Tendulkar celebrates his century during the fourth test match against Australia at the SCG in January 2004 in Sydney.If around 1990, I’d been asked how long this 16-year-old Indian touring New Zealand would survive in international cricket, I wouldn’t have come close. No matter how good the kid looked, you,Tendulkar celebrates his century during the fourth test match against Australia at the SCG in January 2004 in Sydney.If around 1990, I’d been asked how long this 16-year-old Indian touring New Zealand would survive in international cricket, I wouldn’t have come close. No matter how good the kid looked, you didn’t think in terms of a 20 years.When Sachin came to New Zealand in 1990 we had heard about this bright, young batsman. When we saw him, his talent and approach were obvious. He looked younger than he was, but he walked to the wicket like he meant it, meant the business. There was, even then, nothing excess in his game. When you can see someone’s game and it will tell you about what they can do. A brilliant bat tells you he can reel off the flashy strokes but he doesn’t tell you immediately if he is going to be an opponent, a real competitor.Longevity in cricket is a hard thing to predict and it’s an even harder thing to achieve. You need be physically resilient and have a love for the game. It sounds simple but it is very hard work and it is what Sachin has done.By 1990, I’d played a lot of cricket and he was just starting out. Sachin had a quiet first Test in Christchurch but in Napier, gave us a long good look at himself and in terms of his skill, he was the real deal. Every time some young talent came through you wanted to see what they were all about. To see maybe what the future looked like. With Sachin, there were two things that caught your eye.Tendulkar signs bats in Auckland during team India’s New Zealand tour in 1998.He had great balance and had the time to play his shots. You saw one shot of brilliance, that for normal batsmen would not be their first shot of selection. His late cut comes to mind, and it was like something rang in your head like being woken by your alarm and you knew you were watching someone special. He played these lovely shots and but there were no frills in his cricket.I remember the innings of 88 he played in Napier, not because I took a catch but about one I dropped. A sitter from Azharuddin, that my grandmother would have caught while knitting. Azza was then given not out to one I thought he’d gloved to leg gully and I was angry with myself. In the middle of all this the16-year-old was knocking us around, and I went up to umpire Steve Woodward and told him that he’d given Azza an extra round. To which, Woodward said, “John, yourswas easier than mine!”advertisement”I wish a lot of lesser players could learn from Sachin’s thoughtfulness and the respect he showed, not just for me as the coach but for his cricket.”Wright is a former New Zealand captain who coached the Indian team between 2000 and 2005 In action during the fourth Test against Australia at the SCG in January 2004 in Sydney.Sachin wouldn’t remember all that, I don’t think. The only thing about thatmatch he would remember is falling 12 short of being the youngest Test centurion. He was shy then and we didn’t get a chance to exchange much other than handshakes. But in 1998-99 when he toured New Zealand, he had become something of a star and I was struck by his humility when he signed an autograph for my young son Harry. He carried himself with a lot of grace and dignity. Just how much I realised only later when coaching with India. We went to an Adidas store in Chennai and a huge crowd of what looked a thousand people gathered outside in no time at all because Sachin was there. We had to actually escape from a back entrance.Apart from things like that-which happened often, and they threw me off but he always managed to stay calm-coaching Sachin was about watching closely and asking questions.With cricket legend Don Bradman at his Adelaide home on his 90th birthday on August 27, 1998He has the best balance of any player I have ever seen. I got enjoyment out of watching him play a forward defensive shot of complete poise and control. He makes batting, which can be quite tough to master and improve, look simple. On times when I thought maybe his head wasn’t quite as still as it could be, Iwould ask him howhe felt about his batting. If he said he felt great, you just left your observation alone for a while. If however he said, ‘oh I don’t feel that good’, then you’d ask, do you think you were really balanced out there, how’s the head you think? He was in many ways his own coach, and he had his brother who knew his game inside out.For the rest of it, he was just a young man with an enormous love of his game and gave it complete respect both in preparation and in practice. He worked at it, not like one of the contemporary greats of the game which is who he was, but like a student. I knew he was upset in Multan after that declaration and it was understandable but he got over it almost that very night.He was never late for the bus, for practice, for meetings. On one day he knew he was going to be, so he came up to me and said there was something that had to be attended. I just thought that’s why he was who he was. I wish a lot of lesser players could learn from his thoughtfulness and the respect he showed, not just for me as the coach but for his cricket, what we were all trying to to, what wewere all trying to be part of.advertisementTendulkar has the best balance of any player I have ever seen. I got enjoyment out of watching him play a forward defensive shot of complete poise and control. He makes batting look simple. With his waiting family at Mumbai airport in October 2002.He was a very tough but fair competitor and he had great humanity. In 2003, we were in New Zealand on what was a horrible tour for the team. For me, it was worse because I had taken the team I coached back to my home country and we weren’t playing likewe could. It was an awful time to be honest. By the time we came to Queenstown, I was feeling particularly beat-up. Sachin was living in the room next to mine, and one evening he came over with a bottle of wine and tried to make me feel better. We just talked about how the tour had gone and how the team knew that it would have been a very bitter pill to swallow. Well, my face certainly showed that evening and at the time I appreciated his thoughtfulness.Sachin and I have always had some interesting conversations about batting and I remember one in Sydney 2003-04 along with his wife Anjali. Sachin had not got a big score on the tour by his standards and Sydney was to be the last test. Eventually he made a plan that he would not play the backfoot drive squarish through the off-side until he really got in. He then got 241 not out without a cover drive. Some pundits called it scratchy, and grumbled that he was not the same Tendulkar and I thought that was rubbish. Tendulkar shakes hands with physically challenged fans after apractice session before the national challenger tournament at Mohali in October 2005.That innings was not about showing off his repertoire for a couple of hours to keep the crowd happy, that was just another piece of Tendulkar genius, of being able to control the mental side of his game and the big runs. I lost count of the number of times commentators and the like used to say he’s on the wane, he’s not same player he was. To them Iwanted to say, “just look in the scorebook”. Today I want to ask them, he’s been a long time waning, hasn’t he?Given his huge popularity, Sachin could have taken on the superstar life but he just loved the game and he was determined to succeed. This determination really doesn’t get talked about by writers and commentators. Sometimes he could go into himself, which may look like aloofness at a distance, but I always thought it was something that came from who he was. Or maybe something it was someone he needed to be because of his life. This genuine genius of a performer at the crease was actually just a normal man who strangely enough couldn’t walk down the street outside his home.One of the people in cricket Sachin reminds me of most is Shane Warne. They come from two different parts of the world, one of them’s a batsman, the other a bowler, one man smokes and the other doesn’t and let’s not even gointo the difference in the kind of headlines they generate. What brings them together, though, and actually makes them friends is complete understanding and control over their craft. Theirs is a highly developed and matured skill, which you don’t find everywhere and which comes once in a few generations and in time to come whenever the game is talked about they will be forever remembered.After Sachin got a big score a few years ago, and it may have been a 200 against Zimbabwe, I did bring up the figure of a 100 hundreds. It wasn’t about sowing a seed, I just thought back then, that he could do it if he wanted to. He’s close now and I’m keeping count. Getting to that milestone would put Sachin alongside Bradman who really rated him.Ahundred hundreds would be a number like Bradman’s famous average, a record that onlyahistory-maker could set. Normally you would have thought there was Bradman and the rest. Now I think, Sachin comes somewhere in between Bradman and the rest. History may put them very close, maybe on the same shelf.advertisementI lost count of the number of times commentators said he’s on the wane. To them I wanted to say, “JUST LOOK IN THE SCOREBOOK”. Today I want to ask them, he’s been along time waning, hasn’t he?