Virender Sehwag on Sachin Tendulkar November 15, 2009

'Tendulkar controls the game'

What are the things that set the great man apart from mere mortals? The ability to read the game acutely, pick the ball early, dedication, discipline and more

The first time Virender Sehwag met Sachin Tendulkar was in March 2001, at a practice session ahead of the first ODI of the home series against Australia. For Sehwag, Tendulkar was the man who had inspired him to skip exams in school and allowed him to dream of cricket as a career. Sehwag was shy then, and didn't speak to his hero. He got 58 off 51 balls and picked up three wickets. Tendulkar later walked up to him and said, "You've got talent. Continue playing the same way and I'm sure you will make your name." That ability to motivate youngsters is one of the traits, Sehwag says, that makes Tendulkar special. Here he tells Cricinfo about 10 things that make Tendulkar stand out.

He never comes late to any practice session, never comes late to the team bus, never comes late to any meeting - he is always five minutes ahead of time. If you are disciplined, it shows you are organised. And then he is ready for anything on the cricket field.

Mental strength
I've learned a lot of things from him as far as mental strength goes - on how to tacke a situation, how to tackle a ball or bowler. If you are not tough mentally, you can't score the number of runs and centuries he has in the last two decades. He is a very good self-motivator.

He always said to me: whatever the situation or whichever the bowler you face, always believe in yourself. There was this occasion in South Africa, early in my career, when I was not scoring runs fluently, so he suggested I try a few mental techniques that had worked for him. One of the things he said was: Always tell yourself you are better than others. You have some talent and that is why you are playing for India, so believe in yourself.

Picking the ball early
He can pick the ball earlier than other batsmen and that is a mark of a great batsman. He is virtually ready for the ball before it is bowled. Only great players can have two shots for one ball, like Tendulkar does, and a big reason is that he picks the ball very early.

Soft hands
I've never seen him play strokes with hard hands. He always tries to play with soft hands, always tries to meet the ball with the centre of the bat. That is timing. I have never been able to play consistently with soft hands.

One reason he can convert his fifties into hundreds is planning: which bowler he should go after, which bowler he should respect, in which situation he should play aggressively, in which situation he should defend. It is because he has spent hours thinking about all of it, planning what to do. He knows what a bowler will do in different situations and he is ready for it.

In my debut Test he scored 155 and he knew exactly what to do every ball. We had already lost four wickets (68 for 4) when I walked in, and he warned me about the short ball. He told me that the South African fast bowlers would bowl short-of-length balls regularly, but he knew how to counter that. If they bowled short of a length, he cut them over slips; when they bowled outside off stump, he cut them; and when they tried to bowl short into his body, he pulled with ease. Luckily his advice had its effect on me, and I made my maiden hundred!

This is one area where he is really fast. And that is because he is such a good reader of the game. After playing just one or two overs he can tell you how the pitch will behave, what kind of bounce it has, which length is a good one for the batsman, what shots to play and what not to.

A good example was in the Centurion ODI of the 2006-07 series. India were batting first. Shaun Pollock bowled the first over and fired in a few short-of-length balls, against which I tried to play the back-foot punch. Tendulkar cautioned me immediately and said that shot was not a good option. A couple of overs later I went for it again and was caught behind, against Pollock.

Making bowlers bowl to his strengths
He will leave a lot of balls and give the bowler a false sense of security, but the moment it is pitched up to the stumps or closer to them, Tendulkar will easily score runs.

If the bowler is bowling outside off stump Tendulkar can disturb his line by going across outside off stump and playing to midwicket. He puts doubts in the bowler's mind, so that he begins to wonder if he has bowled the wrong line and tries to bowl a little outside off stump - which Tendulkar can comfortably play through covers.

Only great players can have two shots for one ball, like Tendulkar does, and a big reason is that he picks the ball very early

In Sydney in 2004, in the first innings he didn't play a single cover drive, and remained undefeated on 241. He decided to play the straight drive and flicks, so he made the bowlers pitch to his strengths. It is not easy. In the Test before that, in Melbourne, he had got out trying to flick. After that when we had a chat he said he was getting out playing the cover drive and the next game he would avoid the cover drive. I thought he was joking because nobody cannot not play the cover drive - doesn't matter if you are connecting or not. I realised he was serious in Sydney when he was on about 180-odd and he had missed plenty of opportunities to play a cover drive. I was stunned.

