November 13, 2013

Tendulkar: forever icon

In some ways, we know less about him now than before. The more he has played, the more godlike and inscrutable he has become
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Tendulkar has had no choice but to go along with what a billion people wanted him to be
Tendulkar has had no choice but to go along with what a billion people wanted him to be © Associated Press

Change is constant, but the pace of change is wildly inconstant. Some lives are played out in the context of continuity and stability; others must adapt to dizzying change and upheaval. Endurance, perseverance and resilience are all relative concepts: standing your ground is much harder when the sands are shifting all around you.

In 1989, when Sachin Tendulkar first took guard for India, cricket was mostly played in whites. The dominant team in the world was West Indies. ODI cricket was emerging but Test cricket firmly remained the game's gold standard. T20 was an accidental form of the game, a solution used only when rain shortened the duration of play. When the England Test team played away from home, it still wore the egg-and-bacon colours of the MCC, a strip invented in the 19th century. India was a passionate cricketing nation but a marginal player within the game's power structure and governance - money and influence lay elsewhere.

Twenty-four years later, as Tendulkar lifts his bat for the last time in Indian colours, survey the contours of the cricketing world today. Many more cricket fans love and understand the white-ball version than the red. India is the game's great superpower; it commands such huge television contracts that every other country wants a slice of the goodies. A whole dynasty, the Australian machine of the 1990s and 2000s, one of sport's greatest empires, has risen and retreated. T20, once a mere entertainment, drives the commercial imperatives of the sport.

When the final history of cricket is written - for our purposes here, let's call it the age of Tendulkar - his period has been seen as one of deep change and constant uncertainty. Yet throughout Tendulkar has adapted and endured. He has found answers to every new question - his 49 ODI hundreds are arguably the more remarkable achievement than his 51 Test centuries. And yet he has also belonged to the great, timeless tradition of pure batsmanship. Modern and classical at the same time, Tendulkar has been a cricketer for every stage.

It is a truism that he has faced a unique burden of expectation. That is partly because the changes in Indian society between Tendulkar's first Test and his 200th have trumped even the revolutions in cricket. In 1989, the Indian economy languished from protectionism and introversion. The beginning of India's economic recovery was the moment of Tendulkar's emergence as a global talent. That Tendulkar's career coincided with the emergence of India as an economic power was just that - a coincidence. But the subliminal link between the "Little Master" and a resurgent India provided yet another dimension of pressure and expectation.

So in celebrating Tendulkar's achievements, we are partly paying testament to the weight he has carried. When India won the 2011 World Cup final, Virat Kohli captured a deep truth: "He has carried the burden of our nation on his shoulders for the past 21 years. So it is time that we carried him."

Despite all this - all the many ways in which Tendulkar is admirable and impressive and inspiring - I have found it very difficult to gather together my thoughts about his retirement. My feelings about his career will not settle into a shape or a narrative. I can see the achievements but not the thread. I can list the feats and accolades, but the personality that achieved them eludes me. When I describe him as an enigma, I feel a failure on my part, as a writer. It is my job to find the man underneath the enigma. And I regret that I cannot.

My feelings about his career will not settle into a shape or a narrative. I can see the achievements, but not the thread. I can list the feats and accolades, but the personality that achieved them eludes me

When we watch athletes perform hundreds of times, we nearly always get to know them. Not from their quotes and their interviews but from the sporting performance itself. "An artist is usually a damned liar," DH Lawrence wrote in Studies in Classic American Literature, "but his art, if it be art, will tell you the truth of his day." Change the word "artist" for the word "sportsman" and the same point holds: trust the runs and wickets, not the press-conference quotes.

We see into a sportsman's character by watching him play. We know when they relish the battle, when they allow themselves to enjoy it, when they are anxious and unsettled, when they are confident or in the zone. With players we care deeply about, we know and understand them almost as close friends. Knowing and being known, the mask slipped from the face: that was the playwright Tom Stoppard's definition of the emotion that sustains meaningful relationships.

But there is a strange paradox at the core of Tendulkar's career. The more he has played, the less we can see the real man. The mask has not slipped, it has risen. The carapace has not shrunk, it has grown. In a strange way, less is known about Tendulkar than ever before. The icon has supplanted the man.

Only a handful of human beings can understand what it has been like to be Tendulkar. Bob Dylan, writing in his autobiography Chronicles, said the hardest thing to handle was not criticism but deification. When they called him a prophet, hero and saviour, Dylan replied, "I'm just a song and dance man." Dylan drew upon his innate savvy to wriggle free from the straightjacket of being a redemptive hero. Sportsmen, sadly, find it harder to escape the traps of idolatrous celebrity.

I used to think that Tiger Woods had experienced the weirdest of all sports careers. In his heyday, Woods treated his own humanity almost as a flaw, like a kink in his backswing that needed to be ironed out. Woods wished to ascend from human frailty into machine-like invulnerability.

Now I realise that becoming a machine is much easier than being turned into a god - as Tendulkar has been. Perhaps he had no choice but to go along with what a billion people yearned for him to be. But I cannot avoid the feeling that the god has gradually displaced the man.

