February 26, 2010

Tendulkar's glory untouched by fame

Tendulkar has given an adoring nation everything it has asked for and still managed to keep his game and his ambitions pure

Sachin Tendulkar sugar-coated the recent reality of India and gave its people something to cheer about. It is not easy to possess the mandate to lift the spirits of such a large nation, but he has done that consistently. The comparison with Sir Donald Bradman is not restricted to his batting alone. Like the great man who brought cheer to post-war Australia, Tendulkar allowed India to momentarily forget fires and bombs and inflation and terrorist threats. It was like that with the century he made after England so graciously agreed to tour after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. It has been like that for a long time. For better or worse cricket is more than a sport in India; Tendulkar is more than just a cricketer. Where our elected representatives callously fritter away the mandate people give them, Tendulkar has stayed true to it.

And he has never forgotten why he started playing the game in the first place. The best have lofty ambitions when they begin but soon commerce, like a tenacious worm, gnaws into them. Fame surrounds them and prevents the fresh air of reason from breaking through. They acquire sycophants, that great curse of success. Playing the game becomes a means to a seemingly superior, but in reality hollower, end. Tendulkar has kept those demons at bay. He has made more money than anyone else in the game, acquired greater fame than is imaginable, but you could never guess that from the way he plays his cricket. He remains the servant, pursues the game with purity. Through the last decade India have been well-served by like-minded giants.

And he works as hard as anybody has. Lance Armstrong once said that he wins the Tour de France not when he is cycling down the Champs Elysees but when he is out in the mountains facing icy winds while others are cosying in their blankets for an extra hour. Two years ago Tendulkar realised that his future lay in the way his body coped; that eventually his body rather than a bowler would get him. During the first IPL, as he struggled with a groin injury, he admitted that he found continuous rehab very difficult to live with. Once fit, he was like the child again, able to do what he wanted without worrying about whether his body was accomplice or traitor. And so he trained harder and rested well. You could see the effect as he scampered between wickets. Tendulkar's delightful second wind is the result of what you and I have not seen: hours in the gym and in training.

The best have lofty ambitions when they begin but soon commerce, like a tenacious worm, gnaws into them. Fame surrounds them and prevents the fresh air of reason from breaking through. They acquire sycophants, that great curse of success

As a result, Tendulkar's endgame is nowhere in sight. He is peeling off centuries like he did in his prime. The old air of predictability is still around; he is grinding his way through when needed, clobbering the ball when required. In this extraordinary long-distance race he is running, this looks like a mid-race burst rather than the finishing kick his age suggests it should be.

So why has no one else scored a double-century in limited-overs cricket so far? Well, because it is very difficult for a start. Assuming 300 balls, you should expect to get no more than 150, which means you need to bat at a strike-rate of 133. You need to be mentally alert, because one casual shot, one moment of disrespect, could be your undoing. But, let's admit, the combination of pitches, outfields and boundary ropes has rarely tilted the balance so much in the batsman's favour. In Gwalior the groundsman told one half of the class they were not wanted. The bowlers were the extras in a movie, seeking, at best, a talking part. The stage had been prepared for Tendulkar but he still had to deliver an unforgettable performance.

Inevitably the question will be asked: what next? I know there is only one thing he genuinely covets, and that is not in his hands. In 12 months Tendulkar hopes to play his sixth and last World Cup. So far his relationship with the World Cup has been like that of a child who scurries to the rossogulla shop only to find it shut every time. If he was a golfer seeking a Masters win or a tennis player hoping to win another Grand Slam, he could plan for it but he doesn't hold the key to a win in a team sport. It must happen, he cannot make it happen. But what else? Frankly, I don't care.

Tendulkar's journey is about joy and purity and a landmark is merely a comfort stop.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sreekanth on March 1, 2010, 19:23 GMT

    With out doubt,Sachin is the greatest of all time.His 100 centuries will seal the debate for ever.

  • Anjali on March 1, 2010, 18:56 GMT

    A Nation gets what it wants badly. Indian fans want personal glory and records, so that is all they get. And australians get 3 World Cup's, coz they want to win. Personal records is a distant thought for Ausies. Imran Khan may not be the name on top in a record list, but his undying will to win got his team the world cup, & and ditto with kapil Dev & Ranatunga. But our greatest hero is so obsessed with self and personal glory/records etc, he had an opposite effect on his team. The reason he failed miserably as a captain is coz the feeling his team-mates got was of a leader playing for self, so none of his team-mates could rise on the occasion. The same team was dramatically different when Saurav became the captain. Guess what, saurav always played to win. We fans are prepared to celeberate even more such records,and that is all we will get. Take this as a fact, "Our hero can never win us a world Cup". We need different kind of heroes for that.

  • Vinaykumar on March 1, 2010, 16:14 GMT

    @SatyajitM : One more thing to add, dont confuse again. I dont expect major accomplishments and personal landmark records( like your master sachin 200* ) are not within the same match or tourney.Just, a great player must have these two tags along with all other components. It is my take only.My opinion only,Hope you dont ask what maradana did, pele did,kapil did gavaskar did etc. or dont call them they are nothing, their conditions are different, they did not do have somethingetc. If so everyone lacks something. Again Lead into another debate. Having high expectations of a person to be great is wrong? I dont think so. Anyway it is my personal opinion.Some time I argue if they are making others let down and talk cheaply unnecessarily.It is just countering as a matter argement, not disputing.Hope you understand.If I say 200* in small ground and flat pitch means countering their argument that others are not nothing compared to this. I dont mean to dispute sachin's 200.

