It was one of the many moments Sachin Tendulkar would love to be associated with, on or off the field. He puts his personal victories and the team’s triumphs on the same platform. “Team wins, you win too,” has been his philosophy.
A visit to the Green Park Stadium to celebrate India’s 500th Test saw Tendulkar flooded with memories from his memorable moments at the venue and also many in the company of those he met during the brief commemorative function.
“It was a special moment for all of us. It was a moment we ought to take pride in collectively. Personally, I will never forget my debut Test (in Pakistan in 1989). In fact, even the news of being selected to play for India was huge for me. It was always a challenge to get into the Test squad and that made me realise the significance of five-day cricket. It is an amazing feeling to know that I have been a part of it in 40 per cent of the matches. It’s been a thrilling expeience,” Tendulkar told.
One of the finest icons of the game, he paid glowing tributes to some of the former greats. “Hats off to all those who served the game all these years. It would not be fair to compare the different eras but I admire the spirit in which they played cricket. They never complained and charmed their way into the hearts of the fans,” said the maestro.
How was the experience of watching the toss for the 500th match? “Honestly, 500 is just a number. Cricket is the same. You see many things along the way and some remain with you. I’m glad that I could be part of the foundation of this building. It also gave me an opportunity to catch up with some old friends.”
The Green Park stoked his memories of two matches he rates as special. The 1996 Test against South Africa when India won to claim the series 2-1. And then the one-day international against Australia in 1998. “It was a very good year for me and it felt nice to score against Australia.”
How did he view India’s Test journey. “Fabulous. I really would have loved playing along side Sunil sir (Gavaskar) and Viv (Richards). They were my batting heroes.” Gavaskar’s response was warm, “It’s nice of him to say that.”
Analysing the current team, Tendulkar did not agree the team was in a transition stage. Though it has a new captain, most of the players, he pointed out, have been around. “It is wrong to say that this is a team in transition. Most of the players have been around for some time now. It is good that people continue to expect from them. Their commitment is noticeable.”
Asked about areas of improvement that he would like the team management to concentrate on, Tendulkar noted: “Certainly the bowling. You have to be solid in your bowling attack because that’s where you will win your matches. Indian cricket is in a healthy state no doubt and I am confident Anil (Kumble) can take care of this aspect.
I don’t want to comment more because I am not even spending time with them to understand the players better. All I want them to remember is that it boils down to the number of runs scored and 20 wickets taken.”
Tendulkar was part of the former captains’ group invited by the Board to celebrate the 500 Tests journey.