There is no other cricketer whose career I have followed with such fascination and interest and I think Indian cricket owes a lot to him. India should thank Tendulkar for inspiring a new generation of great talent in the likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan.
Because if there is one man who has inspired Indian cricket to new heights, it is this little fellow. Today, the young talent in Indian cricket only has Tendulkar to thank for their rise as he inspired them with his determination, concentration, confidence and greatness.
To have dominated the cricket arena for 24 years speaks volumes of his passion for the game and his dedication. He is a true role model for the younger generation not only for his cricketing exploits but also for his conduct off the field. I must confess that when Tendulkar walked out for his farewell Test match in Mumbai and after having seen the love, respect and adulation showered on him, I was moved to tears.
Tears, because this is the last time we will get to see his exquisite batting live, because I feel he decided to retire because of those people who felt the time had come for him to go from the new Indian team and because I honestly believe he could have played on for another two-three years.
I have had the opportunity to meet up with this Little Master thrice. The last time was when the late Raj Singh Dungarpur invited me and my family to Mumbai for the Cricket Club of India silver jubilee celebrations.
I appeared on a television show and to me it came as a shock to hear some people question Tendulkar’s future in the Indian team, his fitness and form and if he should retire. This was about 10 years ago and I remember saying then ‘You have a jewel don’t spoil it, it is important for Tendulkar to be part of the Indian team and let him play as long as he wants and let him decide when he wants to hang up his boots.’ It is a matter of pride for me that I was not wrong because Sachin went on to create new records and set new benchmarks in batting which I don’t think will be bettered for years to come.
I am fortunate to have played in the Bradman era and also seen the greatness of Tendulkar and inevitably I am asked who is the greatest batsman of all time. Was it Bradman with his Test average of 99.94 or Tendulkar with his 100 international hundreds? Surely Bradman should get this title but it is always tough to make such comparisons and for me there is no comparison. Because it is safe to say that when you play more matches, your average does tend to get affected.
There is no doubt about Bradman’s class or calibre but Tendulkar stands out with his consistency, determination and run scoring feats in the last 25 years. He has shown what one can achieve with sheer hardwork and passion and he became the best by consistently performing in any format.
My advice to young players would be to just watch the videos of Tendulkar bat over the years and realise that nothing is impossible in this great sport. Watch how he adjusted his technique to the changing times and trends in cricket. Technique is paramount in batting but mental strength and a strong will is far more important and Tendulkar has always displayed these qualities.
For me, one of the most cherished moments of my life is when the Indian team came to Pakistan in January 2006, and they were invited for lunch to the country club by Mr Arif Abbasi. It was Tendulkar who presented me with a souvenir plate on behalf of the Indian cricket board for having done well at the CCI in Mumbai. That plate stands proudly upfront on my mantelpiece of awards.