For a man in his 38th year, Tendulkar’s appetite for runs remains unsated and his unrelenting determination to keep wringing the utmost out of the gifts so lavishly bestowed on him at birth is phenomenal.
So, too, is his ability to remain unaffected either on or off the field by the relentless glare of public adulation which makes a private life impossible in his native India.
No hint of scandal has touched the man who last weekend became the first person to pass 14,000 test runs in the second test against Australia and he remains the complete team player.
“It is about what I want to do for my team,” he said after scoring his sixth test double-hundred in 171 tests and his 11th century against the team who have dominated cricket during his career. “And I will not compromise on that.”
Tendulkar has shown unqualified commitment to his team and his sport since Pakistan’s Waqar Younis bloodied his mouth with a short-pitched delivery in his debut test in 1990 at the age of 16.
Eight days later he became the youngest man to score a test half-century and 20 years on he holds the records for most test and one-day runs and the most test and one-day centuries, a scarcely believable 95 in total.
The ultimate accolade came from Don Bradman, whose test average of 99.94 dwarfs all his rivals before or since, including Tendulkar whose current mark is just under 57.
Towards the end of his life Bradman, the first celebrity cricketer, whose run-scoring feats for Australia in the depths of the 1930s depression bolstered an emerging nation’s morale, called his wife into the room to watch Tendulkar on television.
“I never saw myself play but I feel that this fellow is playing much the same as I used to play, and she looked at him on the television and said, yes, there is a similarity between the two,” recalled Bradman, who was no more inclined to make unconsidered statements that he had been to play rash shots.
“To me his compactness, his technique, his stroke production, it all seemed to gel as far as I was concerned.”
Tendulkar scored his first test hundred at Old Trafford at the age of 17 and he had still to celebrate his 20th birthday when a century off the Australians at Perth won the unstinted praise of cricket’s fiercest competitors.
The West Indian, Pakistani and South African fast bowlers at the start of his career held no terrors. His later duels with Shane Warne became the stuff of legend.
Tendulkar, who overtook compatriot Sunil Gavaskar’s world record of 34 test centuries in 2006, has reserved his best for Australia.
Under Steve Waugh, Australia fielded a side comparable to Bradman’s 1948 Invincibles or Ian Chappell’s swaggering buccaneers of the 1970s.
They met their match in India in 1998 when Tendulkar launched a sustained and successful assault on Warne, generally regarded as the best spinner of all time, to average 111.50 in a 2-1 series win for India.
On Tuesday, while Warne fumed via Twitter on Ricky Ponting’s field placings, Tendulkar was still Australia’s nemesis, scoring the winning runs to give India a 2-0 series victory which consolidated their place at the top of the world rankings.
Unsurprisingly the relentless demands of modern cricket have taken their toll and Tendulkar was troubled by injuries to his elbow and his shoulder and a slump in form in the middle of the last decade.
He rebounded to such effect that this year he was named the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) cricketer of the year for the first time, after averaging 81.84 in 10 tests during the review period and 65.28 in 17 one-day internationals.
Tendulkar intends to play next year in the first World Cup to be staged on the Indian sub-continent for 15 years, a tournament which all India fervently hopes will give their team the trophy for the first time since their upset victory over West Indies in 1983.
That unexpected triumph sparked an explosion of one-day cricket in India accompanied by a commercial boom which has helped to make Tendulkar a wealthy man by any standards.
Wealth and fame, though, seem to have scarcely affected a man whose work ethic has been a constant since he accumulated prodigious scores as a schoolboy.
He was predictably named man-of-the-match and man-of-the-series after the second test against Australia but preferred to praise his team mates rather than talk about himself. When he did it was with humility and respect for his sport.
“I’ve played 20 years but that doesn’t mean that I know everything about cricket,” Tendulkar said.
“It’s important to be a student of this game. That’s when you can actually learn and get better. Learning never stops.”
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