I try to understand men; gods leave me cold. Perhaps that is why, when I write about Tendulkar, for all my admiration and awe in the face of his great achievements, the words will not come.

Ed Smith's latest book is Luck - A Fresh Look at Fortune. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • shumit on November 14, 2013, 12:45 GMT

    For many who have not been to India or experienced life as we live it, the Godliness of Sachin would seem an exaggeration of emotions, or patriotism brimming over. You have to live as an Indian, in India, to know how we feel. India is a land of survival, a chaotic society where nobody, except the super-rich, is sure about where their next good meal will come from. A billion people face their daily struggles searching for a ray of hope, a beacon. For the past 25 years, one man has given us billion Indians some light at the end of a tunnel. We look to him, we suffer with him, we cry for him, we puff our chests for him, we tell our own 'Sachin stories' at myriad conversations, we name our sons after him, we draw doodles of him, we pray for and to him. Is he not God?

  • Nutcutlet on November 13, 2013, 10:24 GMT

    The placard proclaiming: Cricket is our Religion and Sachin is our God, is famous enough; it seemed to encapsulate something peculiarly Indian, placing SRT above criticism, God-like indeed. And God, as Ed has explained, defies definition. In the face of God we are like children - unable to find words to express the overwhelming awe of the completely unknowable phenomenon and, we are told by the learned divines, that that is as it should be. I am not Indian and therefore cannot leap the Ganges on wings of faith. To me Tendulkar is the finest Indian batsman of all time and not a God. I can see his flaws; see that he's been in a protracted (almost painful) decline; know that he has made a small army of interested parties very rich & for the many millions of Indian cricket fans, carries the hopes & fears of a nation with him every time he goes to bat, many of whom say that SRT's retirement will end their love of cricket. Cricket is their religion? Not quite, Sachin worship is not cricket.

  • Amit_13 on November 13, 2013, 9:33 GMT

    Ed, that is quite an observation. He has become a machine, ironically to preserve his most human qualities and his self. I am confident as day follows night follows day that Sachin is acutely aware of his impact on the masses. If his mask had slipped, there would be entire generations following his every move and imitating it, possibly loosing their own self in his pursuit. The number of 'taches went up among the British Indians following Shikhar Dhawan's exploits this year. It would have been an epic change had he let the mask slip at any point in his career except the last two years. His self control and silence is evident everywhere in Indian cricket. His silence on everything is reflected from every team member. Qualities we see in him are there to be seen for those who look.

    A growing and changing India needed a face and a bearing... The era of Sachin just happened!!!

  • Fastspin on November 13, 2013, 4:01 GMT

    Well written as always. If all we need to understand a sportsperson is to watch him in action, there was indeed a long time in Sachin's case. I agree with Ed but see no need to understand Sachin beyond what is evident. There is no meaning to be derived, no motive to be discerned and no need to work backwards to deconstruct or analyse his character, personality or person. What is the meaning behind the beauty of a sunrise? This need to somehow fit his game and personality into a nice compact narrative is an injustice to Sachin and other artists. I rather like the fact that this lack of 'other glimpses' makes it even more rewarding to just watch him in action. That's how we should appreciate all artists.

  • on November 16, 2013, 15:56 GMT

    10) Lara may well have had a few spectacular innings, but then so did many others inc. Sehwag. Also Lara's flamboyance tends to obscure faults which cricket "fans" should actually realise: Lara had s distinct weakness against real pace ( 145+ ks - not medium pace). Lara does not have a single 100 vs. any genuine pace bowler till 2003. Then on he has 4 against Lee and Flintoff on the most batting friendly conditions imaginable. Tendulkar has multiple classic 100s against virtually every genuine pace bowler of the past 25 years. 11) On NON -continental "flat tracks". Tendulkar does better than Lara in Aus, NZ, Eng, Saf is the same. This despite Tendulkar's last couple of horror tours to Aus and Eng.

  • on November 16, 2013, 15:56 GMT

    8) People conveniently pick one particular "analysis" ( out of countless). Must have taken a while to find one particularly suited to his premise. In any "analysis" - the weightings are mostly arbitrary. So, though one may agree in principal on most parameters - the weighting is subjective and will change depending on the individual. There are countless other analyses showing Tendulkar on top. 9) Regarding any individual innings. Any individual innings always has luck as a factor. For eg Tendulkar's 136 may well be regarded as a superior innings to Lara's 153. The sole difference being one catch taken , the other dropped. But even if we arguably say that Lara's few innings were "better" - the same may be said about numerous batsmen - Richards, VVS, Sehwag, Botham, etc. etc. Make what you want out of it. Thereafter - any conditions, any where, any time , any bowling , any format- It is difficult to look beyond Tendulkar.

