'Understanding the genius was far more fascinating than the shots'
What is your first Tendulkar memory?
1989. Spring. Playing a Ranji Trophy match. Fifteen years old. Kids are infected with energy, they're restless, they dart here and there. But at the crease he was so still. So ready.
What is your favourite shot of his?
The straight drive. When he's on tiptoe. Looking, as I once wrote, as if god had him by the collar. No violence to his stroke. Only alignment and timing and poise. And a ball retrieved from the boundary.
Which innings stay with you the most?
The two one-day centuries (143 and 134) in Sharjah 1998 and the 241 not out in the Sydney Test in early 2004. All against Australia. The first two were dazzle, the third was craft. The first two made a point to the world, the third was a struggle with the self. The first two were talent flamboyantly unleashed; the third was talent carefully marshalled.
As a sportswriter, how difficult has it been to capture the essence of a great Tendulkar innings?
I'd say understanding Tendulkar the genius was far more fascinating than the shots he played. Lara was more stylish, Laxman more divine, Mark Waugh more imperious. These men spoke more to me as a writer. Tendulkar wasn't lyrical, he had more serious business to attend to. And if he was Federesque, well, then, it would have been too much, don't you think?
Fifteen years from now, if a young boy or girl were to ask you about Tendulkar what would you tell them?
Even as a writer, I wouldn't be able to. Not sufficiently. No numbers suffice. No quotes from his peers will do. I have about seven-eight books on Muhammad Ali on my bookshelf. He fascinates me. I will read everything on him. But I wish I lived in his time, through Vietnam and his ban, I wish I had experienced him. And it's the same with Tendulkar. He was an experience. You were either there or you were not.
Rohit Brijnath is a Senior Correspondent with The Straits Times, Singapore. He was speaking to Siddhartha Vaidyanathan