  • Vinaykumar on March 1, 2010, 15:58 GMT

    @SatyajitM: :) siorry if i confuse you. Confused is better than others let me happy with the 'confused'. I think you are confusing.I told zxaar that for me,means my personal opinion, just for my satisfication,I will think some one great if he had some major accomplishment and with some personal landmark record within the match itself.Basically I am not interested in accumalted stats.My take is that even if have 30000 runs before starting the match,it dont have much relevance to match result.I agree sachin has great stats, many mom.I never disputed.I dont have any problem anybody calling him great.I told out of discussion my opinion that I consider Bradman,Maradona,Pele,KapilDev,Gavaskar,Richard,Kara,waugh, etc.If we are talking about great there must be something great.That is what my take.I dont take some other names whom I like,though I dont consider great.I will get new tag even if I like some one also. Dont worry.I am 38.I am watching enjoying since before Sachin debut.Wrong?

  • Satyajit on March 1, 2010, 13:40 GMT

    Dear vinaykn, I am a bit amazed here. You asked zxaar about major accomplishments of Sachin, so I provided you link to a page which has a bunch of them. If match winnings knocks (and MOM) are not accomplisments then what are? Are you asking about fastest fifty, fastest hundred, six sixes, most runs in single innings? Why are those only worthful records? Lara has one with highest test score, Ponting has none. So, is Ponting a bad player? I don't think so. Kallis doesn't even have a double hundred in test but he is the backbone of his team's batting! And having fastest hundred in ODI will make Afridi a great ODI batsman?(having avg in mid twentees). Some of these records happen with flow of a match and if somebody conciously tries to get one of them he will be termed selfish. My friend, you have a very strange understanding of accomplishment. I cann't agree to it. I would surely not call you ISI,paskistani etc; but confused... maybe!

  • Vinaykumar on March 1, 2010, 12:40 GMT

    @ SatyajitM:Thanks for the concern.Actually we are in different kind of discussion.I was asking the ODI record(just records) within a match.,howmany of sachin have(like best score in ODI,fastest fifty,fastest hundred,six sixes in over etc.) a match based Records.It is not for disputing your master and not the stats you mention in the blog.Kapil famous for fighting sprit,had a record 175* when eam is 5 wickets for some 10 runs.Gavaskar famous for chasing,had highest scores wihle chasing.No need to mention Lara 400*,500*.Afradi/Jayasuria famous for slog hittig,so they have record.Yuvraj famous for clean hitting, have six sixes,Malinga 4 wickets in four balls,it was a great effort.I just feel he is missing some of these records,he got it one 20 years.I am just asking these,not disputing what he had.Both are different.Please just dont curse,if ask for something and treat me as hater,sane,foolish,ignorant,ISI,paskistani etc. Lol.Really lots of fun here.

  • Satyajit on March 1, 2010, 9:32 GMT

    Dear vinaykn, zxaar would have mentioned 200 was one of the match winning knocks as there are too many and they can not be accomodated in a comment. Please go to the link http://sachinandcritics.com/sachin_is_a_match_winner.php which gives you a more clear list of match winning knocks and achievements by Sachin (I wasn't aware of the URL but it took me about 20 secs to pull it up). I am not going to go over all those details here, but one simple question, would somebody give MOM to person without match winning performance? Then why Sachin has 73 MOM in Intl games? The closest I am aware is Kallis with 50. Lara and Ponting have 46 each. All these people are very good players and contributed for their country. I need not tell you who is the best in modern era.

  • Neil on March 1, 2010, 8:20 GMT

    Move over Don Bradman. Sachin Tendulkar is now the Greatest batsman of all time.

  • Rohan on March 1, 2010, 7:58 GMT

    There are 2 possibilities here. 1 that the "emperor has no clothes" and 2 that the ppl making these claims "have no brains". So lets see. Considering the indisputable fact that the emperor has scored runs against all bowlers, all over the world , in all conditions, in all formats for over 20 yrs - and that he has 31000 Int.runs ,93 int 100s -inspite of battling numerous career threatening injuries ,incredible pressure etc and STILL at end of it avg. as good or better than any of his contemporaries inspite of playing much longer and having many many more runs. The original emperor only had other opinions but unfortunately no solid "runs" to back him up for longer than anyone. So, unfortunately - this leaves us with only the 2nd option- the bitter ,tiny minority who cannot comprehend genius then simply "have no brains". Sad.

  • Vinaykumar on March 1, 2010, 5:36 GMT

    @zxaar: May be I am dumb and lacks of knowledge. That is why I am asking right? You must be super clever, so giving those answers. I am asking other than 200. You just mention 200 is one MORE. But you didnt tell me others, match winning personal records. I am asking major accomplishments. You didnt give me you are just telling "lot of". Can you please educate me. I really want to know what do you mean by major accomplishments. Please help.

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