  • on November 16, 2013, 15:55 GMT

    6) Matt Hayden is at No. 10 in these peak ratings - ahead of Lara at 23 and Tendulkar at 29. Hayden had a poor start to his career but the matches/runs were few enough to create little drag later. Ponting at No.4, Sangakkara at No.6, Hayden at No.10, Yousuf at No.11, Hussey at No.17 -all achieved their best ratings in the mid 2000s . As mentioned earlier - amidst the greatest run fest in history. Did they face tougher bowlers and pitches than Tendulkar. 7) So- again the author reveals his lack of elementary understanding of how the stats are created. If you take Tendulkar's peak years such as say 1994-2000, or 1996-2002 you will get quite another "peak" rating as compared to when cumulatively totted up from his debut in 1989.

  • on November 16, 2013, 15:55 GMT

    4) It is in this period of unprecedented runs that numerous batsmen "suddenly" caught up with Tendulakr. So a superficial look at overall stats suddenly show all in the same boat. 5) The ICC player ratings are not "Peak" ratings as in for a certain period. They are the peak ratings attained cumulatively from a players debut. So, if a batsman had a poor debut the ballast will create a drag on future points. Tendulkar had a poor start to his career even though he played a few great innings . The consistency was still not there for one so young.

  • on November 16, 2013, 15:54 GMT

    1) The entire "Number of runs" and longevity issue is merely another feather in the Tendulkar cap. As far back as 2002 Wisden had him ranked as the 2nd best batsman of all time behind the Don. 2) Through the 1990s , for batsmen who played THROUGHOUT the 1990s ( MINUS minnows Ban/Zim) Tendulkar averaged 59, to Steve's 52 and Lara's 51. i.e for an entire decade Tendulkar was 15% better than the "next best". Needless to say - only the Don can boast of such sustained dominance over his peers.

  • on November 16, 2013, 7:21 GMT

    In 1989, when Sachin Tendulkar first took guard for India, cricket was mostly played in whites. The dominant team in the world was West Indies. ODI cricket was emerging but Test cricket firmly remained the game's gold standard

  • shumit on November 14, 2013, 12:45 GMT

    For many who have not been to India or experienced life as we live it, the Godliness of Sachin would seem an exaggeration of emotions, or patriotism brimming over. You have to live as an Indian, in India, to know how we feel. India is a land of survival, a chaotic society where nobody, except the super-rich, is sure about where their next good meal will come from. A billion people face their daily struggles searching for a ray of hope, a beacon. For the past 25 years, one man has given us billion Indians some light at the end of a tunnel. We look to him, we suffer with him, we cry for him, we puff our chests for him, we tell our own 'Sachin stories' at myriad conversations, we name our sons after him, we draw doodles of him, we pray for and to him. Is he not God?

  • Nutcutlet on November 13, 2013, 10:24 GMT

    The placard proclaiming: Cricket is our Religion and Sachin is our God, is famous enough; it seemed to encapsulate something peculiarly Indian, placing SRT above criticism, God-like indeed. And God, as Ed has explained, defies definition. In the face of God we are like children - unable to find words to express the overwhelming awe of the completely unknowable phenomenon and, we are told by the learned divines, that that is as it should be. I am not Indian and therefore cannot leap the Ganges on wings of faith. To me Tendulkar is the finest Indian batsman of all time and not a God. I can see his flaws; see that he's been in a protracted (almost painful) decline; know that he has made a small army of interested parties very rich & for the many millions of Indian cricket fans, carries the hopes & fears of a nation with him every time he goes to bat, many of whom say that SRT's retirement will end their love of cricket. Cricket is their religion? Not quite, Sachin worship is not cricket.

  • Amit_13 on November 13, 2013, 9:33 GMT

    Ed, that is quite an observation. He has become a machine, ironically to preserve his most human qualities and his self. I am confident as day follows night follows day that Sachin is acutely aware of his impact on the masses. If his mask had slipped, there would be entire generations following his every move and imitating it, possibly loosing their own self in his pursuit. The number of 'taches went up among the British Indians following Shikhar Dhawan's exploits this year. It would have been an epic change had he let the mask slip at any point in his career except the last two years. His self control and silence is evident everywhere in Indian cricket. His silence on everything is reflected from every team member. Qualities we see in him are there to be seen for those who look.

    A growing and changing India needed a face and a bearing... The era of Sachin just happened!!!

  • Fastspin on November 13, 2013, 4:01 GMT

    Well written as always. If all we need to understand a sportsperson is to watch him in action, there was indeed a long time in Sachin's case. I agree with Ed but see no need to understand Sachin beyond what is evident. There is no meaning to be derived, no motive to be discerned and no need to work backwards to deconstruct or analyse his character, personality or person. What is the meaning behind the beauty of a sunrise? This need to somehow fit his game and personality into a nice compact narrative is an injustice to Sachin and other artists. I rather like the fact that this lack of 'other glimpses' makes it even more rewarding to just watch him in action. That's how we should appreciate all artists.

  • on November 16, 2013, 15:56 GMT

    10) Lara may well have had a few spectacular innings, but then so did many others inc. Sehwag. Also Lara's flamboyance tends to obscure faults which cricket "fans" should actually realise: Lara had s distinct weakness against real pace ( 145+ ks - not medium pace). Lara does not have a single 100 vs. any genuine pace bowler till 2003. Then on he has 4 against Lee and Flintoff on the most batting friendly conditions imaginable. Tendulkar has multiple classic 100s against virtually every genuine pace bowler of the past 25 years. 11) On NON -continental "flat tracks". Tendulkar does better than Lara in Aus, NZ, Eng, Saf is the same. This despite Tendulkar's last couple of horror tours to Aus and Eng.