Ability to bat in different gears
This is one aspect of batting I have always discussed with Tendulkar: how he controls his game; the way he can change gears after scoring a half-century. Suddenly he scores 10-12 runs an over, or maybe a quick 30 runs in five overs, and then again slows down and paces his innings.

He has maintained that it all depends on the team's position. If you are in a good position you tend to play faster. He also pointed out that the batsman must always think about what can happen if he gets out and the consequences for the team. The best example is the knock of 175. I was confident he would pull it off for India and he almost did.

Building on an innings
I learned from Tendulkar how to get big hundreds. He told me early on that once you get a hundred you are satisfied for yourself. But it is also the best time to convert that into a bigger score for the team because then the team will be in a good position.

If you look at my centuries they have always been big. A good instance of this was in Multan in 2004, when he told me I had given away a good position in Melbourne (195) the previous year and the team lost, and I needed to keep that in mind against Pakistan. In Multan, in the first hundred of the triple century I had hit a few sixes. He walked up to me after I reached the century and said he would slap me if I hit any further sixes. I said why. He said that if I tried hitting a six and got out the team would lose the control over the game, and I needed to bat through the day. So I didn't hit a single six till I reached 295. By then India were 500-plus and I told him I was going to hit a six!

This is the most important aspect of his success. In his life cricket comes first. When he is on tour he is thinking about nothing but cricket, and when he is not on tour he dedicates quality time to his family. That shows his dedication to the game and to his family. He has found the right balance.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dheeraj on November 18, 2009, 15:30 GMT

    Hi All, I have read all the comments above from all the Cricket lovers!! when I look at it from a broader perspective, you all are saying the same thing.. the way you express your feeling is different. We Indians have alwasy been bit emotional and rest of you guys should understand that, just the same way we understand that your agressive in nature. But, best of friends otherwise? So why fight over the same thing... what you call the best we call the god.. what you think is hopeless we call them dead. its just how we see things... Is Sachin God or not, is not for us to comment. I don't even agree when someone says he is best in the world. But, ofcourse I agree is one of the best! cus when we say HE is the best! what about others who are serving their country? aren't they best for their country? I won't say he is God But sure thing He has been blessed by God!! cus his skill set is unique! We all love this sport so why waste time in arguing when we can sit back and enjoy~ Dheeraj

  • Karthikeyan on November 18, 2009, 6:02 GMT

    Guys.. Its good to have critics. It gives u valuable insights into ur own game. But, calling Sachin fails on big stage is wrong. In 2003 world cup, he took THE TEAM TO FINALS. Why do we always see his failures rather than enjoy and celebrate his success. He may not be GOD but he is a good human having pride in playing for his nation. He has inspired the whole nation. He has motivated a new bunch of cricketers. FOR GOD SAKE stop being sadists and enjoy the cricket left in such a great batsman. DONT PENALISE SACHIN IF TEAM FAILS. BE HAPPY FOR ATLEAST ONE MAN IN A TEAM REPRESENTING 1 BILLION STOOD UP AS IN NUMEROUS CASES. He has played his part in winning important matches and please dont expect him to win all matches for us which is not fair on our part. Others too should win important games. He has won Sharjah Cup, Hero Cup, 2003 Pak match, CB series finals, taken us to inumerable victories single handedly. Team India has failed him in crucial matches. Thank GOD for giving him to INDIA.

  • Alex on November 18, 2009, 3:04 GMT

    No one can be GOD. If you want me to use GOD word , then sehwag is GOD like when he scores 300+ runs. Like he was GOD like in chennai against SA when he scored 319. Like western people say "he is in the ZONE".

    He will be GOD like when he breaks Lara's 400 run soon.

    You can only be GOD in your own Reality(illusion). Read here GOD of sehwagology ( commandments.

  • Gopinath on November 17, 2009, 19:58 GMT

    whenever the topic of conversation is about how great Sachin is there always are some people who go on about how India has not won many games when he has scored runs or that he is selfish or this or that. But if take a look at India cricket we have never been a consistently great side so please do not blame Sachin for that. Sachin is the one of the greatest players to have ever played the game let alone the numbers, that he has lived virtually his whole adult life in the most glaring of public's view and has come out with an untarnished reputation says a lot about the kind of human being he is. 20 years is a long time and I think people still love him the same if not more and that in itself is a paramount achievement. Sachin has been India's proudest asset for many years and I hope he will be for a few more years and wins the WC in 2011.

