When Sachin Tendulkar Met Sir Don Bradman
Sir Donald George Bradman and Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar are two of the most illustrious names in the annals of the long history of the game of cricket.
The numbers speak for themselves regarding the achievements and contributions of these two gifted batsmen to the gentleman’s game and the personalities of these two legendary batsmen live beyond their time on the field.
ABC recently released a documentary celebrating the stories of the two batters gave a snapshot of the respect between two of the greatest players ever to have wielded a willow.
In the documentary, Tendulkar recollects his experience of being invited to Sir Don’s 90th birthday party in Adelaide in the year 1998.
“I was actually in the middle of a camp in Chennai and my manager told me that on Sir Don’s 90th birthday, he has invited me to Australia and asked if I could meet him at home,” said the batsman-par-excellence.
“Going tO Sir Don’s house, 2 Holden Street, was an unbelievable experience,” the master blaster elaborated.
“The funniest bit was the drive with Warnie (Shane Warne) to Sir Don’s house and Warnie said ‘You got to start the conversation’ and I said ‘No, you’re from Australia. You’re the local kid. You should be starting the conversation, I shouldn’t be,” joked Tendulkar.
“And Warnie tells me, ‘What am I going to discuss with him? You two batter, you should be discussing batting.'”, Tendulkar explained.
“He (Sir Don) was just unbelievably sharp and he kept up with what was happening currently in cricket”, Tendulkar revealed.
“The obvious question from our side was ‘What would you have averaged in today’s Cricket, Sir Don?'”, Tendulkar explained his curiosity.
“He said ‘Maybe around 70 or so.'”
A bemused Sachin goes “Why 70?”
And Bradman without missing a heartbeat goes “70 is not bad for a 90-year-old, my kid.”
Tendulkar was also interested in knowing the mind frame of the great Australian while going into bat.
“His answer was simple. He said ‘I went to work. I turned up, got runs and went back to work,” Tendulkar divulged.
“Life must have been completely different then,” Tendulkar opined.
“I mean now (in the 1990s), professional athletes, pre-match preparation, post-match recovery, and all these kind of things. It is a different approach now, but in those days, life was different and challenging.”
Tendulkar presented a beautiful candlestick holder to the Australian great on the occasion with the inscription ‘To Sir Donald Bradman, with best wishes on your 90th birthday, 27th of August 1998’.
Originally, there were four printed copies of the iconic photograph of arguably the two best batsmen to ever set foot on the field. The Melbourne Cricket Ground and the South Australian Cricket Club had the honour of receiving a copy each.
Tendulkar’s manager, Mark Mascarenhas, received one and the final copy, of course, is held by Sachin himself at his house in Bandra West, alongside his grand collection of memorabilia pertaining to the legendary Australian batsman, which is a testament to the station India’s greatest ever cricketer holds Bradman at.
Respect and admiration beyond boundaries
Bradman once said, “I’ve only Tendulkar on the television and I was very very struck by his technique.”
“I asked my wife to come and have a look at him because I never saw myself play but I feel this fellow is playing much the same as I used to play.”
Probably the highest compliment any batsman who has ever picked up a bat can receive. Not just a note of appreciation, but a note of likeness from Don himself.
The famous ‘99.94’ batting average of the Australian great has stood the test of time and still remains as amusing as it once did all those years ago. And when Bradman tipped his hat to the Indian master, it seemed as though the Aussie was anointing his heir. Someone to carry forward the heavy torch, burdened with the virtue of greatness.
Tendulkar, who made his Test debut at the tender age of 16 and would continue to walk out to the centre for an astounding 24 years further. Shouldering the weight of expectations of the world’s biggest democracy on his wee shoulders was pressure enough, but add to it the forecast from one of the greatest ever to take guard and the resultant is massive.
But, Tendulkar carried the burden, with such aplomb nevertheless. Most runs in the history of the game, most centuries across formats, the first man to reach the 200-run mark in a One Day International match, and the record go on.
When quizzed about what Tendulkar thought pushed Bradman to spot similarities between the two greats, he humbly said “That is a tough question to answer”.
“That is a massive statement. I was around 22 years of age then. And for such a young professional athlete to hear something like that was worth gold.”
“It wouldn’t be right of me to speak about the similarities, I would leave that to his family.”
Bradman paid tribute to the overall coherence that was exuberant in Tendulkar’s batting.
“It was his compactness, his stroke production and his technique it all seemed to gel as far as I was concerned. And that was how I felt,” Bradman explained.
A young Tendulkar’s takeaway from such high praise were what would go on to amplify his greatness.
“From my side, I thought the statement came at a time when I felt I had to push harder.”
“It is best tonic one can get. To feel that one is being noticed and your game is being appreciated.”
Tendulkar’s time at the centre of India’s sporting craze is nothing short of a fable. One in which a diminutive man rose to the levels of celestial beings, capturing the dreams of every man, woman and child from the peninsular nation. It was only befitting that the elusive ICC World Cup trophy found its way into the hands that held the bat like no one else across sags.
