Book extract

A Zen master

Tendulkar seems to have the ability to remain untouched by the circumstances of the match or the personality of the bowler
Simon Barnes November 1, 2013

"He doesn't really do situations at all: he just bats" © Associated Press
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Many of Tendulkar's batting records may be broken in the future but one that may stand the test of time is his feat of achieving a 100 hundreds. In Sachin: Cricketer of the Century, Network18 journalist Vimal Kumar spoke to team-mates, opponents, coaches, and journalists to chronicle Tendulkar's journey. The following extract is a piece by Simon Barnes.

The most important thing about Sachin's batting is that there is no single important thing to say about it. He doesn't really have a style. In a sense he doesn't even have a personality: or, to be more accurate, personality is something he seems to be able to set aside at will. He seems to have the ability to remain untouched by the circumstances of the match or the personality of the bowler. Poor bowling doesn't get him excited at the chance to cash in; very good bowling in helpful conditions doesn't make him worry. He doesn't really do situations at all: he just bats.

More than any cricketer I have ever watched, he has the gift of playing only the ball. He's never surprised by a bad ball from a great bowler nor by a dangerous ball from a poor bowler. He somehow keeps the bowler out of the equation: the ball is all. He meets it all with the same bland eye. You can't tell whether it all matters hugely to him or whether it doesn't matter at all. He has the very rare gift of playing in the moment. Some players love drama, confrontation, imposing their own personality on a great match, a great occasion. Sachin just hits the damn ball.

There is something Zen-like about this. I am reminded more than anybody else of Pete Sampras, the tennis player. Sampras's first serve was brilliant, but his second serve was better, in that he was almost equally dangerous and very, very rarely missed. In the great Wimbledon final of 1999 against Andre Agassi at his very best, Sampras won in three sets that went far beyond brilliance. He won on a second-serve ace. Someone asked him afterwards: 'What was going through your mind at the time, Pete?' Sampras answered after a puzzled pause: 'There was absolutely nothing going through my mind.'


I wrote at the time that this was pure Zen, and I received a letter from a real Zen master, who totally agreed. Sachin has something of the same ability: to not get distracted by conscious thought, by ambition, by hope, by despair. He just plays the ball. Whether he hits it for four, whether he plays or misses, it's all one to him. He takes guard and faces the next ball and plays it, leaving it or smiting it, as the ball demands. The only time I have seen him affected by a situation was when he was close to that hundredth 100 and was out for, I think, 94 at the Oval. I think for once he was entitled to feel the pressure. After all, he's the first person ever to have felt it.

There are some big things to be written on Sachin as a living symbol of India's headlong charge into the modern world. He is a validation, a living emblem of the truth that an Indian can be the best in the world, the best ever, if you like, and can do so without appearing to break a sweat and without needing to ask anybody for any favours. In this respect, he is rightly compared to Don Bradman. Other cricketers who had national importance include Denis Compton, who was a symbol of optimism and elegance as Britain sought to rebound after World War II, and Sir Frank Worrell, who stood for regional and racial independence, freedom and pride.

This is an edited extract from Sachin: Cricketer of the Century, published by Penguin, Rs 221, available now

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Posted by Dummy4 on (November 2, 2013, 6:32 GMT)

He is a Human ! Every human is bound to have some weakness...

What we should enjoy about him is him being Sachin Tendulkar! and no one else.

He is master in his own capacity.

Before debating on him, shall we not introspect that how each of us are doing in our roles given to us by God?

How many of us in our field/role is close to Sachin's achievements as he has in his own field?

Treasure the moments Guys. You live in ERA of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar!

Posted by SAUMYA on (November 2, 2013, 0:28 GMT)

Well I too disagree !!!! 2003 world cup is a flagrant example: Shoaib Akhtar, Caddick, and others were too eager to pounce on him in pre-match press conferences. It would be interesting to know who became the mince meat :)

Posted by Prashanth on (November 1, 2013, 19:49 GMT)

@Stel En: We all know how good is Ponting in sub-continent. If you want to compare him with Sachin, compare Sachin's performance in Aus vs Ponting's performance in India. You'll get an immediate much for the talk about 'anyone can score runs in India'.