  • on November 16, 2013, 15:56 GMT

    8) People conveniently pick one particular "analysis" ( out of countless). Must have taken a while to find one particularly suited to his premise. In any "analysis" - the weightings are mostly arbitrary. So, though one may agree in principal on most parameters - the weighting is subjective and will change depending on the individual. There are countless other analyses showing Tendulkar on top. 9) Regarding any individual innings. Any individual innings always has luck as a factor. For eg Tendulkar's 136 may well be regarded as a superior innings to Lara's 153. The sole difference being one catch taken , the other dropped. But even if we arguably say that Lara's few innings were "better" - the same may be said about numerous batsmen - Richards, VVS, Sehwag, Botham, etc. etc. Make what you want out of it. Thereafter - any conditions, any where, any time , any bowling , any format- It is difficult to look beyond Tendulkar.

  • on November 16, 2013, 15:55 GMT

    6) Matt Hayden is at No. 10 in these peak ratings - ahead of Lara at 23 and Tendulkar at 29. Hayden had a poor start to his career but the matches/runs were few enough to create little drag later. Ponting at No.4, Sangakkara at No.6, Hayden at No.10, Yousuf at No.11, Hussey at No.17 -all achieved their best ratings in the mid 2000s . As mentioned earlier - amidst the greatest run fest in history. Did they face tougher bowlers and pitches than Tendulkar. 7) So- again the author reveals his lack of elementary understanding of how the stats are created. If you take Tendulkar's peak years such as say 1994-2000, or 1996-2002 you will get quite another "peak" rating as compared to when cumulatively totted up from his debut in 1989.

  • on November 16, 2013, 15:55 GMT

    4) It is in this period of unprecedented runs that numerous batsmen "suddenly" caught up with Tendulakr. So a superficial look at overall stats suddenly show all in the same boat. 5) The ICC player ratings are not "Peak" ratings as in for a certain period. They are the peak ratings attained cumulatively from a players debut. So, if a batsman had a poor debut the ballast will create a drag on future points. Tendulkar had a poor start to his career even though he played a few great innings . The consistency was still not there for one so young.

  • on November 16, 2013, 15:54 GMT

    1) The entire "Number of runs" and longevity issue is merely another feather in the Tendulkar cap. As far back as 2002 Wisden had him ranked as the 2nd best batsman of all time behind the Don. 2) Through the 1990s , for batsmen who played THROUGHOUT the 1990s ( MINUS minnows Ban/Zim) Tendulkar averaged 59, to Steve's 52 and Lara's 51. i.e for an entire decade Tendulkar was 15% better than the "next best". Needless to say - only the Don can boast of such sustained dominance over his peers.

  • on November 16, 2013, 7:21 GMT

    In 1989, when Sachin Tendulkar first took guard for India, cricket was mostly played in whites. The dominant team in the world was West Indies. ODI cricket was emerging but Test cricket firmly remained the game's gold standard

  • on November 15, 2013, 15:11 GMT

    I remember very well when Sachin hit one straight drive to one of the Pak bowlers in a match played at Sydney cricket Ground in 1992 Cricket World cup since then he never turned back and saw behind in his career till date Good bye to Sachin Romesh Tendulkar.

  • on November 14, 2013, 20:31 GMT

    Another great thing about sachin is he is a bit of everything as a batsman. He is aggresive defensively solid, technically great, beautiful strokes, most cheeky shots pedal sweeps, upper cuts etc unlike other greats. As veteran cricket analyst richie bernaud say he best thing abt sachin is purity in his shots. every indian fan has thier own fav cricketers but everybodies undisputed fav is Sachin Tendulkar may or may not be the same case for fabs from abroad but nobody cn ever say they dont lime SRT. tats all guys.

  • on November 14, 2013, 20:27 GMT

    You are right mate. Gods are elusive, difficult to understand and define. But being an Indian and keen follower of Sachin from beginning, We feel we know when and how he is feeling when he plays. I think for Indians, he is God in Human flesh. We understand him and yet there is mystery about him. Article is intriguing. Cheers

  • on November 14, 2013, 20:26 GMT

    First of all, let us all be clear of one fact : Not all of the one billion Indians follow cricket. But to the people who followed cricket, Sachin did provide entertainment and a plethora of other emotions like joy, commitment, ability to excel to the highest level, being aggressive by being soft, just let the skill do the talking and keep the mouth shut attitude etc. Personally speaking Sachin was at his greatest pinnacle upto 2005 like 15 years. After the emergence of Virender Sehwag, Youvraj Singh, Gowtham Gambhir, MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, his impact to the overall fortunes of Indian Cricket kind of lessened. What I personally want to learn and emulate from SRT is his humility and the way he has carried his life without any scandals. Success has never ever carried to his head. The enormous success, riches and the God like adulation and status given by the cricketing fraternity did not get to his head. The emerging players should take note of that!

