The greatness of Sachin Tendulkar, who completed 23 successful years in international cricket on Thursday, can be ascertained by the number of players – 874 — who have gone on to make their Test debuts after the batting maestro played his first match against Pakistan on November 15, 1989, in Karachi.
Little wonder that greats from Sunil Gavaskar to Ravi Shastri and from Sourav Ganguly to former England captain Paul Collingwood effusively praised Tendulkar on Thursday — the first day of the first Test against England — on his journey, now 191- match old.
“It’s quite amazing for somebody to be playing international cricket for so long; 23 years is unheard of. I think 15- 16 years is what some of the players in the past have done. But it just tells you the keenness he still has, and the boyish enthusiasm. And that is the reason why he is still around. I just hope that this is his best seasons ever,” Gavaskar told MAIL TODAY.
Shastri, who once managed Tendulkar, too was unreserved in his tribute. “ Greatest players are judged by longevity and consistency. And 23 years define longevity more than anything else. It’s a tribute to his greatness. Longevity means you have to have all other (attributes) otherwise you can’t last. And you have to be consistent and he has done remarkably,” said Shastri.
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Four cricketers – Shastri, Sanjay Manjrekar, Navjot Sidhu, and Kapil Dev – who were in the Indian XI along with Tendulkar in Karachi 23 years ago were at the Sardar Patel Stadium here as television commentators when the 39- year- old maestro scored 13 in the first innings.
“What I find really amazing is that his preparation, his keenness, his application, which is in its 23rd year of international cricket, will be the same as it was 23 years back when he played his first innings in Karachi. That tells you about Tendulkar the batsman and why he has had that kind of success for such a long period of time,” the suave Manjrekar said.
Ganguly, who opened the batting with Tendulkar in ODIs and forged several memorable partnerships with him, said: “ It’s terrific to play for so long with such consistency. A hundred hundreds just peaks everything.” Tendulkar made his Test debut aged 16 years and 205 days, breaking Laxman Sivaramakrishnan’s Indian record of being the youngest player to appear in a Test match.
Sivaramakrishnan, who had made his Test debut aged 17 years and 118 days, on Thursday wished Tendulkar adds some more tons to his 100 international centuries.
“At that point in time he broke my record. So the moment he walked into the Test arena he broke a record and from then on there was no looking back for him,” he said.
“And for somebody like him – talent, commitment and the hard work that I have seen him put in through 23 years — would be proud of the achievements. And not too many people would achieve that. So, I’m in all appreciation for the wonderful work that he has done for Indian cricket and hope he goes on and gets a few more hundreds.”
Even Collingwood, here as a television commentator, said he enjoyed Tendulkar’s batting from the rival camp. “Sachin is simply a legend of the game. Playing against him was always a pleasure. We were trying to get him out as early as possible and which is very difficult.
It was always a pleasure to watch him bat — the style, the grace that he has at the crease, and the way he has held himself as a professional. It’s a credit to himself, his family and everybody in India,” Collingwood told MAIL TODAY . “He has been a great figurehead and a very well respected batsman.” Fitness and luck have, of course, played a role in Tendulkar’s illustrious career.
“In anything in life, you have to have an element of luck. But once that comes your way, you’ve got to be able have the skill, and the temperament to be able to make the most of the luck that comes your way,” opined Gavaskar. On Tendulkar’s fitness, he said: “ He has had some odd injury here and there. But, generally, he has kept himself very fit and taken care of his body. That’s why he has lasted that long.”