The 20-year dream

Sachin Tendulkar's career in cricket has been a testimony to his unflagging love for the game
Martin Crowe March 14, 2014

Martin Crowe and Rahul Dravid discuss the three contenders for the Cricketer of the Generation award

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bow lines, sail away from safe harbour, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.
- Attributed to Mark Twain

A thoughtful, wise man was our Mr Twain. He knew how we so easily tie ourselves up in knots, becoming boxed in, with limited thinking and endeavour. Then along comes a beacon, a shining light, to show us the way with actions of discovery and dream-weaving. In cricket, for these last 20 years and more, that light has been Sachin Tendulkar.

Selecting a 16-year-old in a tough man's world was courageous, and the apprenticeship Tendulkar completed by the age of 20 was equal to the confidence vested in him. He threw off the bow lines and caught a wind. He loved the strong force, the exploration, the unknown. By age 20, his sails were full and there was no stopping his peregrination, his journey, his pilgrimage to pay homage to the great game of cricket.

Sachin undertook this quest for a votive purpose: a vow to love the game as taught to him by his father. The true meaning of father and son sits right here. Ramesh Tendulkar inspired his boy to dream. And as Sachin revealed in his farewell speech, three decades later, it was a lifelong sentiment that drove him on.

"The most important person in my life, and I have missed him a lot since 1999, when he passed away - my father. Without his guidance, I don't think I would have been standing here in front of you. He gave me freedom at the age of 11, and told me that [I should] chase my dreams, but make sure you do not find shortcuts. The path might be difficult, but don't give up. And I have simply followed his instructions. Above all, he told me to be a nice human being, which I will continue to do and try my best. Every time I have done something special [and] showed my bat, it was [for] my father."

Incredible love is what Sachin had for cricket, and cricket for Sachin. Not a bad word said in 24 glorious years representing a nation addicted to loving a game - more than any other nation has cherished any such pastime. Nothing but sheer love abounded. And gratitude.

His novice years as an international cricketer were revealing and yet predictable. He struggled a little, as he should. He learned about failure and pain and he gained much in his first 20 Tests. Tours to Pakistan and New Zealand in 1989-90, England in 1990 (on which he made his first Test hundred, at Old Trafford) - his first ten Tests gave him a worldly education.

In his 11th Test, he played at home for the first time. It would be another ten Tests before he played another on familiar soil, in between touring the globe further - to Australia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Upon reaching the ripe old age of 20 he had played 25 Tests, scoring just over 1500 runs at 44, with five splendid centuries against three giants of the game - England and Australia (twice each), and South Africa. He had already welcomed Shane Warne onto the stage with dismissive disdain in his 148 not out (his second Test hundred) in Sydney, but unleashing hell was to come.

By his 30th Test he was averaging over 50. From there he would never look back. By his 100th Test he was averaging over 55 per innings, with 31 centuries notched on his belt. And so the love continued. And we all loved him back so dearly.

Over the next decade he kept sailing strongly, stopping at times to fix a broken halyard or a torn wing; his body was well managed yet the never-ending, sometimes gruelling, ritual had to take its toll. While his body needed constant nourishment, his mind and more notably his heart, surged on.

After 18 years at the top, concern of an ending was expressed by onlookers, yet Sachin stood fast. His ardent reply was to be patient, that these waters needed careful manoeuvring. It was India he was referring to, regarding protection and safety, not his own. His patriotism was extraordinary. And the loyalty he displayed to the cause, day in day out, was a mind-blowing trait. It never wavered, always resolute, forever caring.

Cricket is not just about performance. It's also about life. It's about how you leave an imprint on the young: the imprint of integrity, of honesty and of gratitude. Sachin Tendulkar lived this quality all his life

Through the nineties India began to find a new confidence and power as a nation. Mahatma Gandhi would never have foreseen such a mighty force awoken due to the birth of the computer age, yet it did and with the economy thriving and the cricket captivating, the one figure who kept emerging as the inspirer was Tendulkar himself. India rightly were in love with their pied piper. They flocked to see him play.

In late 1995, in my final match, after 14 long years serving my country, we played the fifth one-day international in Nagpur. Enjoying the small boundaries, New Zealand posted their own record one-day score.

During the lunch break, there was a disaster. Part of the ageing, jam-packed stadium collapsed and injured over 70 spectators. Nine were killed. In the dressing rooms, oblivious to the tragedy, both sides prepared for the chase by India, led at the top by Tendulkar. As the rescue operations moved in, the game restarted. Then, as Tendulkar took strike, the stunned and concerned crowd, amid all the melee, turned their eyes to the middle, transfixed. No one moved, they just watched. As the rescue continued, the dream ride that everyone was on began again. Another Tendulkar innings was underway. This was the behaviour of a nation obsessively engrossed in every movement of its chosen son.

****

Of course there have been others - Brian Lara, Jacques Kallis and Shane Warne, to name three who led with different, phenomenal skills. These men thrilled and enthralled generations, for they too played long into the night, fearlessly and instinctively. Their passion, courage, longevity and genius will never be forgotten. They stood apart in their own nations' tapestry, setting the bar high, leaving deep vacancies. They were freaks of nature. And it was a privilege to watch such richness exude across the playing fields, especially when they competed against each other.

When Warne bowled to Tendulkar it was like watching a volcano erupt. The heat was at it its greatest, exploding forth. Tendulkar on his day was that eruption. No one has ever forgotten it.

