By Ollie Field
This week I had the privilege of witnessing one of this century’s finest sportsmen top off a truly astounding career with a record breaking performance. Sachin Tendulkar’s first innings score of 88 in the second test against Australia saw him surpass Brian Lara’s record as the world’s highest test run scorer of all time. He also became the first batsman ever to reach 12 000 runs and, despite having already been on the international scene for 19 years, he looks sure to add on to this mammoth total for years to come.
Records in sport are broken week in and week out, and Tendulkar’s runs total could be viewed as another statistic waiting to be broken in an increasingly competitive sporting world. But it’s certainly not statistics, or the sheer mass of runs that Tendulkar has scored that makes him such a remarkable sportsman.
At age 35, he is still the “wonder-kid” of Indian cricket, able to change a game at any stage and give even the best bowlers of this century a torrid time. He has one of the widest ranges of shots all around the crease, and has been the Indian batsman all bowlers have wanted to claim since his debut in 1989.
His personal achievements include the most runs in test and One Day International history, as well as holding the record for the most test (39) and ODI (42) centuries. In 1997, he was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year, and Shane Warne regards him as the best cricketer of the modern era.
With all these achievements in mind, it’s clear why the “Little Master” is regarded so highly in cricketing circles.But I think his performances off the pitch are what make him the ultimate modern sportsman.
Tendulkar has, throughout his career, been placed under enormous pressure by millions of demanding Indian cricket fans, who have come to expect so much from him, that anything less than a century has become a near failure. The silence around the likes of Eden Gardens and the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium when Tendulkar is dismissed has become characteristic of the modern game.
No sportsman in history, including the likes of Pele, Sir Donald Bradman, Muhammad Ali or even David Beckham, has had the effect on supporters that the “Little Master” has on the world – particularly the nation of India that lives and breathes cricket.
In actual fact, Tendulkar became one of the first commercial sportsmen of all time, with a movie star image and sponsor deal collection to match that would make pin-ups like Christiano Ronaldo and Maria Sharapova blush. And, despite all this pressure and public attention, Tendulkar has never put a foot wrong in his entire career, always playing the game with the best attitude possible and representing himself and his country in a truly remarkable manner.Perhaps the greatest cricketing gentleman of the modern era, never displaying any bad feelings on the pitch and wearing a smile almost every time we see him, except maybe when he’s facing Brett Lee. Here’s to the “Little Master” on an inspiring career and, let’s hope, 12 000 more glorious runs.