  • on November 14, 2013, 20:21 GMT

    people all those who is talking abt sachin is not a match winner. watch start sports series sahinn sachin on SRT. you will know how many fight back innings he played. how many matches he got ind to respectable total until ganguly, dravid, laxman came to lime light. he carried indians from great from sunil gavaskar kapil dev to era of four legends dravid ganguly. if it is not for his great innings we would have declined as below as WI or AUS now. now he is retiring happily resting IND in the hands of wonderful youngsters. one example is IND team is never declined since 25 years of his career just growing n growing. IND is always a great side in cricket word in these span of 25 years only because of sachin playing in good and bad phased. Team IND never felt they are incompetent because of great mans contributions. No wonder he is god of indian cricket if not world cricket.

  • on November 14, 2013, 19:42 GMT

    Sachin is not easy to understand but not because he is disguised himself under mask of carrying hopes billion people (i guess most ppl think tat he remained silent on issues is becos he doesnt want to disturb his image.) it is because his personality is very deep to understand rooted in indian mythology. i remember his conversation with children on chikdren day. his message to them was " do watever you want, become watever you like but never leave your nature. the very nature of being a good human being and the rest is secondary thing. it was told by his father to sachin. that says it all. that is what Bhagvadgita called 'karmayogi'. watever happns around you remain untouched and do what you do best. the fame, the money, controversies ntg came close and changed his approach towards game. for me this is he greatest contribution to the world from sachin.

  • on November 14, 2013, 19:11 GMT

    fantastic piece...very well written

  • david_leene on November 14, 2013, 16:56 GMT

    Sachin - u were a part of my life for sure...i grew up with u.....u gave me good days when i was sad....gave me bad days when u failed :-).....but in finality...i am thankful to the almighty that I was born in your era....u made ordinary days seem like heaven......gave me moments and passages of time so pleasurable that i would go to sleep with a contented smile on my face...i never knew u personally or met u....but u I thank u from the bottom of my heart....God Bless

  • crazyuddie on November 14, 2013, 14:53 GMT

    Many of us have no difficulty seeing the human that is Sachin Tendulkar. And in fact, over and beyond his abilities as a cricketer, it is his qualities as a person that has made him our favorite sportsmen, and one of our favorite people, period. A couple of examples: 1) in the mid to late 90s it was clear what Tendulkar was going through countering match-fixing -- to most people match-fixing came as a shock; not if you were observing all that went on closely, including the anxieties on Tendulkar's face. 2) He was so crest-fallen after his 136 failed to see India to victory against Pakistan @ Chennai in 1999, that he could not show up at the post-match proceedings. Just because a person doesn't behave how you expect him to behave doesn't make him unfathomable. If anything, Tendulkar epitomizes how to live with Eastern philosophy/spirituality; to remain somewhat unaffected by everything -- fame, fortune, adulation.

  • muzika_tchaikovskogo on November 14, 2013, 12:06 GMT

    I find it a bit amusing to see comments on Sachin being above criticism. Frankly, the man has endured a lot more vitriol than most- not for his failures, but for not living up to the highly unrealistic expectations foisted on him.

  • InsideHedge on November 14, 2013, 2:08 GMT

    A fine piece, Ed.

    Tendulkar's career is simply astonishing. I suppose you have to be an Indian cricket fan, and particularly one that's old enough to have been around in the 80s to truly understand his importance. As Ed implies, he brought a whole new confidence to the average Indian, one that transcends sports.

    His importance goes beyond cricket, he's pretty much every Indian household's son.

  • davidlister on November 14, 2013, 1:18 GMT

    Picture the scene: Last ball of Day 5 of his last Test, draw assured, Tendulkar on 99, you are the bowler, what do you do? a) give him the single b) go for the wicket c) bowl a wide

  • bombaybadboy on November 13, 2013, 22:45 GMT

    Ed, your article is very perceptive. Throughout his career, Tendulkar has engendered in me, admiration, and admiration and... admiration. But never a jerk-me-out-of-the-topor-of-a-drowsy-summer-afternoon-and-take-notice type of bang. By that I mean the kind of thing Broad sometimes does, when, after bowling dross for ages, he snaps into focus and blows the opposition away in an afternoon. Or Gilchrist who turned games his teams way in 40 mins. of batting. Tendulkar was like the sun: too bright to look at, and so I averted my eyes and just got on with my day. What interests me in cricket are those periods of play where an individual or the collective impose their will on the game "against the grain" as it were, and with Tendulkar, for all his greatness, I never go the sense that he ever really did. To give an example, the India-vs-Aus series turner partnership of 2001 was Laxman and Dravid, not Tendulkar.

  • KapilsDevils1983 on November 13, 2013, 22:16 GMT

    @Nutcutlet - I don't think anybody thinks he is 'god' in the literal sense : Its more of an expression just like 'Cricket is a religion'. Cricket in the literal sense is not a religion, just a sport followed avidly and passionately in India : akin to football in Brazil. Similarly, I think people are trying to say he is incomparable as a cricketer. And people love him. Thats that really.