You can compare Kallis with Sachin, but put their Test & ODI performances together, strike rates etc, and you'll get an answer for that as well.

I ma not even mentioning the intangible thing, which is so very vital in any professional - "The pressure". I strongly believe no sportsperson on this earth might have faced the kind of pressure (over a billion crazy fans) that Sachin faced right through his teens to date.

Posted by Dummy4 on (November 1, 2013, 19:14 GMT)

Yup... he is great and all that but I am not sure whether author has overtly gone on to praise zen like abilities of Sachin. What does 27 nervous nineties figure explain? I think it explains that he was conscious (read worried) about numbers, let alone real people. I am not taking away the pride that he had over 4 times the number of centuries he missed out on. I saw him getting out when they needed him and may be his subpar performance during his captaincy alludes to the fact that he is boggled by not one but many things.

Posted by Sarthak on (November 1, 2013, 17:16 GMT)

Truly Sachin is master-class. Bowlers, playing conditions has affected him, if at all, minimally. The author rightly says, he is able to keep personality out of play at will. However I think Sachin has not been immune to pressure of match situation. Think of his record in 4th innings of Test matches, for instance. Perhaps not as stellar as one would expect from him. I think, Sachin is so insanely talented and confident about his game he does not need to dramatize the game to motivate himself. He knows he has the game to master any condition, any bowler and is unperturbed by these but he feels the weight of a milestone or pressure of a tense run-chase and it is in those situations, that he has shown some vulnerability.

Posted by S on (November 1, 2013, 16:04 GMT)

On the one hand you have the Zen of Sachin Tendulkar. On the other, a whole host of fans who can do nothing but have inane debates about who is the best ever. Talk about casting pearls before .... you know the rest.

Posted by K. on (November 1, 2013, 15:46 GMT)

Stel En - Nonsense. Tendulkar is THE best. Period.

Posted by Anoop on (November 1, 2013, 14:33 GMT)

@Stel En, sorry mate-don't think Ponting has an higher average than Tendulkar. If I remember correctly it's alteast 1 or 2 runs below that of Sachin!-in both Tests and ODIs!

Posted by Dummy4 on (November 1, 2013, 11:15 GMT)

Sachin has all the accolades. Most centuries, most runs in tests. But he lacks the most important one. The best test batting average among modern cricketers. Ponting, Kallis and Sangakkara beats him for that. Sachin is one of the best,. But to be considered as the undisputedly the best batsman of this era, he need this stat also.

Posted by rahul on (November 1, 2013, 5:07 GMT)

Sorry you are way off here. Sachin has always played according to the match and bowler. He plans and targets opposition bowlers, the most famous example being that of Warne. He has a long track record of getting out to new bowlers (even part timers) he hasn't seen before. Even when he started his career and mostly focused on executing his shots, he had a good sense of sizing up the match situation and adjusting.


The man whom cricket loved back

Sambit Bal: Tendulkar was the biggest worshipper the game could ever find, and in that lay the foundation of his greatness

Tendulkar's perfect balance

Sharda Ugra: While the team, the country and the sport changed around him, Tendulkar remained constant

Why do we insist on seeing the 'real' Sachin?

Rahul Bose: You can ask as much as you want for a more "human", more "feelable, touchable" Sachin, but he'll probably not change - and that's a good thing

Zaltz Stats

The approximate number of people in India today who had not been born when Sachin Tendulkar made his Test debut in 1989 (calculated from these figures). His batting has been so erotically outstanding that the global population has increased by almost 2 billion during his career, with the biggest increase, understandably, in India itself.

I have played cricket for 24 years, it has been only 24 hours since retirement, and I think I should get at least 24 days to relax before deciding these things.

Sachin Tendulkar doesn't want to think of what lies ahead just yet