
Sachin carries the Tri color after the World Cup victory
Today, as Sachin approaches the final phase of his glorious career, there is nothing that he needs to achieve or prove to the world. He has seen the biggest highs viz a viz World Cup Triumph (2011) in front of his home crowd in Mumbai and the worst lows - an ignominious exit from the same tournament four years ago after a shock defeat to Bangladesh. Apart from holding all the important batting records, he has been ranked as the top player in both formats several times. And the way he carries himself in spite of his stature has made him one of the best ambassadors of the game. Though his body may restrict the number of matches he plays in the coming year, the passion to represent the nation whose colors he proudly wears on his sleeves, the passion to play for his love towards Cricket - the game that has made him what he is today and the passion to entertain the fans - the masses who have been with him through the ups and downs of his life keep him going. A true champion, Sachin is perhaps, the greatest gentleman amongst all the people who have ever played the Gentleman's Game.

SOURCES


(1) Wikipedia : Sachin Tendulkar (Link)

(2) ESPNcricinfo : Sachin Tendulkar (Link)

IMAGES


(1) Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar
Original : Rare Collections of Free Wallpapers (Link)

(2) Adam Gilchrist watches as Tendulkar drives Shane Warne at Sharjah
Original : MSN Sports - Tendulkar on... his dad, cricket, God, Pakistan, guitar and more (Link)

(3) Tendulkar lifts his bat after a Test ton
Original : Tupaki (Link)

(4) Sachin carries the Tri color after the World Cup victory
Original : Anna Hazare demands Bharat Ratna for Sachin Tendulkar (Link)