"You take Don Bradman away and he's next up, I reckon." The verdict of Steve Waugh on Sachin Tendulkar sits alongside many other tributes at the tail end of "Sachin Tendulkar: Masterful" by Peter Murray and Ashish Shukla.
Punctuated by an array of full-page photographs of the little maestro in action, the book covers Tendulkar's Test and one-day international career to date, and the difficulties he had in two spells as India's captain. It also provides glimpses of his lifestyle away from the game, and of the relationship with the late Mark Mascarenhas that helped make him the richest cricketer in the world.
If practice makes perfect, Tendulkar's early years in cricket provide as clear an indication as any of the dedication the boy had to the game at which the man would become peerless. In Shivaji Park, Mumbai, the young Sachin would play in as many as 13 matches in a day. His coach, Ramakant Acherkar, would place a rupee on top of Tendulkar's stumps and say: "Anyone who gets him out will take this coin. If no one gets him out, Sachin is going to take it."
Although he lost a couple of times, Tendulkar still has 13 of the coins. "At the age of 12 or 13 I was practising 12 hours a day," he said. "Seven till nine in the morning, then playing the game from 9.30 to 4.30 and then practising again from 5.30 to 7.00 in the evening. Once I played 54 matches in a row!"
When Tendulkar was picked to play his first Test for India against Pakistan at 16, his father had to sign his contract with the Indian cricket board because Sachin was not old enough to do so. In the next Test, faced with a barrage of sledging from Wasim Akram, Tendulkar is said to have asked Akram why he felt the need to sledge when his bowling was in a class of its own.
Tendulkar is a religious man, for whom fame has made it hard to practice his faith. "A couple of times I tried going out for the evening in disguise but it didn't work too well," he said. "Now when I go to pray I go late at night to the temples which are empty and quiet."
Most followers of the game will tell you, if asked, that Tendulkar is the finest batsman in the world. Others bear the mantle of greatness - Steve Waugh, Inzamam-ul-Haq, and the man with whom Tendulkar is perhaps most often compared, Brian Lara. But the Trinidadian's verdict is succinct: "Sachin is a genius. I'm a mere mortal."