Sachin Tendulkar is easy on the eye. The toughest thing in cricket—waiting for the ball—comes naturally to him. He plays like a lover and there isn’t an inch of the brute in him and he can demolish an attack with pure simplicity.
That’s one of the many reasons for his continuing success; when the ball is doing something he sees it early and plays it late. Players brought up in Yorkshire County would tell you that the secret of playing good swing bowling is to wait and a quality spinner would tell you the same. That waiting is the art of batting—of deciding early and being precise with the footwork and playing the ball close to the body and under the eyes.
On the morning of the recent Test match against South Africa when India was to bat in the Eden Gardens, Tendulkar just practised the cradle movement—the viewers got to see this courtesy the presence of Sunil Gavaskar in the commentary box.
That cradle movement is what he used when he made a chanceless hundred and gave a perfect illustration of how to build a Test match innings brick by brick.
The argument for Sachin Tendulkar as the greatest batsman ever to have graced the game starts from his feet up; feet separated as if the distance between them is calibrated to the millimetre by a precise vernier calliper. His head is still and any photograph taken from the area between point and cover at the instant when he is ready with his backlift to play the ball shows him as a system in complete physical equilibrium.
The instant when he meets the ball depends on what he intends to do with it. Brian Lara did pretty much the same but Tendulkar surpasses him in having a monk-like dedication to his craft.
Sachin Tendulkar is his own competition and it seems like he is quite oblivious to the fact that his business is the intrinsically-competitive arena of international sports. He keeps pushing his limits to come up with goods no one else seems to be trading in. On Wednesday he scaled a peak higher than the Mount Everest.
A peak that did not exist before he set out to conquer it in the afternoon of February 24, 2010; just two months shy of his 37th birthday on April 24—and 22 years after he had shared that record partnership of over 600 runs that brought two schoolboys to the forefront.
Would Neville Cardus have called this Little Master, "A devastating rarity: A genius with an eye for business?" I presume he would have said something even greater as Tendulkar apart from being the efficient and consistent run-maker is also a classically-beautiful player to watch.
He is like a well-oiled and productive machine; only that no machine can be so joyous and joy-giving. He dedicated his innings to the fans; to the people of the country saying that their support was crucial during days when there was no rain.
The unbeaten double hundred he made on Wednesday in a 50-over match against a good South African attack on a batting-friendly surface is another pearl he has added to his priceless collection.
He got the strike on the third ball of the first over that Dale Steyn bowled and he played the first four balls that were shaping away right from the middle of the bat for no runs. One run came from that ideal first over where Steyn could not hold on to a tough chance that Sehwag gave on the second ball of the over.
Tendulkar took the first four balls to play himself in and then he hit two gorgeous fours off Parnell in the second over and then another one to Steyn in the third over and then the rollicking show started. Tendulkar raised his 100 in 90 balls with the help of 13 fours; all of them odd in the sense that each one of them stood out like a perfect jewel.
Immediately after getting to a hundred he pulled Kallis for a four and then smashed one straight over the bowler’s head that went like a projectile. Then he took care of Duminy by stepping out to get his first six and drilled a four again over the bowler’s head.
How does he do it? He just simply loves his craft; his passion for the game makes it possible. The genius is constantly-learning and is always working on his game.
In Australia when he scored an unbeaten hundred in the Sydney Test in January 2008 he was asked in the post-day interview about the jinx of 90s that had plagued him throughout the previous year. Tendulkar said that ‘I was getting into bad habits and I needed to break them this year’.
Since that day Tendulkar has made eight Test match hundreds and five One Day hundreds. The ODI hundreds were all called one of his best hundreds until he upstaged them; the 117 not out he made while chasing in the first Commonwealth Bank Series final in Sydney, the 163 retired hurt he made in Christchurch where he could have got a double but he took the decision to not take a chance with a niggle before the upcoming Test series.
The 138 in a final against Sri Lanka in Colombo was another match-winning knock; and then that tremendous 175 against Australia that could not see his side home but was hailed as his best-ever hundred coming under the pressure of chasing 350. Now he’s got the first double hundred in an ODI; an unbeaten 200 against a good attack.
Time has only served to confirm that Tendulkar, even after 20 years on the road, still has the capability to produce a timeless gem. The few injury-marred Test seasons and the 2007 World Cup where he was, for reasons apparent to no one bar Greg Chappell, made to bat at number four rather than his favoured and successful position at the top of the order are among the major disappointments.
Tendulkar post the World Cup in 2007 has been like a batting sage. In the Test matches he has played virtually flawless innings. He has shown the brilliance of his defence and made the cricketing world realise that he is successful in attacking so mercilessly only because he is so perfect when defending. He has hardly put a foot wrong and with a bit of luck his tally of hundreds could well have been significantly higher.
The last word must go to a fresh and insightful voice in the commentary box; that of former England captain Naseer Hussain: “I have never quite liked comparisons between great players, but after Wednesday’s game it must be said—Sachin Tendulkar is the greatest batsman of all time.
Better than Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting, the other two great players of my era. Better than Sir Viv Richards, Sunil Gavaskar and Allan Border. And I would even say better than Sir Don Bradman himself.”