India cricket February 27, 2013

What the Australians think of Sachin

When Sachin Tendulkar walks out to bat on cricket grounds in India, each one erupts like Old Trafford when Wayne Rooney's scored the winner

And for all the malarkey that goes with mega-fame he does seem a humble and nice fellow, our Sachin, despite giving journos the brush © BCCI

As those who watched each ball of his finely-sculpted 81 in the first Test against Australia in Chennai can attest, when Sachin Tendulkar walks out to bat on cricket grounds in India, each one erupts like Old Trafford when Wayne Rooney's scored the winner.

Everyone's up - fans, vendors, security, police, the chief of police. People can't help it. Sachin is bigger than Elvis incarnate, more popular than free money. When he gets off the mark it's like New Year's Eve. When he hits a boundary it's like he's saved the world. And when he notches up a hundred with a six - as he's done four times in Tests - the noise is like he's dinkum brought back Gandhi.

And when he gets out, you couldn't cut the stunned disbelief with Rambo's best Bowie knife. You heard it when Nathan Lyon spun one between bat and pad and bowled him - totally, completely, pin-drop mute. The Master is out? How can this be? The only sound was 11 Australians in white, exhorting. Got him! Yes!

I know a fellow who was at an IPL game in which Sachin wasn't even playing. Each time the big screen flashed to him being treated by a physio in the dressing room, up went the crowd - standing O.

That is a popular man. Warney never got that. Nor did "King" Wally Lewis nor "God" Gary Ablett. If The Rolling Stones were playing a gig without Mick Jagger and the screen flashed to Mick out the back smoking a cigarette, people would not rise as one and chant "Mick". They'd wonder why he wasn't on stage after paying all that money for a ticket. Now, smarter journos than this one have written an uber-universe of stories about Sachin, and how he's known like Madonna, Maradona, Pele and Pink by a single-word sobriquet - Sachin. About how he drives the streets at night in his dark-windowed car. About his compact, powerful batting; his runs everywhere against everyone in all forms of cricket. All that.

Some journos I know aren't so hot for him. On his last tour of Australia, he wouldn't talk to journalists. Gave everyone the shoulder.

Veteran scribe Malcolm Conn wrote: "Tendulkar showed no respect for the Australian cricket community when he was in Australia last summer either. At no stage did he ever bother to make a public utterance to his many fans and followers in this country."

Conn was also scathing of Tendulkar during "Monkeygate" and of the Australian government's decision to give Tendulkar an Order of Australia Medal.

But me? I'm good with it. Positive thing. A special award for a ridiculously special cricketer. Can't be a bad thing. And for all the malarkey that goes with mega-fame he does seem a humble and nice fellow, our Sachin, despite giving journos the brush. I'm good with the gong.

But I've never met the man, nor interviewed him, nor played against him. But I know some people who have.

Peter Siddle bowled three balls at Sachin he'll never forget, all in the same innings in Mohali. "My first ball in Test cricket to Sachin was amazing," said Siddle. "It was surreal to be bowling to him. I'd been watching him and those great Indian batters - Laxman, Dravid, Ganguly, Sehwag - since I was a kid. It was probably one of the greatest top-sixes ever. And I'd always think, 'Jeez they're great, imagine bowling to them'. "And there I was, top of the mark looking at Sachin, taking guard. This legend. I was four when he debuted!"

When Tendulkar glided Siddle to third man he reached 10,000 Test runs. With the Master approaching a century, Australia took the new ball. Siddle got one to nip off the seam, Sachin had a nibble and Matthew Hayden pouched a catch low at first slip. And Siddle had his first Test wicket.

Had coffee with Merv Hughes in Mumbai once. He bowled to a 16-year-old Sachin and compared him with another Indian legend, Sunil Gavaskar. "Put it this way," said Merv, "I first played against Sunny in '85. And if we still had timeless Tests, Sunny would be batting today. Bowling at great players like [Sunny and Sachin], the margin for error was very small. They could make you look like a fool."

Played golf with Stuart Clark once. We talked of the modern-day batting greats. "Brian [Lara] was great but he gave bowlers a look-in because he was so attacking," said Clark. "The hardest to get out, technically, would be a close run thing between Sachin and Jacques Kallis. They're both staunch defenders with very solid techniques. And of course there's 'The Wall' - Rahul Dravid. All very tough to extract."

Played golf with Brad Hodge once. His Sachin yarn is a bit different. "Walking out to bat [in IPL] I've sometimes been called 'Brad Hogg'. They'll announce, 'Next in to bat for Kolkata Knight Riders … Brad Hogg!' People after games come up and tell me how well I bowled to get Sachin out a few years ago with my left-arm chinamen. I'd be like, 'Thanks mate, yes, I did bowl well! A very memorable wicket!'"

Had a chat with a fellow called Stuart Kranzbuhler once. He's a master craftsman of Gray-Nicols cricket bats. He remembers Shane Warne coming to him because he'd been so impressed with Sachin's mighty blade.

"Before he hurt his elbow, Sachin's bat weighed about 3 pound 4 ounces (1.5kg)," said Kranzbuhler. "It was a massive bat. Warney wanted the same bat, but fitted in one the same shape and size as his own [2 pound 9 ounce] bat. It wasn't possible."

That's our Sachin - doing something even Warney found impossible.

Matt Cleary writes for several Australian sports and travel magazines. He tweets here