It's a debate that virtually every Indian has taken part in at some point or the other, but the verdict from a galaxy of stars was unanimous – Sachin Tendulkar is the greatest ever to play the game, and ahead of even Aussie legend Donald Bradman.
At the Salaam Sachin conclave organised by the India Today Group here on Tuesday, a panel comprising West Indies legend Brian Lara, Pakistan’s Shoaib Akhtar, Rameez Raja, Mohammad Azharuddin and Gautam Gambhir paid rich tribute to the country’s retiring cricketing legend.
It illustrated what Indian fans have believed for long, that Sachin has moved the emotions of every cricket fan in the world, irrespective of citizenship, in a way that no one before or since has.
Shoaib, one of Sachin’s foremost opponents at the peak of his career at the turn of the millennium, said the Mumbai maestro’s greatness lay in the sheer variety and quality of opponents he subdued.
“I always consider the era from about 1985 to 2000 as the most difficult era for batsmen in the history of cricket, because of the sheer variety and quality on offer in each country’s bowling attack,” Shoaib said. “You had Wasim [Akram] and Waqar [Younis] reversing the ball at great pace for Pakistan, you had the greatest leg-spinner of all time in Shane Warne, a great off-spinner in Saqlain Mushtaq, Muttiah Muralitharan for Sri Lanka – each team had a bunch of great bowlers. There lies the greatness of Sachin because he took on each of them with great versatility.”
One of Sachin’s ultimate duels was in the 2003 World Cup when he whacked Shoaib to all parts of the Centurion ground, and even today, the Pakistani pacer shudders to recall that knock.
“I had no idea he would come out so aggressive that day. I was trying to bowl a bouncer but it wasn’t coming out right, so I decided to bowl it outside off stump to try and induce a false pull shot. Instead, he cut me for six. Then, when I bowled it into the blockhole he drove it for another boundary. I just walked up to the captain, Wasim bhai , and said ‘kaptan, aaj uska din hai, mujhe chhor do.’”
Lara, who is often offered as the alternative to Sachin in the ‘greatest’ debate, went a step further in his praise.
“I believe Sachin is completing the greatest cricket career of all time – and I say that after considering the careers of Donald Bradman, Vivian Richards and Garfield Sobers.”
Lara's effusive praise stemmed from the fact that Bradman, despite an average of 99.94 in 52 Tests and 80 innings, never took the field for an official game in the subcontinent.
Richards and Sobers, on the other hand, often had the greatest bowlers in their own team, making their own achievements pale in comparison to the other two masters – viz. Sachin and Bradman.
Raja, the former Pakistan captain, said: “For me, Sachin’s 100 international centuries is the greatest achievement for a batsman because of the pressure of performance.
He told me how everyone – from the bellhop to the room service personnel – kept asking him when he would get to the milestone. I salute the guy for his consistency.”
Reproduced from Mail Today. Copyright 2013. MTNPL. All rights reserved.
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