Cricket is not just about performance. It's also about life. It's about how you leave an imprint on the young: the imprint of integrity, of honesty and of gratitude. Sachin Tendulkar lived this quality all his life and he shared it with us all, as only he could.

It can then be said, without hesitation or demurring, that the greatest cricketer of the last 20 years is that little master from Maharashtra, the man who sailed away with every record and every heart, due to the love of a father, and of a game that fulfilled his soul.

Posted by   on (March 17, 2014, 16:54 GMT)

Do people understand the definition of GENERATION - we are talking about the generation just passed, the one prior to that would have players like Gavaskar, Viv, Sobers, Marshall, Imran, Botham, Kapil, Lillee, etc. If you want to debate go to the players of the 70s and 80s and decide. Stop complaining and crying over why someone was not chosen, instead appreciate each one for what they have done. Warne will go down as one of the greatest bowlers of all time, but with his off the field activities going against him he also had a lot of positives. Look at his leadership in the IPL, his views on commentating - insightful, how he repeatedly describes how and why a certain situation should be played out. His desire to continuously teach and impart his bowling knowledge to youngsters today anywhere. One could make similar arguments for most of the players on the list on how they have contributed outside the cricket field, so let us treasure each one for their unigue gift and not complain.

Posted by SRAMESH5 on (March 16, 2014, 15:35 GMT)

There are some who claim that SRT is greater than Don Bradman by a spurious argument that he did not play in as many grounds and countries that SRT played and that the Don did not play against the fast bowlers of the caliber of Brett Lee etc. What a load of rubbish as some desperately argue that SRT is greater than the Don. How ignorant these Indian fans are about the Don. SRT himself was overawed& overwhelmed when he met the Don by the sheer weight of Don's achievements in the Cricket field. Don never played any other country outside Australia except England. But then England was then the only strong team to challenge the Don. Others were far too weak. It is not his fault that there were no ODI's in his time. The Don's test average of almost 100 in 52 tests was an achievement which has no parallel in History. Please do not under rate the Don while over rating SRT out of patriotism. Some Indians suffer from too much adulation of SRT without being objective. They are irrational.

Posted by   on (March 15, 2014, 20:09 GMT)

Cricket is not just about stats. Take out the learning curve that SRT went through in his first four years and his ODI and test record will be far more phenomenal. However the key measure in this is not about best batsman, bowler, allrounder in any format but of best CRICKETER and Crowe partially defines it well as "Cricket is not just about performance. It's also about life. It's about how you leave an imprint on the young: the imprint of integrity, of honesty and of gratitude. SRT lived this quality all his life". This definition carries all the other attributes with it beyond stats I grew up in the generation of Gavaskar and still rate him as the greatest batsman since Sobers - he played the greatest fast bowling line up in history for his entire career without a helmet and no one has a better record than him in avg and 100s against that attack over 18 yrs. Think of his farewell 96 where he was actually not out or his 188 at Lords against Marshall and co. Bradman will be the best.

Posted by   on (March 15, 2014, 7:05 GMT)

who those don't like or cant believe this truth that sachin not deserve this then they may not know about cricket or cricketers.i think sachin is being always "THE GOD OF CRICKET". NOBODY CAN REPLACE HIM.salute u sir and miss u always.

Posted by jaykay. on (March 15, 2014, 7:03 GMT)

@Kangarouge With all due respect to Bradman, How many different countries he played against? And how many different grounds he played? Right from dust bowls in india, cold seaming conditions in newzealand and bouncy windies grounds? How many different opponents he played? how many matches he played per year? How many times he got out to catches which fielders pluck out of nowhere like jonty rhodes? How many times his shots blocked by diving fielders? Saw lot of clips from his batting, never saw any fielder moved a muscle unless it came directly to him. Did he ever face a bowler while the whole stadium is on its feets and chanting "SACHIN... SACHIN"? Did u ever know how much pressure it will put over you when you facing an international fast bowler in crunch situation?

Posted by Afg.Cricket on (March 15, 2014, 6:41 GMT)

Very very well deserved award !!! Congratulations to Sachin Tendulkar and to all Indians that once again Sachin brought the biggest honor to the country. Congratulations from an Afghan, Fan of Tendulkar. Love you sachin

Posted by   on (March 15, 2014, 6:02 GMT)

@Aley Raza - How good was Kallis in ODIs, especially the World Cups? You could have a debate about SRT vs Kallis when you're specifically talking of Test cricket - but when it comes to ODIs (and overall), there will only be one winner. And c'mon, who bought tickets to watch Kallis bat? There were only a handful amount of people on the ground when Kallis scored his last ton!

On the other hand, have a look at the Indian cricket in the pre-Tendulkar era and the present. He completely changed everything! #ICON

Posted by Alexk400 on (March 15, 2014, 5:05 GMT)

Hey cricinfo, I like this design and mainly font. Kinda newspaper look and easy on the eye. good job.

Posted by Vitruvius on (March 15, 2014, 4:33 GMT)

Those of you out here saying Kallis deserves the award and not Tendulkar should be looking at the complete picture. We should be looking at a players overall achievement, i.e, both Tests and One dayers. Its bemusing how some people conveniently ignores the one day game. Tendulkar has been the best One day batsman by miles ahead of anyone else along with being the best test batsman. The statistics dont lie. Added to that, the enormous pressure under which he had performed makes him the greatest of the generation.

Posted by CricFan24 on (March 15, 2014, 3:26 GMT)

Sachin Tendulkar - Cricketer of the Century.

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