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Sachin Tendulkar


O time Omachine
When we think of Sachin Tendulkar we think mountains of runs, but the great man measures his success in minutes. Will Swanton enjoys some moments in his presence

od? No, no, no, no, no. He has been kind to me, Sachin Tendulkar whispers. That is all. Tonight were in Bangalore. Tonight weve been invited to join Tendulkar straight after hes become the first Test batsman in history to reach 14,000 runs. Suffice to say, we wont be downing a thousand beers in his honour. Nor one. Green teas all round. This will be a blessing. This will be Sachin Tendulkar, in the flesh and blood, standing before us, talking cricket. Were honoured, waiting for him deep inside the stupidly luxurious ITC Gardenia Hotel where the bars of soap look like slabs of gold. Hes due in the foyer at 7pm. Right on cue, to the very second, a small individual, wearing a sky-blue tracksuit with INDIA stamped on the chest, appears out of nowhere. Hes like a ghost; an apparition coming from a plume of smoke. Noone has seen him coming. No-one has heard his footsteps. Yet here he is, in his socks. Theres method to his madness: Tendulkar

wears socks in hotel foyers so people dont hear him walking. He figures if no-one can hear him walking past, they wont look up. And if they dont look up, he is more chance of being left alone. If one person sees Tendulkar, on any street of any part of India, a hundred people are on him in a camera flash. Tendulkar craves solitude in a country where theres none. His freedom is found in only a few places: his fortress of a home in Mumbai, the various hotel rooms he occupies around the cricketing globe and in the middle of a cricket field. Hello, he whispers. Crikey, old boy, youve scared us, coming out of nowhere like that. You stare at him. He is so small. Kind of delicate. He looks incredibly fresh-faced for a well-travelled man in his late 30s. In a certain light, he might even pass for a teenager. He is boyish in his politeness, shyness, appearance. He looks incredibly bright-eyed for someone who has just scored a double century against Australia in searing heat at M Chinnaswami Stadium. His feat produced such a cacophony of noise that you will take the ringing in your ears to your grave, but now theres a hush. Questions and answers.



Wherever Sachin goes, crowds and cameras follow. Here, he is mobbed by media during the 2011 World Cup

do it? Tendulkar believes that if he sticks around at the crease for a few hours, his score will take care of itself. On this historic night, hes more pleased with his 547 minutes than 214 runs. He adopts a more formal tone: At 38, I continue with my form because I am just wanting to bat as long as possible. It is not about the score. Its about the number of minutes I want to be at the wicket. It is important to protect my wicket as long as I can for myself, my team, my country. Master still views himself as student. Watch him in the nets; its as if hes yet to get it right, his technique, his approach, his stance, his bats. Weve seen him try six different bats in one 20-minute session. Dangermen from visiting sides to Australia are booed from start to finish, but that wont be happening with Tendulkar. Admit it, we all want to see him make a few hundreds. Hell walk out in four Tests against Australia with history trailing behind him. More Test runs than any batsman who ever lived. The most centuries. Long story short: the most everythings. If theres one thing missing from his long list of neverto-be-beaten numbers, its the lack of a triple century. Remarkable, really, that a player with his powers of concentration, his ruthless intent to bat forever, hasnt reached 300-plus. It is not a figure I am looking at, he says. I am happy with my accomplishments. Usually I dont remember

The Little Master has a laugh at a nets session at Old Trafford last August

Tendulkar: six of the best

Sachin Tendulkar has saved his biggest performances for Australia in both Tests and ODIs. Rocco Luca looks at some of the highlights
214 sECONd TEsT, BaNgalORE, OCTOBER 9-13, 2010 This Test match proved to be Tendulkars greatest moment against Australia for a number of reasons. He scored a mammoth 214 in the first innings which not only set up the impressive seven-wicket win, but saw him become the first batsman to reach 14,000 runs in Test cricket. In addition to reaching this milestone, Tendulkar also notched up an incredible 6000 career international runs against Australia the most runs scored by a single player against one nation. 148 NOT OuT THIRd TEsT, sydNEy, JaNuaRy 2-6, 1992 This was the knock that made the world take notice. An 18-year-old, baby-faced Tendulkar became the youngest batsman to score a ton on Australian soil. His superb middle-order innings secured India a draw and, more importantly, ensured his side did not succumb to an embarrassing series whitewash. This was his second Test century and first of many against Australia. 175 FIFTH OdI, HydERaBad, NOVEmBER 5, 2009 The Little Master produced a Herculean innings, but it still wasnt quite enough to carry his side to victory, as India fell three runs short of Australias mammoth total of 350. But Tendulkars incredible 175 runs from 141 balls is still regarded as one of his finest-ever displays and remains his thirdhighest ODI score. The innings showcased every shot in his repertoire, from the finesse and precision needed to execute the cut shot to the strength and timing of the cover drive. 155 NOT OuT FIRsT TEsT, CHENNaI, maRCH 6-10, 1998 On an unpredictable fourth day pitch, Tendulkar produced a remarkable 155 from 191 balls, to overturn a 70-run first innings deficit and guide India to a crucial First Test victory. Shane Warne dismissed Tendulkar cheaply for four in the first innings but Tendulkar bounced straight back to finish on top of his old rival, significantly contributing to Warnes unflattering second innings figures of 1-122. 241 NOT OuT FOuRTH TEsT, sydNEy, JaNuaRy 2-6, 2004 Tendulkar was a man possessed in Sydney, posting an unbeaten 241 in Indias enormous first innings total of 705. He proved an immovable object for the Australian bowlers, showing no mercy as he hit 33 boundaries and made the usually efficient Stuart MacGill look second rate, heavily contributing to his dismal first innings figures of 0-146.

