Relaxed at a practice session on the eve of the fourth ODI against England in Bangalore in November 2008.Sachin Tendulkar is the complete batsman. Neither fast bowlers nor mystery spinners nor hard pitches nor damp decks nor dust bowls nor heat nor cold nor dusk nor dawn nor razzmatazz have,Relaxed at a practice session on the eve of the fourth ODI against England in Bangalore in November 2008.Sachin Tendulkar is the complete batsman. Neither fast bowlers nor mystery spinners nor hard pitches nor damp decks nor dust bowls nor heat nor cold nor dusk nor dawn nor razzmatazz have found him wanting. Ten thousand questions have been asked and all have been answered, most of them in the affirmative. Half-a-dozen downturns have been endured and all have proved temporary. Injuries have laid him low and none has crushed him. Thirty dubious decisions have been suffered and all have been accepted. It has not only been the runs or the brilliance of their making that have set him apart. It’s a mistake to regard him as an ordinary man and outstanding cricketer. There is nothing ordinary about him. He is cricket’s second miracle.Durability and equanimity count amongst his strengths. His longevity and continuity tell that tale. Harmony has also been important to success. It’s not just that he loves batting as another man relishes beer. Was ever a sportsman so lacking torment? Cricket has never been an ordeal to him, merely a game, his game, India’s game. He has sacrificed privacy for his talent and considered it a small concession. Although India speaks loudly in his cricket-he can only be fully appreciated once its turbulence adulation and exhaustion have been taken into account -he is not an especially Indian batsman. He has soaked up local and imported, past and present, and taken the guts out of them. He is at peace with himself and has been able to absorb the influences around him. It’s too easy to cast him as a genius, as if that provided the entire explanation. He is an independent and intelligent cricketer with a profound understanding of the game.advertisement”Cricket has never been an ordeal to Sachin. He has sacrificed privacy for his talent and considered it a small concession.”Roebuck is a former captain of Somerset and one of the most respected writers on the game With his family at the unveiling of his wax double in Mumbai before it moved to Madame Tussauds, London.Another quality can be added to the list. Tendulkar’s enthusiasm for cricket is beyond quenching. Through it all he conveys pleasure, retains vitality as others wilt. Crucially he loves the game, and serves it well. How many masters can truly say that? Tendulkar is no innocent, yet there is simplicity in his batting and impishness in his manner. At the crease he looks happy, a man in his element. He does not need to goad himself. Nor can any strut be detected in him. Never mind that he dominates the statistics, is widely admired, or that his play has seldom been equalled; he still respects colleagues and foes and the game itself. He does not take liberties. It is the unchanging approach of an unchanging man.His appetite for the game is evident in the length of his career and in every innings he plays. Tendulkar’s batting is illuminated but not defined byresounding drives, flicks off the pads or cuts as savage as any treasurer dare contemplate. Of course, these provide satisfaction but they are a gift from the gods. His character is revealed in another, less captivating part of his repertoire. He is a magnificent stroke player but he is also a master of the manufactured single.Sachin’s singles illustrate the workings of his mind. The humble run has never been neglected. It’s hard to think of another batsman of his stature as keen to tuck the ball into a gap and scurry. Of course, the bowling does not hold any fears. Just that his job is to score runs, and a single is better than a dot. Apparently Bradman sought a single off his first ball. Tendulkar is like that every ball. To watch him at the crease is to observe a batsman aware of every peril and the location of every fieldsman. Has any batsman the game has known collected as many runs with mild taps into the perennial gap behind square leg?Tendulkar is no innocent, yet there is simplicity in his batting and impishness in his manner. At the crease he looks happy, a man in his element. He does not need to goad himself. Nor can any strutbe detected in him. Receiving the Padma Vibhushan from the President.Opponents have studied the charts and observed the tactic and still cannot stop him. Captains cannot find a man to fill the hole without weakening their defences. Bowlers suffer as their prey politely guides their best offerings into a convenient gap and trots a single. Nor is the off side is neglected. Tendulkar is as calculating player adept at opening the face of the bat and encouraging the ball to speed away behind point. Another run, another small victory, another blow landed in the enduring and cut-throat battle between bat and ball.Opponents cannot build pressure on so elusive a batsman, and cricket is a game of pressure, of canny and rash decisions taken in the hot moment. Bowlers are frustrated to find their most lethal offerings, the summation of all their knowledge, experience and power, pushed away for a simple run. What is the point?It is this ability to create runs from thin air that sets Tendulkar apart. Ordinarily stolen singles are the work of the humdrum practitioner. Tendulkar has turned them into an art form. Consider the manner of their taking, the modesty, skill and anticipation required, and then the genial dash towards the other end. Radio commentators insist they once heard him call a single before the ball had even arrived. Tendulkar is ahead of the game.Nor does he forget about anxious partners. He wants the run not to fill his own account- though like all batsmen he is mindful of that-but because it is good cricket and improves the team’s position. He is not selfish. He is also a superb judge of a run. In 169 Test matches he has only been run out seven times. His partners have been caught short on 13 occasions. How many of them have been his fault? He has batted with Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly and others of that ilk. Doubtless some of them were bunnies whose judgement in these matters is notoriously unreliable. Considering all the singles scampered, it is a remarkable record.Celebrating India’s victory over Pakistan in the third cricket Test match at Rawalpindi in April 2004.Despite all the passing years and the vast tally, Tendulkar’s high regard for quick singles tells of discipline, hunger and a willingness to serve. His spirit does not tolerate rebellion or ego. Throughout he has uplifted team and country with deeds. Indians scared of pace? Ask Brett Lee or Wasim Akram. Cannot score runs overseas? Check the books. Dare not defy the Australians? The deed was most thrillingly done. He was not slaying dragons or dismantling demons; he did it because he could, because he wanted to score runs and to win.Still he is there, looking fresh and alert, still a player of pedigree, still humble, still wary but then suddenly fascinating about batting. And he’s not done yet. Still he is scoring hundreds, talking sense in that curiously high pitched voiced, driving the ball past the bowler or pinching a single and looking as pleased as a child who has found a plum, always he is absorbed. How many runs has be scored. Has he once appeared bored? Has he thrown his wicket away? Has he let the team down? Once? He has taken guard a thousand times for his country alone and always looked keen.Still, all good things come to an end. Fleetingness is part of it. It’s the same for the players, the knowledge that soon it will be over, this childhood dream taken into adulthood, this acquaintance with excellence.Tendulkar has been around so long it’s hard to imagine the game without him. Eventually another talent will appear. Let them outlast him. Let them outscore him. Let them surpass him in one formof the game let alone in three. And let them do it in India.advertisementadvertisementHis singles illustrate the workings of his mind. The humble run has never been neglected. It’s hard to think of another batsman of his stature as keen to tuck the ball into a gap and scurry.