The talking points of the moment

'Sachin's biggest asset is his desire'

Geoff Boycott on the key to Tendulkar's longevity and where he ranks among the greats as he reaches yet another landmark (11:43)

Producer: Siddhartha Talya

January 6, 2012


'Sachin's biggest asset is his desire'

January 6, 2012

Sachin Tendulkar raced to a half-century off 33 balls , India v South Africa, Group B, World Cup, Nagpur, March 12, 2011
"A truly great batsman and person" © AFP

How do you judge Sachin Tendulkar in the pantheon of all the great batsmen the world has ever seen?

Do you judge a player purely on statistics? I don't think so. I don't think it's fair to the players of the past. If you go back to the past and look at the history of the game, you'll see how the sport has changed. Earlier it was just England v Australia. There was no West Indies or India, or Pakistan - until partition. It's very difficult to judge the old-timers based on how many Tests they played and their averages etc.

Why are their averages different? Throughout the history of cricket, the rules and the game have changed from time to time. You look at players from WG Grace's time - the old man with the beard and the red-and-yellow cap… if you look at his figures alone, he didn't play any one-dayers. Many players didn't. And Test matches only involved England and Australia. Grace played 22 of them against Sachin's 177 and none against Sachin's 449 ODIs. If you look at his average, which is in the early 30s, you think, "How can he be a great player?" when Sachin's average is in the 50s. The fact is, he played on pitches which had stones on them - they were poor.

You have to judge batsmen of any era in the era that they played, against the other players of that era. Also, try to look at the rules they played under, the opposition bowlers, the type of pitches.

How does Sachin compare to the batsmen in the last 20 years? In my opinion, there's just one player who comes close to Sachin and that's Brian Lara. He's probably equivalent to him or on par in the last 20 years. I'm leaving out the time before that. The likes of Viv Richards, Garry Sobers, Sunil Gavaskar - these were players 20 years past that.

Let's go back to the golden era of batting in the 1920s and '30s. They had good pitches, like today, but they also had an easier lbw rule. Until 1937, you couldn't be out lbw until the ball pitched between wicket to wicket. If a ball pitched outside off stump from a turning offspinner , you couldn't be out even if it was knocking middle stump off. Also, bowlers had to bowl at off stump. It was thought negative and frowned upon, even rebuked, if they bowled on leg stump. Just think of what happened in the Bodyline series of 1932-33, when Douglas Jardine got Harold Larwood to bowl at the body with a leg-side field. He was absolutely crucified. Larwood never played for England again after that series because he was hounded out. He wouldn't apologise for following the captain's instructions.

Then you go on to the post-golden era phase, which Jack Hobbs played in. When they did have a bad pitch and when it rained, like in England, he was said to be the best bad-pitch player there had ever been. Now Hobbs, great as he was and playing as long as he did, played just 61 Tests. I repeat: Sachin's got 177 so far. And Hobbs played a long time. To give you an idea, he scored 100 first-class centuries after he was 40. So, keep going Sachin.

Then you have great players like George Headley. You ever heard of him? The Black Bradman? Headley only played 22 Tests. He averaged around 60. He got 10 centuries; that's nearly one in every two Tests.

There are people like Graeme Pollock in the 1960s. What a fantastic left-hand batsman for South Africa he was. He couldn't play much Test cricket because of apartheid. South Africa were banned. Even when he came to play in Packer cricket in Australia, he was signed up by Packer and then sent home because a lot of Caribbean governments complained.

If you look at the rest, well, you also look at Victor Trumper in the early days - he only played 48 Tests. So in this game it's not easy to judge who is the greatest. Except for Don Bradman, who was a genius, way out on his own.

So, the way I'm looking at it, in today's cricket, Sachin's been the best there's been, along with Lara, for the last 20 years. He plays - which is a plus for him - a lot of one-day cricket. So his figures can be enormous compared with a lot of other players.

"One of the greatest batsmen of all time, with or without the figures. The figures would look unbelievably good compared to players of the past, but he's up there, in that pantheon of true greats. And about him, you can use that word properly"

The present day, in some ways, it's been easier to play in. There's better covering for pitches, so they're flatter and better for batting. There are no uncovered pitches with rain on them - you don't have to play anymore on those old sticky dogs in Australia. You've got heavier bats with more hitting power. The pace at which the ball comes off the bat - just the way golf and tennis have improved, so has cricket. Jack Nicklaus was considered a great hitter in golf, and he used to hit the ball approximately 260 yards. Today, that's poor. They're always hitting around 290, some 310. That's because the ball has improved, the shaft on the clubs has improved. In cricket, our bats have improved, our pitches have improved.