  • Santhosh.R on November 13, 2013, 20:50 GMT

    Surely he will be the ICON of the world cricket. Many people may tell Ponting is better than sachin, but that is not true. Ponting didnot have any pressure when he was in top form because there were batsamen like Hayde, langer, hussey,clarke,Adam and bowlers like warne and Mcgrath. All are match winners and if ponting fails to score others will manage. For sachin it is entirly different he is the only batsman who can dominate opponents and if he scores 100 india win if not we loose, so the amount of pressure is really high. People also wants 100 in every match whenever he is going for batting, with this high expectation and pressure scoring these much of runs are highly impossible. Being a cricket fan all should congradulate his 24 years of serivce in world cricket.

  • McGorium on November 13, 2013, 17:55 GMT

    @Stel En: Ponting does not have a better average, look again. Kallis and Sanga have an average higher by 1-2 points(54 vs 55-56). One bad series is enough to change that, so it's not statistically significant. Re. Sanga, nearly 60% of his runs have come at home (not even the subcontinent, just in SL). It's even higher when you consider the subcontinent as one entity. This is not his fault, as they tend to not get long test series in Aus, Eng, or SAF, but the fact remains that the sample size isn't big enough to judge his batting overseas. As to your larger point about him not being the best batsman of his era, I would certainly concur when it comes to tests. Kallis has nearly 300 test wickets to boot. I personally believe that Dravid has done more for Indian test cricket than SRT has: he has won more games overseas, and made more runs in difficult conditions. SRT probably has the ODI record which combined with the test record makes it hard to beat.

  • Front-Foot-Sponge on November 13, 2013, 17:44 GMT

    He just plays cricket. His reputation for not shaking hands with the opposition is what I will remember about him,

  • satty_kolkata on November 13, 2013, 16:42 GMT

    for those who doesn't understand the enigma of tendulkar. if u watch football then u might not think maradona as the best and keep pele ahead but pele always had someone to support him unlike diego. from '89 till the emergence of the TRIO of RD,SG,VVS tendulkar was the lone man fighting. batters test average increases if he gets someone wih whom he can build a partnership. that was ponting's, kallis's, or sanga's advantage.think who were their team mates when they started playing. i personally think if the TRIO came 5 years earlier SRT might have crossed 120 international centuries. yup do agree his form after 2011 wc left him. might be he shud have retired then. but you never want your god to fail..SRT was the hope of millions. he taught us to win.how it felt to win.we as fans get nothing other than satisfaction. just like u aussies smile when warney bowled gatting or u englishmen laugh when u win ashes 3 times. HE IS GOD COZ HE MADE US BELIEVE IN US... 101 COMING UP..

  • on November 13, 2013, 16:09 GMT

    To deify Sachin was the worst thing the fans could have done to him. Like you say, Ed - by putting him on a pedestal, his fan(atic)s took away his choices to err, to be human, to score a matchwinning 70 rather than a century in a loss. Not that if dimmed his luster as a top batsman. Some of his best centuries (Chennai 1999, Perth 1992, Durban 1996) have come in defeats. To brand him as 'God' was merely an escape for his fans, the 'extra' in their ordinary lives, for he was a singular symbol of success in a team far too inconsistent. But it also belittled his genius - and not the one which was bestowed to him by nature, but the one which fulfilled it's schoolboy-prodigy promise and some more for 24 years. To call him 'God' is to undermine how hard he has worked to attain relative perfection both on and off the field. I wish now, he can walk down the beach with his kids or go for a drive at a normal hour ..

  • on November 13, 2013, 16:01 GMT

    Sachin Tendulkar has been extraordinary, to say the least. He just kept getting better throughout the 90s and was terrific in the 2000s, too. He has batted well virtually everywhere, in all conditions. He has enjoyed success against the best of bowlers and his records are just amazing. In the 2010/11 series in SA, I wondered how he was still playing so brilliantly at that age; he did great in the 2011 WC, too. The right time for him to retire would have been after India's World Cup triumph, when he still had his form. He has been average in the last 2 years but that doesn't take away his 21 years of brilliance. He will be remembered as one of the greatest batsmen the world has ever seen and will surely be missed.

  • CRIC_FAN94 on November 13, 2013, 15:56 GMT

    @Stel En Ponting has better average than sachin ,i think you stopped watching cricket back in mid 2000's when ponting was averaging more than sachin and still dreaming of his past average. Pontings average is 51.8 something,very much less than sachin's 53.7 .And if you think average defines a player then follow these averages in away tests sangakara-47.3 ,kallis-53.7 ,ponting -45 and sachin-54.74. And another stat for you sachin never averaged below 40 in any country unlike sangakara has below 40 avg in WI,IND,SA,ENG ponting has below 40 avg in IND,ZIM kallis has below 40 avg in SL,ENG,BAN .These away averages are enough to put SRT above them.I have calculated avg per tests and if you calculate for innings their averages dip even more.And dont forget sachin played 199 tests and still he has good average but i doubt sanga,kallis and ponting atleast averages 50

  • MaruthuDelft on November 13, 2013, 15:42 GMT

    Surely the world's finest batsmen drew more attention. Sanga and Ponting drew less than Tendulkar. If you say it is because of Indias billion point two then they still drew less than Lara. Got it? Sanga and Ponting lacked the X factor which went with Viv Richards, Greg Chappel, Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar; only 4 in 40 years. Martin Crowe was a brilliant player but he too lacked the X. Now please don't bring talentless Kallis when we talk about Tendulkar. It is so insulting.

