October 24, 2013

A touch of Viv

In his youth, Tendulkar was the kind of attacking batsman who would have set T20 ablaze, had the format existed

A young Tendulkar: at his best when pitted against another individual © Getty Images

I was privileged to watch, from very close quarters, a child prodigy go on to become a true legend of the game. A batsman who stunned the world with his voracious appetite for the game and for making hundreds.

Sachin Tendulkar has only played a single international T20. His exploits in the format were all in the IPL and at the Champions League. You will agree that his impact on the shortest format of the game has been less than that on the others.

T20 cricket came into Tendulkar's life a little too late and cricket is slightly poorer for that. Had T20 come into the game when Tendulkar was in the youth of his batting career, he would have been one of the most dangerous T20 batsmen in the world. Sure, he would not have hit the ball as long as Chris Gayle does, but he would have given the bowlers the same kinds of nightmares.

Brian Lara in a TV chat recently confessed that he would have struggled in T20 cricket because it just did not suit his temperament; for starters, he needed a bit of time to get going while batting. Not Tendulkar. The Tendulkar that I saw early in his career was as much a master in the short formats of the game as he was in the longest.

In the early '90s we used to play lots of privately organised tournaments, among them various single-wicket, double-wicket and six-a-side affairs. These were typically two, three, or a maximum of five overs. Away from the glare of TV and the other media, we saw some mind-boggling innings from Tendulkar in these games. Whatever target was set, he would achieve it, single-handed. Yes, even in a double-wicket match or a six-a-side tournament.

I noticed that Tendulkar was at his best when he was pitted against another individual. This happened a lot in such tournaments, where it was a battle between one bowler and one batsman that decided the fate of a match.

I have been witness to some breathtaking hitting from Tendulkar in such events. The most memorable instance was in a double-wicket tournament played at Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, when he took Manoj Prabhakar and Kapil Dev apart to reach an almost impossible target to win yet again. Vinod Kambli was the lucky beneficiary as Tendulkar's partner in that tournament.

During that contest I saw some well-aimed yorkers from two highly accomplished India bowlers disappear over the midwicket boundary for huge sixes. It was the first time I had seen yorkers being dismissed in that fashion. That innings was played away from the international arena but the bowling was international-quality and the intensity very high. The strokeplay that night from Tendulkar left all of us in a daze.

Tendulkar was never the showman, like Viv could be, but that is not to say that he was less combative

This trait of Tendulkar's was also seen in the nets, where too the one-to-one combat brought the best out of him, and we would stop everything we were doing to watch. Sometimes Javagal Srinath, towards the end of one of Tendulkar's batting stints in the nets, would throw him a challenge: "Okay Sachin, last four balls from me, 12 runs to win." Tendulkar would come up with a counter offer: "No, eight runs in four balls." The negotiations would go on for a bit and then a number like ten would be agreed upon. The stage was nicely set: four balls from Srinath and Tendulkar had to get ten runs to win the "match".

Srinath would then set an imaginary field, and after every ball bowled, this field would be adjusted. All this would happen while the other net bowlers continued to bowl normally at Tendulkar. But when Srinath ran in to bowl, you could see Tendulkar's demeanour change. It was not just net practice now.

I saw this little contest take place many times during my career, and I never saw Srinath win. And the same went for the other bowlers who attempted it. Tendulkar was just too good for Srinath. He would play around with him and his "field". Often, to add salt to the wound, he would deliberately hit the ball into areas from where Srinath had just removed his "fielders". Tendulkar would walk off, pleased as punch, having won another bout with a bowler, and Srinath would be seen standing in his typical arms-crossed stance, having accepted defeat, but you could see his eyes were full of admiration for the little fellow as he left the nets to take off his pads.

When Tendulkar was growing up, he idolised Sir Vivian Richards, and it was obvious to us that he also wanted to bat like him in his early days. Tendulkar was never the showman, like Viv could be, but that is not to say that he was less combative.

