The emotions are high as this could well be the last time we saw the God pad up for the nation. By the time India tours South Africa which is at the end of November, Sachin would be well over 40 years and six months old and very few players have played at the highest level at age. Moreover apart from IPL, he would be completely out of Cricket during this six months. So it is safe to assume that the fourth and final Delhi test again Australia could be his final test. I personally had the privilege of watching Him play for the first time in front of my eyes after having religiously watched Him on TV for more than 20 years now. Yes I am a bit nostalgic and so am writing this post to ponder over the last two decades in which this Little Master has taken Cricket to a new level in India and converted it into a religion. And yes if Cricket is religion then Sachin has to be the God!
I am going to put forward my own views on whether India or for that matter even the entire Cricketing world can find a player like Him in years to come. I am no Cricket expert but s a avid Cricket fan for the last 24 odd years, I would take this opportunity to pour my heart out.
For the critics, yes Sachin might be well past his prime but can I dare to ask you a question, does India still have a replacement for Him. Even when He doesn’t score, the sheer feeling of having in dressing room creates an atmosphere of confidence and belief.
To start with Sachin might not have been the best technical player. There were players like Rahul Dravid, Brian Lara, Rickey Ponting who were probably technically stronger than Him. But it His sheer appetite for runs, the dedication, passion and humility that takes Him a long distance ahead of the competition.
Wind back excatly 20 years, His school mate and best buddy Vinod Kambli was taking the international cricket world by storm by scoring two double tons in back to back series against Zimbabwe and England. It was at that time that Kambli was compared with Lara, the best at that time by all measures of imagination and Sachin was rather compared with Mark Waugh. Kambli could well have surpassed Sachin with his batting style and flair. However Kambli had his own off-field distractions and in fact was also the last time we saw Kambli in prime.
Then we had the three stalwarts playing around the same time as Sachin was at His peak, Saurav Ganguly who scored a century on debut at the Lords, Rahul Dravid, the wall and VVS Laxman, the nemesis of Australia. While Ganguly was certainly the best left hand batsman that the country has ever produced, he was a better captain and was very unfortunate to be a victim of board politics. However his weakness against short pitched deliveries meant he was never going to pose any challenge to Sachin’s supremacy.
Rahul Dravid is the true wall, the mister dependable. Even Sanjay Manjerekar had a solid technique but Dravid showed the importance of application. He was the backbone of the Indian test team for over a decade and it was for his efforts that India achieved a lot of over seas success during his time. However he was a bit slow in scoring to play in the ODI team and as such not a complete ODI player.
Laxman was at his best against Australia and was rather more than an average player against the rest at best. He was again not suited for OIDs.
I might raise a few eyebrows if I say that Yuvraj Singh was the next best thign to happen to Indian cricket after Sachin. But Sachin himself has recognized his potential many a times. However potential is potential and all that matters is records. Yuvraj was extremely gifted like Sachin and his initial few innings showed that he could go past Sachin in coming years. But his weakness against slow spinning deliveries was soon exposed and he particularly had a difficult time against Srilanka. He will however be best remembered for winning India two World Cups – T20 World Cup in 2007 and the ICC World Cup in 2011. Life played a rather nasty game against him when he was diagnosed with brain tumor.
I remember the first time I saw Sehwag open during the tour of Srilanka in a tri-series, Newzealand being teh third team. Sachin was not available during the seris and Sehwag got the opportunity to open. His style of play was so similar to that of Sachin and being of same height as well, one would find it difficult to say whether it was Sachin himself batting. Sehwag proved his critics wrong by scoring a century on debut against South Africa at their own backward. However we probably have seen the last of Sehwag as well. He was too aggressive and casual at times to reach the heights of true greatness that Sachin has reached.
2011 was the year of Virat Kohli and he has shown immense potential and hunger for runs. He seems to the ideal replacement for the number four position that Sachin bats. He is an able leader as well and it’s just a matter of time before he takes up the responsibility of Dhoni full-time. However his arrogance and off-filed distractions again could lead him to a fate similar to that of Kambli.
If I think beyond Indian cricket, there are a few names which obviously catch the imagination. Brian Lara and Rickey Ponting are certainly way ahead in that list. Lara was probably again a far better player in terms of technique and flair. But he lacked consistency and had off-fields problems as well and probably could never reach his true potential.
Ponting on the other hand was a true Aussie fighter. He took the opposition to the sword with his attacking stroke play. How can any Indian forget the 2003 World Cup final where he alone took the game away from India. He is certainly as good a player as Sachin if not better. However one has to acknowledge that he had the support of a bunch of hugely talented players during that period too. While Sachin had to play against the quality pace attack of Australia itself and cherished the encounter, Ponting did not have to face a similar attack as West Indes was already a shadow of their glorious past and South Africa was in a transition phase during that period.
How can anyone forget Jacques Kallis, probably the best all-rounder of all times but very soft spoken. He has been the mainstay of South African cricket for years now. He has socred more runs and taken more wickets in all forms of Cricket than anyone could imagine. However against spin he has always been a bit shaky and a slow scoring rate and batting lower down in ODIs meant he could not amass as many centuries as he was capable of.
The other few names that comes to my mind are Saed Anwar of Pakistan, Andy Flower of Zimbabwe, Mahela Jaywardena of Srilanka, Gary Kirsten of South Africa and Mark Waugh of Australia. Howver apart from Mahela Jaywardena, no one else played too much cricket so didn’t probably get the opportunity to reach their true potential.
So the questions remains wide open – Will India or for that matter the world find another Sachin Tendulkar. My heart says it No! cricket is being too commercialized now and soon people will just play for money and not for the actual love of the game, the craze which bought every citizen together during an India Pakistan Cricket match a decade earlier. However for the sheer cause of Cricket, I would love to be proved wrong.