  • on November 13, 2013, 14:35 GMT

    Get a life, man. Quit the hero worship. Cricinfo has gone overboard on this topic.

  • on November 13, 2013, 14:18 GMT

    Sachin has most centuries and most test runs. But he dont bag the most important stat in test batting. TEST BATTING AVERAGE

    Kallis, Sangakkara and Ponting has better averages.

    It is difficult to make the case that Sachin is the best batsman of this era

  • thejesusofcool on November 13, 2013, 10:34 GMT

    ED

    There are parallels with Bradman, who always had the weight of expectancy on his shoulders when batting, simply because he was so much better than any one before or since.

    Sachin had to carry India's Test batting for several years, and by the time such as Dravid, Ganguly & Laxman emerged, the Bombay Steel was firmly set around him and his mind-set. It's a shame, because you suspect he has not been able to enjoy the successes as much as his millions of fans have, because he always has to prepare for the next time.

  • on November 13, 2013, 9:33 GMT

    Here's the thing most International journalists don't understand about Sachin Tendulkar's god like status. He was the ONLY world class player in the Indian team throughout the 90s. By ONLY i mean all the other 10 players were so bad and inconsistent they wouldn't make it to most International teams including Zim and Ban. This coupled with a few superhuman feats like decimation of Donald(1996), Shane Warne(Chennai Tests), Pakistan(WC 2003) and the most famous Desert Storm innings has made him God like for all who followed Indian cricket in the 90s. Yes even though statistically he was by far the best batsman of the 90s, him being the only hope in the horrible 90s Indian team smashing great fast bowlers around the globe when other Indian batsman were struggling to survived. That was pretty much the reason Indians wanted Sachin to score centuries even if India doesn't win. A big knock from him was the only way India could even compete leave alone win a match.

  • Buggsy on November 13, 2013, 9:29 GMT

    I still don't understand the obsession with Tendulkar. He was past his prime 10 years ago, and the last few were just embarrassing. India is much better off without him.

  • on November 13, 2013, 8:24 GMT

    Ed - by your own admittance, you do not understand God; then why would you embark on 'God-like' comparisons? I know you are not the first one - nor will be the last - to attempt such a comparison. That doesn't mean it is right. OK, this "sublimely talented" man can hit a ball with his bat - consistently, incomparably, more than any other human - but that's where the admiration should stop.

    I can try to relate to the mass-minded Indian fans start worshiping this man as their God or God send; but I expected something different, something better!

  • timeless_steel on November 13, 2013, 7:26 GMT

    Very well written by ed, I think the best quality which makes Sir Sachin revered and inspiring is that whenever he has come to bat all these 24 years, he has carried the intent to perform for the country in every single innings. The intent which is not only visible but also had made the atmosphere electric whenever he plays.

    Further, in order to perform constantly, the way he has adapted himself and reinvented himself in across different pitches, stadiums and against teams makes him perfect role model for the fellow cricketers and the generations to come.

    Thereby, the standards which he has set shall be high and tough for anybody to follow in whichever field the person is and shall make Sir Sachin nothing less than immortal!!!

    And still his life and adventures are many and nobody can capture those benchmarks in words as very well stated by ed, thereby i shall too end my comment by only saying "100 SALUTE TO THE MASTER BLASTER#!!"

  • vish2020 on November 13, 2013, 7:12 GMT

    Many wrote to say something about Sachin but as always u said it the best, Ed! Great piece

  • on November 13, 2013, 6:52 GMT

    Cant say it much better than Ed Smith "I try to understand men; gods leave me cold. Perhaps that is why, when I write about Tendulkar, for all my admiration and awe in the face of his great achievements, the words will not come."

  • CricFan24 on November 13, 2013, 5:20 GMT

    Another reason is Tendulkar's chameleon like batting . John Wright used to say something to the effect - you look to Dravid for solidity, VVS for a crisis, Sehwag to rip into the opposition. And then you have Tendulkar who can play all these roles...So- how do you slot Tendulkar ?

  • cool_mohit7 on November 13, 2013, 5:12 GMT

    This is the best article that i have read till date abt Sir sachin. Everyone praised him for his concentration and dedication towards game but no one really described the real sachin. Indeed an article so inspiring. G8t work from cricinfo as well. I really love to read all the articles abt sachin. THE MAN THE GENIUS THE GOD OF CRICKET. To carry such a hug expectation from the people and to fulfil them really takes some doing. The man has been respected not only in India but all over the world. Salute the LITTLE MASTER............

