'Just bowl him another long hop'
In the 1992 World Cup, Sachin was the youngest player and I was the oldest player in the tournament. I guess both of us were thinking the same thing: we are lucky to be playing a World Cup at our individual ages. Interestingly, I did not know he was the ball boy at the India-Zimbabwe match during the group stages of the 1987 World Cup, played at Wankhede Stadium.
Sunil Gavaskar had rated Tendulkar as a champion cricketer, so there was an expectation and aura surrounding him even at an age when he had just come into international cricket. The difference between most youngsters and Sachin is, Sachin came in as a boy with a sort of reputation of being a world beater or the next big thing. But he had modesty about him and quietness about him.
Sachin was a very shy guy, but very, very confident. He certainly had a great deal of confidence. He was incredibly modest in his approach. There was never anything flashy about him. You often find talented players at such a young age tend to be precocious, tend to be flamboyant in their game. But Sachin was very precise, very methodical.
In the World Cup we lost to India in Hamilton, where Tendulkar, as an 18-year-old, made 81 and was Man of the Match. I was amazed how cleanly he hit the ball, and it was extremely difficult to restrict him and to stop him scoring boundaries. His timing and placement in that match were impeccable - he kept hitting the ball off the middle of the bat and was able to accumulate runs off nearly every ball. It was an early lesson in batsmanship from a young master.
In Zimbabwe's first Test, in Harare in October 1992, I was extremely fortunate to get him caught and bowled off a shortish delivery that bounced a little and which he pushed back to me. I am told it was the second duck of his career. It was a shorter ball than the normal length I liked to bowl, but it just bounced a bit and he just lobbed back a return catch. The next time he came in to bat (in Delhi, in 1993), Grant Flower, fielding at slip, commented, "Here is an easy wicket. Just bowl him another long hop." I think that we chased a lot of runs that day.
As a young cricketer in the 1990s, Sachin impressed as a gentleman on and off the field, and while he exhibited the skills of an exceptionally talented batsman, he also displayed the humility of a great player who knows that nobody is bigger than the game. He set an example of how the game should be played.
As told to Nagraj Gollapudi