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Tendulkar — the Picasso among batsmen

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If batting is an art then Sachin Tendulkar is the Picasso among batsmen. On that basis Bradman must have been Michelangelo.

Vasoo Paranjape said of Sachin, “God created him and sent him down to earth just to play cricket.” If so, God must then have destroyed the mould.

My first memory of watching Sachin bat live was at the SCG on the India tour of Australia in 1991-92. Sachin made 148 not out in Shane Warne's debut Test.

Warne would have wondered if he was cut out for Test cricket. He only took one wicket, that of Ravi Shastri, in 45 overs of hard slog as Shastri made 206 and Tendulkar announced himself, in Australia at least, as a batsman of rare ability and class.

Without wishing to denigrate Shastri's fine performance, he looked like a mere house painter alongside the sublime artist as Tendulkar displayed a dazzling array of shots and a wonderful imagination as he crafted an innings of great beauty. He has played many more since then.

It is hard to imagine someone playing Test cricket at the age of 16. That he is still playing 23 years later and is arguably the best batsman in the team is even more remarkable. To think that he has carried the hopes and prayers of more than a billion people each time he bats sets him apart even from Bradman.

What is it that separates the good from the great?

My good friend and sports psychologist Dr Rudi Webster from the West Indies has described the difference as “all good players prepare well and have great skill, powerful will, good knowledge of the game and decent judgement.

The great players have something extra. They know how best to handle the pressures of the game and the difficult situations they face. They also know how and when to put pressure on the opposition. These abilities reside in the mind and separate the great from the merely good.

In great players the psychological is to the physical what two is to one. Sachin, like other great players, sees opportunity and success where others see difficulty and failure.”

The fact that he loves batting has helped. It appears that Sachin has defined himself by what he has done with bat in hand. More importantly, he has helped define a nation.

It is generally accepted that Bradman helped define the Australian nation during the period following the Great Depression and again after the Second World War.

If there is a similarity between the two as batsmen, then, there is definitely a similarity in what they mean to their respective countries.

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.

Coaches have been inundated with young boys whose ambitious parents drive them to turn their son into the next ‘little master'.

The fact that he has played Tests on 55 grounds in ten different countries also sets him apart from the great man who only played on ten Test grounds in two countries.

He has averaged over 50 against all Test playing countries except Pakistan, New Zealand and the West Indies.

Some have pointed out that Sachin has not made as many big scores as some of his contemporaries such as Brian Lara and that India won less than 40 per cent of games in which he made centuries.

The same can be said of Lara but he was often the lone member of the band. Sachin had a whole orchestra at his disposal for much of his career.

The difference

This may go some way to explain why Sachin has not come close to emulating Bradman's remarkable career average. There is no doubt that physically there was not that much between the two but for some reason Bradman was that much more driven to make the big scores. Sometimes, more than was necessary to win the game.

That aside, I don't think anyone will come close to emulating Sachin's career record of runs or international centuries because either Test cricket or One-Day Internationals will be reduced as more room is found for T20 cricket in the crowded cricket programmes around the world.

Bradman's average makes him the leader of the pack.

It is Tendulkar's longevity and consistency against all opposition and in most conditions that sets him apart from the rest.

It will be difficult for anyone to come close to emulating Sachin's career record, writes

Greg Chappell

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