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Updated: December 17, 2012 22:03 IST

It is not easy being Sachin

Greg Chappell
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Greg Chappell. File photo.
The Hindu
Greg Chappell. File photo.

Sachin has compiled a batting record that may never be challenged, writes Greg Chappell

Lady Bradman, rather than Sir Donald as has been reported, was the one who remarked on the similarity between ‘The Little Master’ and ‘The Don’. It was assumed that she only meant in the way that they played cricket, but perhaps she saw more than we gave her credit.

Being exceptional invites great interest and scrutiny in the private life of an individual. In the case of these two intensely private men it complicated matters.

I have been lucky to see some of the most talented batsmen that the game has produced, and it is fair to say that they have all been different from your average player. In their own way, they were driven by something deep inside them that no other person understood.

The most gifted batsmen that I have seen are, in chronological order; Harvey, Sobers, Pollock, Walters, Barry Richards, Viv Richards, Tendulkar, Lara and Ponting. Each of them had the ability to dramatically alter the course of a game that differentiates them from other outstanding batsmen of their time.

I did not see Bradman bat, but I have seen the archival footage which suggests that he was in another class from his peers altogether. He was driven by something that no one, maybe not even he, fully understood.

It is hard to imagine that Tendulkar played Test cricket at the tender age of 16. That he played for 23 years is astonishing, because I believe everyone has a finite number of significant performances in them. To think that he has carried the hopes and expectations of more than a billion people each time he batted set him apart, even from Bradman.

He also played in many more countries and varied conditions than Bradman. Along the way, he compiled a batting record that may never be challenged. This can be credited to an awesome talent, a unique grounding and an ability to switch off from the distractions around him.

In the process, Sachin has caused thousands of parents in India to reconsider cricket as a legitimate career and has inspired tens of thousands of youngsters to excel at the game.

I had the privilege of working with Sachin closely for about two years. In that time, I saw a side of him that few people would have seen.

Sublime artist

I saw the sublime artist with bat in hand, I saw the little boy that he once was, I saw his vulnerability and I saw a man that had to compartmentalise himself in a way that would have tested a lesser individual.

Being Sachin is not easy. The demands on his time are ridiculous and the privation of withdrawing from what went on around him must have been like torture. But rarely did I see him let his guard down.

On the times that I did are special memories.

Travelling with the Indian cricket team was like travelling with The Beatles. People lined the streets waving and shouting as the team bus drove by and crowds jostled at airports and hotels just to get a glimpse of the members of the band.

And, Sachin was the Indian team’s John Lennon! Everybody wanted a piece of him; a look, a touch, a photograph or an autograph.

Initially I was surprised that Sachin did not acknowledge these crowds. He preferred to sit in the bus with his headphones on, listening to his eclectic music compilation and looking straight ahead as though the crowd did not exist.

It took me some time to realise that this was an act of survival. Had he acknowledged even a small percentage of those who demanded something from him, he would have been mentally and physically exhausted by breakfast. He, therefore, chose the only path available.

One of the special times that have stuck in my memory was on the 2006 tour of Pakistan. I had noticed that, due to the unique nature of their life, the Indian players did not spend much time together off the field. They retreated into their own little world away from the ground; to remedy this, I decided to organise an opportunity for them to socialise.

In Faisalabad, we arranged a private dinner for the team and support staff at which Sachin decided to play bar tender. During the evening, he mixed drinks and delivered them to teammates and staff who were relaxing with food and music.

In those few hours, I saw Sachin unwind and play prankster. He took great delight in the outcomes. It was a touching moment because I glimpsed what the young Sachin might have been. I also sensed that this Sachin was not allowed out, very often.

My time with the Indian team provided many happy moments and some memorable experiences. This was certainly one of them.

In December 2005, we were in Chennai and I was in my room at the Taj after we had trained at Chepauk.

My phone rang and it was Sachin asking if he could come over and have a chat about his batting. I agreed and he came over immediately. We talked for a few hours during which he bared his soul in a manner that I believe was rare, for him. He showed a hint of vulnerability that I doubt many had seen as he asked about why batting got more difficult as one got older.

At the end of our discussion, he thanked me and as he was leaving, I commented on how difficult it must be for him to keep up with his many friends around India. I had seen people coming and going from his room over recent days, so I assumed that some of them were friends. He looked at me momentarily before saying, “Greg, you have more friends in India than I have.”

