John Bradman, son of the immortal Sir Donald Bradman, changed his name to Bradsen in 1972 for privacy reasons, and he reclaimed the family name only in 2008. John was there when Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne celebrated the Don’s 90th birthday with the Don himself and he says that Sachin passed all the tests Bradman laid down for him, including the biggest Test- that of modesty. Bradman himself has said that he felt Sachin bats like him and that he never missed seeing Sachin bat for 5 years. Legendary Umpire Dickie Bird, born in 1933, too says that he saw Sir Don Bradman bat in 1948 and the nearest to him is Sachin Tendulkar, and that he cannot give him a bigger complement than that.
The comparision above with Sir Don Bradman, is to bring to perspective, how great a cricketer Sachin Tendulkar is. Now, a quick cursory look at how it all started for our Champion.
As a 15 year school boy Sachin made his Ranji Trophy debut for Mumbai versus Gujarat. After Lalchand Rajput and Alan Sippy put on 159 runs for the 2nd wicket , Sachin was promoted to bat ahead of Sulakshan Kulkarni. Rajput who was the captain was batting well however a mix-up resulted in the skipper getting run out for 99. The entire team thought that the young kid would get flustered. But No, he did not. Lalchand himself says when he got run out at 99 he told Sachin, “Dont worry about my missing the ton, u get one.”. Indeed, he did. A ton on Ranji debut. Later he got a ton too in his Deodhar and Duleep Trophy debut’s as well. Subsequently, at the age of 16 he made his test as well as ODI debut. The rest is history.
I have been lucky enough to meet the great player a few times and each occasion was memorable. There were opportunities to have a brief conversation and ask him a few questions about the game which he served so well for more than two decades.
Some of the questions asked and answers given are as follows;
On Form. Sachin says that form to him was related to the sound when the ball hit the bat. According to him when the sound was sweet to him he knew he was in form and when it did not make a sweet sound, he knew that it was time for him to get back to form.
How to get back to form Interestingly, he says form is often about good or bad memories. If one has good memories, one feels good and is in form. With bad memories, one feels bad and is out of form and cant get back to form. Even if one practices and practices, then too one cant get back to form if one has bad memories and cant erase them. “Therefore, Practice, practice and have more and more practice. But try to remain happy.”. He said specifically “You cant hold on to mistakes of the past, as the more you will hold on to them, the more they will happen again and again.
On Focus. “The mistakes you have made in the past will not repeat themselves unless you let them. You cannot focus on your difficulties. Focus on your strengths and make them better.”
The importance of Breaks. Sachin’s view is that the more he practiced, the better he got. But there comes a time , in any sport, that while practicing, no much however much you try, you just cant do it- so you must understand when to back away, back off and take a break. To come back rejuvenated.
Why some cricketers crack under pressure. “”Well, pressure is there and there is no doubt about it. It will always be there. There is a thin line between focussing on positives and deliberating on negatives. Even when i scored 200, i could find many mistakes in my batting, but i choose not to focus on them. If one thinks about past mistakes, one gets apprehensive that it will happen again and one cracks under pressure.”
His advice for young kids starting the game. Enjoy the sport. Many young kids want to play the game as there is big money in it. According to the Little Master if they don’t enjoy, they will never be successful. This is true for not just cricket but any career or profession. If one enjoys it, success and money follows.
On whether he actually got up at 3AM ( 0300 hours) to drink water. Yes , Sachin confirmed it was correct. He felt that keeping the body hydrated was very important and so he used to put an alarm for 3 AM, get up , have a glass of water and go back to sleep in seconds. ( Wow, what incredible will power)
On whether Dennis Lillee rejected him as a fast bowler. Interestingly, Sachin says this is an exaggeration. While he indeed went to MRF, he always wanted to be a batsman and was ok with the idea of being a batting all-rounder. So the story that Dennis Lillee rejected him as a fast bowler and advised him to leave bowling and take up batting is an exaggeration. As already he was very sure he will take up batting.
On how it felt when he took the team so close to victory versus Pakistan and Australia and then got out. As we all know, Sachin scored 136 in the Chepauk Test vs Pakistan on a terrible pitch when India was chasing 271. Walking in at 6/2 he scored 136 but India lost by 12 runs. In the ODI vs Australia , chasing 351 he scored 175 and yet India lost by 5 runs. These were two epic knocks but in both matches India lost narrowly. Sachin says it felt terrible, as he had felt so confident that he would be there till the end in those two knocks to see the team home and he got out and thereafter others got out too and India lost. He says the memory is still there and till today he remembers how many runs were left, how many balls were left and so on.
On how one can overcome such disappointment when losing after playing an epic knock. Sachin said “ Ït was difficult, very very difficult. In fact its difficult to get over even now. But it had to be done. Has to be done.”
On the difference between Sachin Tendulkar the batsman and Sachin Tendulkar the bowler. He says this is simple. As a bowler he could experiment, and he had full licence to do so as he could do whatever he wanted. But as a batsman he could not experiment, he was not allowed to do so.
On whether he felt any batsman was more talented than him. Lara, Sehwag and Rahul, as these three could do anything they want. These three would be followed by Ponting and Kallis. ( No wonder he passed Sir Don Bradman’s modesty test, though indeed the persons named are wonderful, super talented all time great cricketers).
On match referees. Umpires and commentators. Sachin says that they require to be as fit as the players, both mentally and physically. They require immense levels of concentration as they have to see each and every ball. In fact, according to him, it is a more difficult job than playing, since for the players there is excitement and flow of adrenalin whereas they have to remain detached and focussed. Conversely too, if the match is boring, the players can chill, but the match referees , umpires and commentators still need to focus.
On his thoughts before he and Sehwag took apart Shoaib Akhtar and Wasim Akram in that incredible 2003 World Cup Match . Pakistan had set India a huge target of 274. Since it was a World Cup quarter Final, the pressure was immense. Sachin says that he was calm and relaxed. He in fact had a big bowl of icecream before going out to bat, something which dietician, coach etc will not allow nowadays. He felt supremely confident and went off to a extremely quick start which helped the team tremendously. India raced to 27/0 in 2 overs with Sachin scoring 20 in his 1st 8 balls. Ultimately it was a very comfortable win.
Folklore has it that in that golden knock of 98, off Wasim Akram’s bowling, Abdul razzaq dropped him at 32 and Akram screamed at him “tu jaanta hai tune kis Ka catch drop kiya ( do you know whose catch u dropped). Maybe if i get another chance to meet the Little Master, i will ask him whether this Akram-Razzaq story is true
I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as i enjoyed recalling and writing about my conversations with the one and only Sachin Tendulkar.