  • on November 13, 2013, 4:00 GMT

    great article . wonderfully written

  • Longmemory on November 13, 2013, 3:32 GMT

    Ed Smith says "I try to understand men; gods leave me cold. Perhaps that is why, when I write about Tendulkar, for all my admiration and awe in the face of his great achievements, the words will not come." Fair enough. But maybe there is another possibility: Ed Smith doesn't have what it takes to understand Tendulkar. Certainly a lot of others - Indians and others from elsewhere - have been able to write with empathy and understanding about the man, not the legend.

  • moBlue on November 13, 2013, 3:25 GMT

    ed, is an understanding of the cultural context missing for you, perhaps? ...for in india, we revere sachin not just for his batting, but also for his unimpeachable decency. tales abound of how sachin always treated his fans and the ordinary indians he came across in his day-to-day life... which - along with his incredible humility - makes him a gem!

    on the ballPark, he was a sublimely talented, shrewd fighter with a never-say-die attitude who gave it his all each and every time he played... and one who worked tirelessly at preserving his excellence, one who played his sport fairly, and one in whom joy of the sport was evident at all time!

    off the ballPark, he was a supremely decent man.

    where is the enigma? :)

  • moBlue on November 13, 2013, 3:25 GMT

    ed, is an understanding of the cultural context missing for you, perhaps? ...for in india, we revere sachin not just for his batting, but also for his unimpeachable decency. tales abound of how sachin always treated his fans and the ordinary indians he came across in his day-to-day life... which - along with his incredible humility - makes him a gem!

    on the ballPark, he was a sublimely talented, shrewd fighter with a never-say-die attitude who gave it his all each and every time he played... and one who worked tirelessly at preserving his excellence, one who played his sport fairly, and one in whom joy of the sport was evident at all time!

    off the ballPark, he was a supremely decent man.

    where is the enigma? :)

  • Longmemory on November 13, 2013, 3:32 GMT

    Ed Smith says "I try to understand men; gods leave me cold. Perhaps that is why, when I write about Tendulkar, for all my admiration and awe in the face of his great achievements, the words will not come." Fair enough. But maybe there is another possibility: Ed Smith doesn't have what it takes to understand Tendulkar. Certainly a lot of others - Indians and others from elsewhere - have been able to write with empathy and understanding about the man, not the legend.

  • on November 13, 2013, 4:00 GMT

    great article . wonderfully written

  • cool_mohit7 on November 13, 2013, 5:12 GMT

    This is the best article that i have read till date abt Sir sachin. Everyone praised him for his concentration and dedication towards game but no one really described the real sachin. Indeed an article so inspiring. G8t work from cricinfo as well. I really love to read all the articles abt sachin. THE MAN THE GENIUS THE GOD OF CRICKET. To carry such a hug expectation from the people and to fulfil them really takes some doing. The man has been respected not only in India but all over the world. Salute the LITTLE MASTER............

  • CricFan24 on November 13, 2013, 5:20 GMT

    Another reason is Tendulkar's chameleon like batting . John Wright used to say something to the effect - you look to Dravid for solidity, VVS for a crisis, Sehwag to rip into the opposition. And then you have Tendulkar who can play all these roles...So- how do you slot Tendulkar ?

  • on November 13, 2013, 6:52 GMT

    Cant say it much better than Ed Smith "I try to understand men; gods leave me cold. Perhaps that is why, when I write about Tendulkar, for all my admiration and awe in the face of his great achievements, the words will not come."

  • vish2020 on November 13, 2013, 7:12 GMT

    Many wrote to say something about Sachin but as always u said it the best, Ed! Great piece

  • timeless_steel on November 13, 2013, 7:26 GMT

    Very well written by ed, I think the best quality which makes Sir Sachin revered and inspiring is that whenever he has come to bat all these 24 years, he has carried the intent to perform for the country in every single innings. The intent which is not only visible but also had made the atmosphere electric whenever he plays.

    Further, in order to perform constantly, the way he has adapted himself and reinvented himself in across different pitches, stadiums and against teams makes him perfect role model for the fellow cricketers and the generations to come.

    Thereby, the standards which he has set shall be high and tough for anybody to follow in whichever field the person is and shall make Sir Sachin nothing less than immortal!!!

    And still his life and adventures are many and nobody can capture those benchmarks in words as very well stated by ed, thereby i shall too end my comment by only saying "100 SALUTE TO THE MASTER BLASTER#!!"

  • on November 13, 2013, 8:24 GMT

    Ed - by your own admittance, you do not understand God; then why would you embark on 'God-like' comparisons? I know you are not the first one - nor will be the last - to attempt such a comparison. That doesn't mean it is right. OK, this "sublimely talented" man can hit a ball with his bat - consistently, incomparably, more than any other human - but that's where the admiration should stop.

    I can try to relate to the mass-minded Indian fans start worshiping this man as their God or God send; but I expected something different, something better!

  • Buggsy on November 13, 2013, 9:29 GMT

    I still don't understand the obsession with Tendulkar. He was past his prime 10 years ago, and the last few were just embarrassing. India is much better off without him.