You lean forward and listen in, hanging on every word. He really is so quiet. Hes willing to discuss three, and only three, topics: cricket, cricket and, when were wrapping it up, cricket. Yes, Sachin. Whatever you say, Sachin. The question is asked: How are you doing this? How, at an age when you should be retired, are you scoring more prolifically than ever? He answers, simply: I bat for time, not runs. He does an impish grin. Later, you grab a calculator, do the maths. Tendulkar will arrive in Australia this summer having spent close to 40,000 minutes batting in Test cricket. Thats close to 666 hours, the little devil. Without sleep, hes batted the better part of 28 consecutive days, around the clock, since he made his debut as a 16-year-old. The longevity is unfathomable. Geoff Marsh, Geoff Lawson and Terry Alderman treasured relics of the past were current players when Tendulkar began in 1989. Allan Border was captain. Pat Cummins wasnt born. Time, he repeats. Not runs. So, on all the occasions Tendulkar has peered up at scoreboards on all corners of the cricketing globe, all the times hes needed an update on his progress, he hasnt been looking at the numbers we imagined. Hes been looking at the small hand and the big hand, or the flashing electronic numbers: hes been clock-watching. The logic is simple, absurdly so. One of those ideas that makes you think, why doesnt everyone

I continue with my form because I am just wanting to bat as long as possible. It is not about the score. Its about the number of minutes I want to be at the wicket. It is important to protect my wicket
With daughter Sara, wife Anjali, and son Arjun after captaining Mumbai Indians at this years IPL tournament

records, but passing 14,000 runs, I will admit, is very special for me. It has come on my daughter Saras 13th birthday so it is a wonderful moment. Its a special match I scored 200 as a birthday gift for my daughter. I have won a couple of trophies (ICC Player of the Year and Test Player of the Year) in the last year and all my accomplishments have been for my children. One of the ICC trophies was for my son Arjun and one was for Sara. Its great this is all happening at this part of my life. I think runs will keep coming but the most important thing is that we wanted to become the top team in the world, and we have done that (England has since claimed top honours). I have too many things on my mind to reflect on my own records when you are focusing hard and concentrating on games, these things take a back seat. But I work hard to play well. I am enjoying the game. It is about preparation. As

5-32 FIRsT OdI, KOCHI, apRIl 1, 1998 Tendulkars career highlights extend beyond the willow, illustrated by this performance. After being dismissed for eight, he took an incredible 5-32 from 10 overs, to spearhead India to a 41-run victory. His victims included Australia captain Steve Waugh and one-day wonder Michael Bevan.



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long as I give 100 per cent to my preparations, I can still succeed. Every time I go out, I want to bat for a long time, score big for India. Check out the big picture. Three years ago, Ricky Ponting was closing fast on Tendulkar in the race to finish their careers with the most Test runs. Whoever does it out of Ponting and Tendulkar will likely hold the record for all time because Twenty20 is chipping away at the number of Tests played each year, eroding the powers of concentration and technique needed to amass mountains of runs. Less Test cricket is being played but, regardless of that, the chances of someone being good and dedicated enough to survive more than two decades in a national team, as Tendulkar has done, is a near-impossibility. Tendulkar was in a slump when Ponting was belting centuries left, right and centre but the tide has turned. Tendulkar cannot be beaten by Ponting, nor anyone else, but emphatically denies its fuelled his resurrection. That is not correct, he says. I dont play cricket to compete with anyone. I play to enjoy myself and give my best to my country. That has always been the only dream. It is not about competing with any single other player. I dont want to compare each innings. I dont want to compare each year. I have put in equal amounts

of hard work every year. Sometimes I have succeeded and other times, I have not. The prematch preparations have been the same for every Test. There is nothing more I can do than have preparation and patience. Thats when Tendulkar whispers that God has been kind to him. Who can argue? His humility is touching. Which brings us to the well-worn descriptions of Tendulkar himself as some sort of cricketing God. These do him a disservice, falling short of being the compliments intended, implying he is merely reaping the dividends of being granted gifts that no-one else has. That he has been somehow ordained with all these Test runs. That all hes had to do is strap on his pads and higher forces have taken care of the rest. But regarding Tendulkar as a God downplays his very human determination and dedication. It ignores the fact he has trained harder, and for longer, than any other player in world cricket. Completely disregards the practice he did as a teenager, hour after hour in oppressive heat spent honing a technique that would survive the rigours of Test cricket for decades. Yes, Tendulkar was born with talent. But theres no more natural ability flowing through his veins than anyone else. Tendulkars greatest accomplishment is milking every last run from the weapons at his disposal.

I am no different to any other cricketer, he says. Australia have been the top side for a long time now and to score runs against them is challenging. When you get a big one against Australia, its very satisfying. You feel good to score runs against a top side and Im glad I have been able to score big against them time and again. Time and again! Good on him for rubbing it in. Finally, the suggestion that hes a God. For the first time, the whisper is replaced by tones of greater authority: No, no, no, no, no. Interview over, the great one politely nods, shakes hands, walks back through the foyer of the hotel. His footsteps dont make a noise. Next month: Part 2 the big Sachin Q&A.

Looking skyward at The Oval as he walks out to bat on day five of the Fourth Test against England

When you score a big one against Australia it is very satisfying. You feel good to score runs against a top side and I am glad I have been able to score big against them time and again

Running in fast, bowling fast, you might see a bit of fear in the batsmans eyes. Theres nothing better