Unlike a lot of Sachin Tendulkar fans, and there have been quite a few around me, I have never been a fanatical Sachin Tendulkar supporter. I have greatly admired his batting and have always stated (to any one who listens to me) that as far as skill and ability goes, Sachin has no peers close to him. But Tendulkar is a perfect player, everything associated with his batting is close to perfection. In a funny sort of a way, that is the one factor that actually removes me from his most fanatical fan list. Perhaps the fault is mine, but Tendulkar’s batting for me has never had the brilliant unpredictability that one would associate with Azharuddin or even with his good friend Kambli. Its never had the sheer unorthodoxy that one associates with Lara or Laxman. Perhaps Tendulkar is too good for some people’s liking.
Tendulkar completes twenty years in International cricket and that is a tremendous achievement. I have been fortunate to follow cricket in an era when SRT played. If one starts writing about his greatest innings it will require huge space and time but two innings stand out for me personally. His 96 against Australia in the 1996 World Cup is probably his finest one day innings where he produced a tremendous counter attack against McGrath, Flemming and Warne. He played a pull of the front foot of the bowling of Mcgrath in that innings and it will be safe to say that he has never played such a stunning shot ever. A year later he made a stunning 165 at Cape town where he and Azhar added 220 odd runs in 100 minutes. It was Test Match Batting at its very best.
But a character sketch of any great sportsman should include his highs and his lows- his good points and his faults. Tendulkar has had his questionable moments as well. His term as captain in 1999 saw a most disappointing tour of Australia , mainly due to some very very questionable selection decisions. Sachin seemed reluctant to pick Azhar and when Mongia was sent to Australia, he was sent back within one week. Mumbai players were making their debuts left right and centre and there was no logical explanation for this. But my most disappointing Sachin moment came in 2004 at Multan, when his stated disappointment at being declared on 194 resulted in Rahul Dravid being made a national villain for a long time.
But Tendulkar fans will defend these moments very strongly and perhaps will even find stronger arguments. That is the beauty of Sachin Tendulkar. For the last twenty years he has been the “be all and end all” of India. The fact that he has sustained this fanatical support for such a long period of time in itself a cause for celebration. He will definitely be India’s greatest ever batsmen and even his greatest critic will have to thank him for the many moments of brilliance that he has provided on the cricket field.