If we judge Sachin against other players, who've played with the heavy bats and the better pitches, played against the same bowlers, then they haven't matched his performances. That's how I judge players.

Why has he done so well over such a long period? Playing 453 ODIs, that's a year and a half of ODIs isn't it? And 177 Tests. It's because, first of all, he's had fantastic ability. His talent is undeniable. His technique is superb. I'm using words properly here.

You could follow him, watch him as a young boy and teach a young boy to play like him. He loves batting, but the biggest and most important factor in all that is his desire. He loves batting, he loves playing cricket. You've got to have this desire. And that becomes more important as you get older.

I played Test cricket till I was 41, so there's time for Sachin to play some more. I played county cricket for Yorkshire till I was 46. People used to ask me when I was in my late 30s and early 40s, did I still enjoy it? They couldn't believe it. When people have played cricket at the top for 10, 12 or 14 years, they've explored the world, staying in hotels, being away from home. It's wonderful at first but then it gets tiresome. You've done it time and time again. It tends to fall a bit, becomes a little boring, a little tedious. The thing is, I used to say, "I love it." I used to wake up in the morning and before I made a cup of tea, I used to open the curtains: is it a nice day? And I'm thrilled to go to the cricket. Once you've got that desire, that feeling of enjoyment that you're looking forward to… if Sachin can retain that - and he's done that up to now - there's no reason why he can't play on for a few more years.

Sachin Tendulkar chats with Brian Lara during a benefit match to raise funds for victims of the Asian tsunami in 2004, The Oval, June 20, 2005
"The best along with Lara in the last 20 years" © AFP

He works at his fitness. That's vital. As you get older, you have to work harder at it because the muscles need more work. You have to know how to pace yourself as well. How to train, how to practise and then say, "I'll take a little rest, my body is not as young as it was." And he knows that. He's a sensible, bright and intelligent lad.

Has his cricket changed from when he first started to now? I'd be surprised if it hasn't, and if it hasn't then of course it has. When you're young you're cocky, you're confident. There's a little brashness at times. You want to take on the world. Why not? Sachin's been like that at times. Now he's got older, he's intelligent and smart in a clever way.

If you watch him in one-day cricket, with Virender Sehwag upfront, who's taking on the bowlers and playing shots from the word go, the focus is on Sehwag. Every bowler running up to Sehwag knows he's out to hit the first ball out of the park. As the focus is on Sehwag. That allows Sachin more time to settle in. The focus is not only on him in ODIs. He can take a little time, get himself in, collect a few runs. Once he's got his eye in, his timing and his feet moving, then he can start to accelerate. That's smart. That's just the way life is.

As you get a little older, your reflexes slow down a little bit, you can't do certain things that you used to do before. And it's not just one moment in your life that that happens. It's a gradual process, like gradually growing old. What you do is learn to accept it - that's the clever thing - and not fight it. When you get older, certain things you're not quick enough to do: your feet don't get into place quite as quick, you'll learn to use your head. You've gained experience, you've gained maturity, you've gained knowledge because you've been around a long time. You use all that to offset the little things you could do better when you were younger. Sachin's smart enough to have done that over the last few years.

Sachin has handled pressure well. There's always pressure for any player playing international sport, not just cricket. It's probably quite a bit more in India, where there is a lot of expectation from a billion people who are mad about cricket. The expectation that you'll get a hundred every time, that you'll win every match. And anybody with any brains knows that ain't going to happen. It just does not happen to anybody. So he's handled it well.

He's been smart. He's not got involved in controversy. He's kept his dignity, he's let his bat do the talking for him, he's not made outrageous comments that can put extra pressure on him. He's just avoided that because he is clever and sensible.

So, finally, how would I rate him? One of the greatest batsmen of all time, with or without the figures. The figures would look unbelievably good compared to players of the past, but he's up there in that pantheon of true greats. And about him, you can use that word properly - he truly is a great batsman and a great person.

This comment was recorded on March 19, 2011, on the eve of the World Cup game between India and West Indies in Chennai

Posted by ooper_cut on (March 20, 2012, 9:44 GMT)

The old dog will never give up his old tribe, As the game has changed over the years, so have the players and their skills, it is not about the heavier bats or the flatter pitches alone. How about man's ever evolving brain and brawn. Give it up Boycs, you guys were slow and boring. Sachin came and changed the way cricket was played, this is for everyone not just Indians.

Posted by   on (March 17, 2012, 17:36 GMT)

I say Sachin is the best ever batsmen born...he has won a world cup and was part of no.1 test side..Bradman only played against England..sachin had to play all around the world..we see endlish batsmen scoring tons of runs in Australia and england struugle to survive in asia..who knows how bradman would have played against i say we the greatest batsman all of time in our time..letz celebrate this genuis's success..

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