NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A mythical statistic attributes one third of India’s road accidents to drivers craning their neck out to catch a glimpse of Sachin Tendulkar reaching a century on a television set in a roadside shop.
Roads in India should be marginally safer for the pedestrians now that the man from Mumbai has got his 100th international century.
Industry bosses must curse him as India’s biggest single cause for sudden falls in productivity levels. Every time Tendulkar nears the 100-mark, the world’s second most populous nation comes to a standstill, almost as a ritual.
Since his 1989 Karachi debut, what the 38-year-old has accumulated is much more than scoring almost 34,000 international runs from 188 test matches, 462 one-dayers and one T20 international.
The curly-haired boy with a sing-song voice has acquired an aura that only grew over the last couple of decades.
Some of his fans, and they are sizeable, have lost interest in the Don Bradman v Sachin Tendulkar debate.
They suggest it is rather Don v God.
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Putting aside the obvious exaggeration, the great Australian once remarked that the diminutive Indian’s batting reminded him of his own playing days and many feel the debate should rest there.
When it comes to accumulating runs, Tendulkar has established himself as the greatest cricketer of all time and if the bowlers he has tormented for over 22 years wanted to blame someone for his never-ending run spree, accusing fingers would be pointed at Dennis Lillee and Waqar Younis.
Lillee for not entertaining then school student Tendulkar’s request at a Chennai bowling academy to mould him into a fast bowler and instead advising him to work on his batting.
Waqar for hitting Tendulkar on the mouth in the 1989 series in Pakistan where both made their debuts. The wunderkind batted with a blood-soaked shirt in that match and more than two decades since that incident, bowlers across the cricketing world continue to bleed boundaries to the little master.
Javed Miandad was part of the squad Tendulkar made his debut against and the former Pakistan skipper said he could sense he was watching someone very special.
“We had heard a lot about this teenager from Mumbai and there was lot of hype surrounding his debut in the Karachi test,” Miandad told Reuters.
”He looked a good player but as the series progressed, we knew here was a great player in the making.
“The first real signs of his immense talent came during a match in Peshawar in that series when he hit Abdul Qadir for (three) sixes (in a row) even when he was under pressure.”
Shoaib Mohammad was also part of that Pakistan team and he recollected how the teenager negotiated an attack that included Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar and Qadir.
“I recall how Imran, Wasim and Waqar bounced at this 16-year-old and how he responded with courage. At that time I remember some of us discussing how this young fellow appeared to have loads of talent,” he said.
Even Vinod Kambli, who starred in a 664-run unbroken partnership with Tendulkar in a school match, had considerable talent as evident from the couple of double centuries and two centuries he struck in his first seven test matches.
But while Kambli’s international career stalled in 1995, Tendulkar combined talent with toil to reach where he is today.
Even after so many years, Tendulkar spends as much time in the nets as the youngest member of the side, is meticulous about his fitness and prepares with the same seriousness.
The man eats cricket, drinks cricket and even sleeps cricket -- and team mates vouch for the last.
Salil Ankola, who played his only five-day match in the same Karachi test with Tendulkar, revealed in a 2009 interview that Tendulkar sleepwalked into a team mate’s room in Pakistan and asked if the bats he had ordered had arrived.
There are also apocryphal stories that if he loses his wicket cheaply to any unheralded bowler, he keeps muttering his name in his sleep and tries to settle the score in their next meeting.
Tendulkar never clears the air and the enigma grows on.
A fiercely private man, Tendulkar’s success is partially because of his ability to insulate himself from the maddening adulation showered on him by a cricket-crazy nation.
Miandad insists Tendulkar is a guiding light for all aspiring cricketers.
“He is a role model for a generation of cricketers. I keep on telling our youngsters -- here is a cricketer they can learn so much from. Just learn from the way he has dedicated his life to cricket,” he said.
Another former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif, who spent time with the Indian at Lashings Cricket Club in England, was stumped by Tendulkar’s humility.
“What impressed me was that despite his success, he was so humble and simple,” he said.
For a man who possess virtually every batting record worth possessing -- including the first ODI double century -- Tendulkar burnt his fingers with captaincy and has swiftly transformed into the king-maker since.
He is a vital part of every Indian think-tank and it was at his recommendation that Mahendra Singh Dhoni was named the captain of the side.
Tendulkar is omnipresent in this part of the globe, peeping from television screens and giant billboards peddling cement, credit card, educational loan, digital camera, cold drinks, energy drinks and even promoting egg consumption, milking every ounce of the brand Sachin.
He dismisses retirement talk like a rank full toss and maintains he is enjoying his game and that is not good news for the bowlers.
Editing by Pritha Sarkar; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org