Past players have silently admired Tendulkar's amazing passion to keep improving
You just can't stop him from playing cricket. Twenty-one years into the profession, no one, not even in private, discusses any retirement possibilities for this senior statesman of world cricket.
“Leave it to him,” said Sunil Gavaskar once. “It should be his decision,” insisted the wily Wasim Akram.
True, Sachin Tendulkar would not waste a moment in taking the big decision when the time comes. “The thought (of retirement) has not occurred to me even once,” the batting guru told this correspondent last year. Bad news for bowlers!
Bowlers, without exception, continue to shiver when confronted with the challenge of snaring, or, to speak strictly, containing him. His attitude reflects his mindset. It says, “Born to rule.”
No batsman played Akram with assurance. Tendulkar did. Few batsmen could clobber Shane Warne. Tendulkar did. Their rivalry on the field lifted the game a few notches, the bowler plotting and the batsman thinking, each anticipating the other's next move.
It was classic cricket in the middle. Some of it was recreated in his duel with Dale Steyn recently in South Africa.
We have watched Tendulkar evolve as a batsman. His eyes rarely wander when the bowler begins his run.
With a steady head, he keeps the body as close to the ball as possible. And the bat is unerringly straight. He brings an aesthetic balance to his stance, so calm, so assured, so classic.
Many past cricketers, some of them greats, have silently admired his amazing passion to keep improving, innovating and dominating.
As Kapil Dev once remarked, he is “an institution.” The cricket world continues to marvel at the little master's monumental contribution towards not just serving but enhancing the game too. His dependability and desire to excel are infectious.
Continues to grow
His work, really, is a process that has grown with time. And it continues to grow. Like a young student, he celebrates a victory wildly. When the team loses, Tendulkar mourns, too, quietly.
Tendulkar hates losing. For confirmation, check with Navjot Singh Sidhu. It had rained the entire day in Kandy (in 1993) and the team had retired to the serene confines of the hotel.
A knock on the door woke Sidhu up. “Chal TT khelte hain (let's play table tennis),” was the tempting invitation from Tendulkar. He was armed with two rackets. Sidhu was game.
Tendulkar, who prided in his table tennis skills, was soundly beaten. The session was over in quick time. Sidhu wore a smile.
The next day Tendulkar knocked again. “Chal, TT khelte hain.” The result was the same.
And then Sidhu got a three-day breather. Our man was practising furiously. One more request followed. Tendulkar won that day and Sidhu never received another “Chal TT khelte hain” invitation again.
This childish streak to win, and only win, continues to motivate Tendulkar even today. He is not a bad loser, for he never fails to appreciate the opponent. He is known to respect a good performance, even if it comes from the junior-most member of his team.
His enthusiasm and camaraderie is best seen in the intensity with which he takes his partner's runs. His benchmarks keep rising in number and scale.
One remembers a rainy afternoon at Hobart. “The ground is flooded. How will you play cricket now?” I asked.
“You have indoor nets,” he pointed to a hall.
“But what if the indoor school is flooded too?” His mischievous smile summed it up. “Then I will play book cricket.”
You really can't stop him from playing cricket!