  • Alex on November 17, 2009, 18:34 GMT

    Stop calling Sachin is GOD. Calling anything or anybody GOD shows that people are throwing words around and not thinking clearly. It is not about winning argument. You all are talking to yourself. So there is no winning with yourself. So stop messing ur own brain GOD this and GOD that.

    Sachin is average indian batsman who can't play well in pressure situation. That is it.

  • Pankaj on November 17, 2009, 18:23 GMT

    Santa... What is wrong in defending his own team member - if in fact Tendulkar did that? Secondly, wasnt Harbhajan punished anyway??? Tendulkar defended Harbhajan against out-of-all nations, Australia, a nation that is king of sledging... For more info - read this

    After reading this, if Tendulkar hadn't defended Harbhajan, I would've been dissapointed.

  • Pankaj on November 17, 2009, 17:55 GMT

    This is getting funny :) Everytime Grind1NSW1into1dirt and Alexk400 rate Tendulkar, they bring up on blot on his career - The world cup, which I do admit, is the missing link in Tendulkar's career. Both Grind1NSW1into1dirt and Alexk400 also add that Lara was a better batsman than Tendulkar. The irony is - Lara could not carry his team to any of the semi finals. Tendulkar on the other hand carried the team to Semis once and Finals once. Its also funny to compare Ponting to sachin. While Grind1NSW1into1dirt pitches best of Ponting to worst of Tendulkar, he fails to mention that Ponting is the only Aussie captain to lose Ashes twice, he is the only Aussie caption to lose a tri-series. To all those who think Tendulkar is not the greatest - why do you have a problem if we praise him? You should go to "Bash-up Tendulkar" forums instead of "Tendulkar - The Legend" forums... This article is obviously not for you.

  • Paul on November 17, 2009, 13:11 GMT

    In response to the comment by narenkash, I am not calling Don Bradman a GOD. He is a human being like the rest of us - just very very very good at the game of cricket, arguably the best ever. If you don't believe me, look up some of his records and statistics, I guarantee you they speak for themselves.

    In response to the comment by amit7701, All I can say is that you have next to no knowledge of the game of cricket at all. Bradman faced bowling just as fast back in his era as players today do. Have you not heard of bowlers such as Harold Larwood ??? In addition, he scored his runs on uncovered wickets etc.

    Universally, Bradman is the best batsmen the game has ever seen. No further discussion need be entered into.

    Tendulkar is also a great batsmen but he is no better than other greats of the game such as Graeme Pollock, George Headley (commonly known as the black Bradman), Herbert Sutcliffe and Jack Hobbs.

    Please stop calling him a GOD, he is not that.

  • Paul on November 17, 2009, 12:45 GMT

    garimellaj, the name is santa1969. I am not judging Tendulkar on that comment alone, I have already stated I think he is one of the great cricketers of all time but to call him a god, that's what upsets me. However, the "incident" I referred to earlier does go a long way to showing true character of people in my opinion. I would have had significantly more respect for this great cricketer if he had of said to the BCCI what he heard and then let whatever punishment was deemed appropriate flow through.

    I have no doubt one day when he has retired and writes a book (like all cricketers do) that we will find out the true story.

  • Garry on November 17, 2009, 9:17 GMT

    Tendulkar is apparently as famous for ODI batting as he is for test batting. One GLARING ommission that Indian bloggers fail to see apart from Alexk400 is that Tendulkar has FAILED when it really counted in WORLD CUPS

    2007 - India is humiliated on world television losing to BANGLADESH in world cup opener. Tendulkar failed with the bat. india OUT IN STRAIGHT SETS. C-YA AUSTRALIA WIN YET AGAIN - CAN YOU BELIEVE IT. ????

    2003 - World Cup Final - stage is set for the big one ! Ponting tears India apart with 140 not out with 8 sixes. Tendulkar c & b McGrath for 4 - FAILED AGAIN in the big stage. 1999 - World Cup - didn't see India make the semi's . AUSTRALIA WIN AGAIN

    1995 - World Cup semi against Sri Lanka - India lucky to make 8-120, Tendulkar foolishly out for 65, not enough to win - FAILED AGAIN just like India did that day. Crowd behaviour appalling - umpires award game rightfully so to Sri Lanka SL too good.

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