I got the shock of my life and at that moment I realised how tough it was being Sachin. Indian cricket may never see an individual with such an incredible combination of mental and physical skills.

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What should i comment about a man who is carrying the weight of Hopes of one
billion people from more than two decades , people who say sachin should retire
now and things like these dnt know the meaning of cricket and what sachin have
done they cant even dream about it . I know as always sachin will come back with his
bat , Once again these people who want him retire will cherish his century and will the world i have heard a thousand times "He is Master Blaster" , I am just waiting for that moment .

from:  vince
Posted on: Dec 19, 2012 at 12:35 IST

Greg Chappel makes a poignant case for us to show more understanding
towards Sachin but he needs to also understand that it was Sachin and
it still is Sachin who is bringing all this opprobrium on himself.
Greatness is a gift from God that must be treated gently and with
reverence. Great Men too often have forgotten this and have taken
their greatness to a strange place as Sachin and Ponting have done.
One must step off the stage with the greatness intact. As Sunny
Gavaskar so rightly stated, 'it's better to be asked why now? instead
of why not now?'

from:  Anand Richard
Posted on: Dec 18, 2012 at 23:21 IST

I believe that with the privilege of being treated as a super
cricketer, which no doubt Sachin Tendulkar is, perhaps goes the heavy
price of this super- status, which Sachin has to pay and pay without
any complaint. Price is in the form of intense scrutiny of all his
great innings and all his failures. But we do understand the pressure
of the current situation faced by a stressed Sachin Tendulkar.
I have read many articles about Sachin but this one written by a
former coach of the Indian team, who unfortunately was not a very
popular one, is a different type of writing. In any case, Greg
Chappell’s observations in this article are not very useful to know
present state of mind of Sachin Tendulkar.
I have no doubt that Tendulkar is still far better than many batsmen
who would like to claim his position in the Indian Test side, ( No. 4)
but still I would not like him to delay decision about retirement in
view of his present form and performance,

from:  Narendra M Apte
Posted on: Dec 18, 2012 at 20:05 IST

We may love him or hate him, Greg is his own man. Its time someone firm as him took the reigns once again. Being SRT is probably the most difficult thing in India, as he is only second to God as far as people asking for wishes go.
He has been such a huge pillar in Indian Cricket and India itself, that it is difficult to look beyond him.

from:  Pratyush
Posted on: Dec 18, 2012 at 18:13 IST

We would love to see you play and score runs as you have been doing for so may years but it pains us to see you struggle against bowlers you would normally dominate. Secondly, your so called Indian fans do not deserve to be called your fans. We have watched the other modern greats go out with so much love given to them at every ground once the fans know they will not watch them playing again. And what have we given you? Even the Australian and English fans have given you a great send off when you played there recently knowing this is the last time they will be seeing you play in front of them, but we, your biggest fans? Forget a standing ovation at these four cities of Ahmedabad, Mumbai (your home town)Kolkata and Nagpur, there was not even an acknowledgement that this may be your last test at these centres and you deserved to be sent off properly. But they remembered only your recent form and forgot the years of service to Indian cricket. Go before they forget completely.

from:  Ali Jaddy
Posted on: Dec 18, 2012 at 17:08 IST

Great piece. The clamor for Sachin's retirement has never been louder.
But maybe the people who want him retired need to see what the little
man is going through - unlike what is being floated around, Sachin is
around still to play 200 tests. For one of the first time in his
career, Sachin is struggling the way mortal batsmen have struggled.
Maybe he will recover and be back to his awesome batting ways. Maybe
he will fail thus showing the world how even the greatest batting
talent we have seen in our generation can end up being so mortal. But
let's give space to the man to struggle.
Among the eleven players in team, not one has been consistent enough
to put the blame squarely on Sachin. The team has been losing more
than winning over the past year and it's the fault of the entire team;
coach included. Making Sachin the scapegoat despite the fact that
other players who are still young enough to be shown the door to Ranji
are still in the squad smacks of hypocrisy.

from:  Anand
Posted on: Dec 18, 2012 at 11:01 IST

Close encounters of the most superior kind, Greg! Thanks for sharing it candidly...

from:  P M BHAT
Posted on: Dec 17, 2012 at 23:57 IST
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