The journey of a middle-class boy from Bandra into the pantheon of cricketing greats
Harsha Bhogle once said, “If Sachin bats well, Indian sleeps well.”
Such was the impact the little genius from Mumbai had on the populace of the sub-continental nation. Television sets across the county would switch on in unison right at the time India’s greatest-ever batter walked out to bat for the better part of three decades.
And as the famous quip goes, in a nation divided by religion, caste, creed and socio-economic ingredients, Tendulkar was the unifying factor.
On a graph between career runs and average, Tendulkar and Bradman are placed lightyears beyond every other name one can think of. Bradman’s average stands head and shoulders above the rest, while Tendulkar’s run tally has been surpassed by none. Even after all these years since the little man decided to call it a day.
The man who had made the nation stand still, time and again, holding its breath until the master could cross the three-digit mark, which he managed a miraculous 100 times, is probably the only player worthy of comparison to the Australian legend, who was a sight to behold himself.
Bradman, who has a museum built in his honour saw a bit of himself in Tendulkar. And in all probability, there is a chance that he saw a whole lot more than he let on.
Despite all his accolades and achievements Tendulkar still croons as he watches Bradman’s 1930 clinic demonstrating techniques for a plethora of cricketing shots.
“Excellent!”, the little master exclaims as he eyeballs Bradman’s famous pull shot off the front foot.
“The bat’s speed is just incredible. When he’s demonstrating the pull and the hook, it’s like a whip.”
“You can hear the ‘whoosh’,” Tendulkar elaborated.
“Somebody who is well ahead of his time is always going to do that. Wherever he wanted to play and demonstrate it very briefly, you could see that control, authority and that confidence.”
“Every ball you play, you’re making a statement to the bowler and the fielding side, every time you coney that message”, Tendulkar opined.
Tendulkar’s genius transcended the game, not simply because of the natural talent he was gifted with, but also his respect for each individual delivery even after all those years of masterful displays of grandeur batting.
Even after all those tons, runs, victories and awards, Tendulkar still had the humility to respect a great delivery.
“Balance is really important for batting. The grip, backlift, all of those things are important, but intent trumps them all. It is more important than anything else in the game.”
“When I started playing, the first thought in my mind was hit the ball for a boundary, but if the ball was a decent ball, I would look to punch it in a gap wherever.”
“If it was better than that, maybe guide it for a single.”
“A little better than that, block it.”
“And to let the ball go was my last option,” the legend divulged.
“My first option is always to hit that ball”, Tendulkar asserted. Which was very much the way Bradman approached his game.
Time Stands Still
Tendulkar’s penchant for stroke-making is a masterclass in itself. Alas, this is the man who refrained from playing the shot he was synonymous with due to unfavourable circumstances at one point. Yet, his genius was such that the ton still followed despite the notable absence of his signature drive through the off-side against the mighty Australian unit back in the year 2004.
His unbeaten 241, a marathon in itself, was devoid of the cover drive. A decision Tendulkar sided with and stuck to.
Was the sacred art of batting all too easy for this 5″5′ man? Was it second nature to him that despite evident handicaps he administered unto himself had no bearing on the larger outcome?
Or was his technique an apocryphon that eluded the simple minds and sought a gifted host such to bless the world through?
“When I was batting at my best, my conscious mind was always at the non-striker’s end and my subconscious was at the striker’s. Because the bowler is constantly asking questions and your conscious has to pick that up. And once it does, you have to surrender yourself to your subconscious mind.”
“It takes over and you react,” Tendulkar explained.
One can’t be sure if Bradman was privy to the knowledge of flow states and explanations to surreal instances of time standing still so as to permit supernatural occurrences at will, but anyone who has had the privilege of witnessing the master from Mumbai ply his trade, will till you that from the moment the ball left the bowler’s hand, time did stand still for the man stood 22-yards across the point of release.
Answer to Call
During his late 80s, Bradman was of the opinion that the mails he received from his adoring fans deserved a reply. It was his grounding attribute as he would fathom.
“I would honestly think that I get as much mail today as I ever got in my life and it is quite common for me to spend three or four hours a day just dealing with the mail,” Bradman expressed.
And he answered them in all sincerity. A touch of class. Let nobody tell you any different.
“It speaks a lot about the person that he was. People would love you for playing cricket, but what happens beyond cricketing years is equally important, if not more. And that is where the person that you are comes into play,” Tendulkar reflected on Bradman’s dutiful nature to respond to fan mail.
“It’s a precious thing!”, said a moved Tendulkar.
And as far as similarities go, Tendulkar answered the prayers he got. Not with pen and paper like us mortals have been led to believe what answers should look like, but with shots, strokes and boundaries, coupled with what he would astoundingly put it as ‘a thought behind every shot’.
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