I remember another game that wasn't on TV. Mumbai were playing Baroda in a Ranji match at the RCF cricket ground. Tendulkar walked in at the fall of a Mumbai wicket*, and we saw as he got up that he was not looking very motivated.

Tendulkar and Manjrekar after a defeat to Sri Lanka in the 1996 World Cup © Associated Press

Baroda had this pace bowler called Mukesh Narula who had a bit of spirit. He liked to play hard, and in this particular innings he took that fighting spirit to the next level.

Some bouncers were sent Tendulkar's way, and along with them some glares and words under the breath too. I suppose Narula wanted to show his team-mates that he was not overawed by the man, as they were. All of us in the Mumbai dressing room were thinking: "What are you doing, Mukesh?"

The inevitable happened. Bored till then, Tendulkar got charged up. The faster Narula bowled, the harder the ball bounced back from Tendulkar's bat to hit the sight-screen. I still vividly remember the force with which the ball thudded into the wall next to the sight-screen. This was not Tendulkar just scoring runs, this was Tendulkar showing disdain for Narula without uttering a single word.

After the match, I spoke to Kiran More, who was captaining Baroda. "Your best chance of getting Tendulkar out was to keep him bored. Your Narula gave him a reason to bat."

This was the Tendulkar of the early days. Obviously over his long 24-year batting career, he changed, but the Tendulkar with the ghost of Viv in him was my favourite Tendulkar.

03:54:17 GMT, 23 October, 2013: The article originally said Tendulkar's performance against Narula was in the second innings of the match

Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar is a cricket commentator and presenter on TV. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Indika on October 30, 2013, 2:59 GMT

    For the Folks who missed the point...

    Sachin we will miss you... Since 1990 you and Lara are the best two Batsmen we have seen PERIOD.

    When someone is the PRIZE WICKET of a team, that says how great that Cricketer is... And you Sachin, was that wicket of the Indian Team.

    But to be honest Sanjay is getting carried away here a bit with his emotions when he compares you to being having a touch of Viv... Honestly the only batsmen who had a touch of Viv from this generation is Lara... Even though he was in a weak team he came to bat trying to dominate the bowling. Who else would go for a six to tie the current Test Batting Record of 380? I doubt Sachin would do that...

    Let's applaud Everyone on His merits rather than compare them to another Legend or a God which tarnishes the Legend Himself.

    Let me put it this way...

    Bradman was BRADMAN. Sobers was SOBERS. Viv was VIV. Lara was LARA. Sachin was SACHIN. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY... GOD is, was and ever will be THE ALMIGHTY GOD.


  • Indika on October 30, 2013, 2:40 GMT

    @alarky... I appreciate your comment...

    I wasn't sure whether you were AGREEING with me OR NOT?

    I do see your point...

  • Dummy4 on October 30, 2013, 0:55 GMT

    A le gend of a batsman. A true gentleman on and off the field. If you want to call cricket by any other name call it SRT.

  • Dummy4 on October 29, 2013, 20:15 GMT

    Dear sanjay, You have missed the best, 1. His anhiliation of Abdul Qader in a 20 over match , he made 53 out of 18 balls & 4 sixes & a boundary came from a single Abdul Qadir over. During that period only the middled ones used to sail over the ropes . Nowadays the bats are so good that even the mishits travel the distance & that is what the Gayles , Warners & the Finchs enjoy.

    2. In the 2002 series in New Zealand, he scored 72 from 27 balls in 'Cricket Max' match & he was playing it for the first time http://www.espncricinfo.com/newzealand/engine/match/112812.html


  • beverly on October 29, 2013, 18:38 GMT

    SL-USA-Lions, You really have a gist of the hyper-emotional man that Sanjay Manjreaker is! He jokingly said that Sachin had a touch of Viv. It appears that Sanjay doesn't even know who was Sir Viv! Umpires used to try to stop the fastest bowlers in the world from intimidating Viv with bouncers. But Viv used to stop the umpires from interfering with bowlers - they were free to bowl what they wanted at him, he would defend himself with his bat, and that he did WITHOUT ONCE WEARING A HELMET! but from the time Waqar Younis hit Tendulkar in his mouth with a bouncer, Sachin spent the other 23 years bobbing and weaving from bouncers, until the comment from the box was, "he does not play the hook"! And, since that time, Tendulkar has been the most protective batsman of All Time! Ask the young 20 year olds, if they have ever seen him batting at anytime, without being fully garbed in every piece of protection paraphernalia there is - against even the spinners! Sanjay always gives me a laugh!

