I have been thinking about expressing my deep respect for Sachin Tendulkar for a long time. Just was not finding the “right mood” … But then, after yesterday, it will be a crime to not say a few words about this great cricketer.

A double-century in a One Day International! The first time ever …

Growing up, my idol was Mohammad Azharuddin. I loved to watch his stylish game and fantastic fielding. But then, we all know the turmoil in which his career ended. If the allegations are true, its a real pity that he decided to squander away his fame/career/goodwill in that manner. I will blog more about him later …

Back to Sachin.

My favorite memories about Sachin are:

(01) I vividly remember Sachin’s first foray into the role of an opener in ODI (One Day Internationals) in the ODI at Auckland on 27th March 1994. You might recall that Sidhu (the regular opener) was injured and as is understandable with the players from the subcontinent, no one volunteered to open. According to reports, Sachin did! And boy, that innings was a pure thrill to watch and resulted in Sachin moving from lower order to opener/top-order positions.

(02) Sachin massacaring Aussie bowling attack in back-to-back matches at Sharjah and winning the Coca Cola Cup in 1998. Those two innings (the first one to get India to the finals and the next one to win the championship) was pure brilliance.

(03) 1996 World Cup Semifinal at Calcutta, against Sri Lanka. Inexplicably, after winning the toss, captain Azharuddin asked Sri Lanka to bat first, ensuring that India had to chase (under the lights) in a high-pressure match. Calcutta crowd was pumped up, expecting India to thrash Sri Lanka. Jayasurya/Kaluwitharana (the firebrand openers who enabled Sri Lanka to win the World Cup that year) ensured that the target was a stiff one. While one after the other, batsmen from the “world’s best batting lineup”, came to the crease, played a few balls, got out and scooted back to the pavilion, Sachin stayed strong at one end. At 65, he got out (stumped) and the 3rd umpire was called in. I will never forget the pin-drop silence in the stadium (while the decision was being made) and the expression of immense disappointment on Sachin’s face, when he was given out. To me, it showed how much it meant to him though he was just a regular team-member.

(04) Almost single-handedly taking India to the 2003 World Cup finals (though we got thrashed in the finals). It was interesting to note that he, not the captain Sourav Ganguly, read the team statement after getting walloped in the 1st match by Australia and there was a lot of anger from the fans. Imagine reading such a statement and then flopping in the tournament. But he did not, did he?

Though he may not have been the most swashbuckling or fiery of captains, he was (and is) a perfect team-member. He always puts the team first, almost always says the right thing and is respectful to his peers and other greats.

Count me in as a true fan of this great player.

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