By D. C. Ranatunga
India’s Sachin Tendulkar passed the 18,000 mark in ODI runs during the World Cup 2011quarter final game against Australia on Thursday. His innings of 53 in that game also made him the highest scorer in the World Cup this year. In seven innings he has made 379 runs (ave 54.14) ahead of Kumar Sangakkara who made 363 runs in six innings with an average of 121.
Tendulkar holds just about every batting record, including those for most runs and hundreds in Tests and ODIs, and most international runs. While Tendulkar has been hailed as “the most complete batsman of his time, the most prolific run-maker of all time, and arguably the biggest cricket icon the game has ever known”, he himself considers Sir Donald Bradman as “the greatest batsman that the world has ever seen”.
The news that Sir Don had confided to his wife that Tendulkar reminded him of himself, made Tendulkar react by saying that Sir Don had given him the greatest compliment he had ever had and the most wonderful and memorable moment of his cricketing life. It was in 1994. Tendulkar was in Sharjah playing a match when he was asked to comment on Sir Don’s remark that Tendulkar was the player who reminded him most of his own batting genius. “I didn’t know how to react. You never expect such a compliment, certainly not from the great man himself,” he recalls. “It was such a tremendous honour, a tribute I will cherish forever.”
He felt honoured when he was invited for Sir Don’s 90th birthday celebrations in Adelaide in 1998. Writing to the prestigious publication ‘Icons of world sport – Don Bradman’ – the official book of the Bradman Centenary Commemorations (2008), Tendulkar says: “It is a day I will never forget. To meet Don Bradman, the maestro, was a wonderful moment, the highlight of my cricket career.”
In what he calls “a fabulous experience”, Tendulkar recalls the one hour he spent with Sir Don chatting privately on a range of topics including golf. “He was casual and charming and certainly knew what was going on in cricket even then”.
Tendulkar was keen to know how Sir Don prepared himself before a match. He confessed he did not have time for that. He worked before the game and he went back to work immediately after the match. He told Tendulkar that he just loved to bat and that he played cricket for the love of the game. Every time he went out to bat he didn’t want to get out. He wanted to savour it for as long as he could in the centre in every innings, every game. Obviously Tendulkar has been influenced by Sir Don’s remarks. He does exactly the same –get there and score as many runs as possible in every game.
Tendulkar insists Sir Don stands out from the best of the rest. There is such a big margin between him and anyone else statistically that he will always stand out. You cannot ignore his statistics, no matter in what era you play in, or for what country, he says. “It is remarkable that almost every time he went to bat he scored handsomely. He not only scored at a fast rate to entertain the crowd, he averaged 99.94 in Test matches which is just unreal.” (Playing in 290 innings in 170 Test matches, Tendulkar has up to now amassed 14,692 runs at an average of 56.94).
Saying that to perform at that level under the pressure of all the adulation of the time and the expectations of a nation is a remarkable achievement, Tendulkar says that to think that Sir Don averaged a century every third time he batted in a Test is truly incredible. Tendulkar describes his own feelings in such a situation. “I have an appreciation of similar pressure, and you must deal with it. It is not easy with the adulation and public’s expectations. But there comes a stage when you forget about the pressures and play to live up to your own expectations. If you do that you surely will satisfy the people.” Tendlukar admires Sir Don for doing that – more so doing it on uncovered wickets and without all the protective gear of the modern era.