  • Vaibhav on October 29, 2013, 16:57 GMT


    There is no proper match report on one of the greatest Sachin innings I have witnessed. Fortunately you got to witness it from the pavilion in your last game in first class cricket. Is there anyway you could jot down a report on this. I am sure Warne can help you.

    It was also the first time Sachin made a double hundred in first class cricket I believe.


    Thanks in Advance, Vaibhav

  • Dummy4 on October 29, 2013, 6:57 GMT

    Despite his selfishness, he produced 34 match winning ODI 100s (Ponting 22 2nd) @ match winning 100 every 14th game (2nd only to Richards) and won man of the match (MOM) most time 65 @ MOM every 7th match (2nd only to Richard's 6). Given that unlike Richards who had great bowling to make Richards inns match winning, he like all Indian batsmen had to be content with poor Indian bowling, that makes his effort superior to even Richard's, therefore he is the biggest ODI match winner despite being selfish.

    He was too good therefore he could afford the luxury to be selfish. eg In his 100 he scored 1st 80 runs of 80 balls, even if he wasted 15 deliveries to get to 100, his selfish 100 would be at 90 S/R; Considering 250 avg team totals, his 100's always produced above par totals & he did it consistently. eg selfless Dravid had got MOM every 24th game & had only 6 match winning 100s @ 60 % win rate because Dravid's dedicated inns often fell short in S/R & total runs to Sachin's Selfish inns

  • Dummy4 on October 28, 2013, 12:34 GMT

    I was one of the lucky lot to see Sachin from his first series till date.As mentioned elsewhere we grew up with Tendulkar and cricket was our religion. I still remember the article by the sports writer in the Hindu mentioning the following : We are truly gifted to be in the era of Sachin Tendulkar like the gopikas had the chance to live in Brindavan with Krishna. There is no better word to describe the feeling of a tendulkar fan. Yes, there was a period when we all suffered the agony of his lean form and physical condition, but lucky to see some more hundreds and the swan song innings thereafter. Hariharan

  • Indika on October 27, 2013, 17:47 GMT

    I wanted to comment on the Cricinfo All-Time World IX, but the comment section is closed...

    It's a very good team. Bradman, Sachin, Viv and Sobers are Shoe-ins without a doubt. Hobbs and Warne got in based on the Merit of being two of the five Cricketers of the 20th Century. Wasim and Marshall would be deadly duo of a Left and Right fast bowling combination. Grace on being the Father of the Game. Knott and Barnes.

    I personally believe Lara should be in for Either Hobbs or Grace. It's a shame but Lara is Better than both. Warne out trumps Murali just because he's Leg Spinner. Hadlee for Barnes. And Dujon would be a better fit than Knott.

    So my All-Time World XI:

    Grace, Sachin, Bradman, Lara, Viv, Sobers, Dujon, Wasim, Marshall, Warne and Hadlee. In that order.

    Had to pick Grace because he's the Father. Sachin would be a magnificent opener. Bradman a solid rock. Lara the dasher. Viv the Destroyer. Sobers the Magician. Dujon, Wasim, Marshall, Warne and Hadlee.


  • K. on October 27, 2013, 16:23 GMT

    Sachin Tendulkar - The Greatest there was , is and ever will be. The best that may be said about some of his contemporaries - Lara,Sehwag,VVS, etc is that a few of their top inniings may perhaps be better. Thereafter, it is simply impossible to look beyond Tendulkar..Any where, any conditions, any time, an bowlers, any format- There is only one Master...And forever the Greatest batsman of all time.Period. Farewell Tendulkar...and thank you for the irreplaceable memories.