Sachin Tendulkar’s immortal innings against a star-studded Australian team that boasted names like Steve Waugh and Shane Warne at Sharjah in 1998, which later came to be known as Desert Storm, succeeded in drawing a generation of youngsters to the game.
While watching that diminutive player pummelling the opposition into submission on television that night, it came as a revelation to a 13-year-old with a similar first name that it was the game he wanted to excel in.
As television channels flashed news on Thursday evening about Sachin Tendulkar’s decision to call it a day after playing his 200th test next month, Sachin Baby, Kerala State Ranji Trophy player who has played for India A, relived memories of that night. Coincidentally, the legend has chosen to quit the game after spending 24 long years, exactly the age of the young Malayali cricketer.
“It was a dream to play alongside him. I remember having met him during the IPL along with my friend and Mumbai Indians wicket keeper Dinesh Karthik. He said that he had heard my name before and that was an honour,” Sachin Baby said.
It’s not a tale unique to a Sachin Baby as most of the current crop of young cricketers might have grown up watching the legend. Sanju V. Samson, the 19-year-old from the State who has impressed one and all by playing with the same kind of abandon associated with the young Tendulkar, was not even born when the master blaster first got his pads on.
Tinu Yohannan, who was fortunate to make his international debut in 2001 in a team including Sachin Tendulkar, always remembered an advice the genial batsman gave him while bowling in that match against England.
“He told me that the best way to get a wicket was to target a length that gave the best chance of hitting the batsman on his knee roll. And when I took two wickets, he asked me to believe in myself to get a five-for,” Tinu recollected.
P. Balachandran, former State cricket team coach, observed that Sachin Tendulkar was the sum total of all good virtues on and off the field. “For a coach the biggest advantage was that he could point at Sachin as the perfect model. It’s a lesson on how to remain level headed in the face of cult-like status and popularity in a cricket crazy country. And on the field he mixed the purity of Sunil Gavaskar with the aggression of Viv Richards,” he said.
K.N. Raghavan, former international umpire, was the third umpire when Sachin turned in a star show with a five-for against the mighty Australians in the first ever ODI match held in Kochi. Incidentally, his figures of 5-32 remained his best bowling performance in ODIs.
“He was master reader of the game and the wicket. In that game, he realised that the wicket had slowed down considerably and he simply cut down his pace forcing the batsmen to take chances. There can never be a more committed player,” he said.
K.A. Jiyas, a member of the State under-25 camp, has stored in his mobile a clipping of an exquisite cover drive by the legend against former Indian pacer Sreesanth in an Irani Trophy match. “Even in his last 20-20 outing for Mumbai Indians against Rajasthan Royals in the champions league finals, just before being bowled by Shane Watson he hit a cover drive that could hardly be matched. I rang up at least four of my friends asking to catch replay of that single shot,” he said.
Tinu Yohannan summed up the void that Sachin’s impending retirement will leave on Indian cricket. “It will be hard to imagine an Indian team without Sachin after watching him play for all these years. He was the reason why many followed the game. It will be gone after next month,” he said.