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Anil Kumble - Insight Edge

Quest to excel every time is what separates Sachin from others, feels Kumble

Saturday, November 14, 2021
Wonder that's Sachin

Sachin and I came into Indian cricket at around the same time, a season apart perhaps. There was just one difference — he had to prove everyone right and I had to prove everyone wrong.

It had always been predicted that he would be destined for greatness. Everyone always said he would go on to be the highest run-scorer for India, beat every batting record there was to beat, create history. He did all that and more. And what continues to amaze me is that he still has that hunger — take that Hyderabad knock (175) last week where he nearly pulled it off for India. It was one of his best.

Speaking from the vantage point of having done almost 20 years of international cricket myself before deciding it was time, it just isn’t easy. Managing your time, managing your body and the expectations of millions, it all takes a toll.

Sachin and I came into Indian cricket at around the same time, a season apart perhaps. © AFP

But Sachin’s dealt with it all with grace and determination. For instance, take his continuous battles with injury. It’s very difficult coming back and coming back well. Shoulder, elbow, groin back, everything — you name it, Sachin’s had it.

Let me give you a little insight into injuries. The coming back process is painful and time-consuming and you need to have an unshakeable desire to continue and succeed.

You go through one rehab, two, three but where do you call the line? Some injuries take two months, some four months, there are some that stay on as constant niggles and others that become more serious as you keep playing. You have to manage it all, often live with the pain and just focus on your game. Sachin’s done that right through.

And he’s enjoying himself. The last three-four years especially, he’s been really enjoying his cricket and it shows in the way he plays and the way he interacts with all the team members.

Sachin has this uncanny ability to take in, analyse and assess things very quickly, much faster than others. That therefore, gives him more time to play a shot. Quite simply, that’s why he’s No 1.

In terms of his preparation, he’s always seriously involved. If there are a couple of innings where he’s not scored, or if he himself feels he’s not hitting the ball well, then he invariably spends extra time at the nets, working on whatever he thinks is wrong.

The other unusual thing is that despite his records, his runs and who he is, he is always ready to listen to anyone’s advice on his batting. Sachin’s often gone up to a rookie on the team and asked him if he could take a look at his batting — he has no hang-ups whatsoever.

So what keeps a man going through 20 years of playing a sport? Simply that at the end of it, when you go onto that field, you want to excel. I always felt that way and I know Sachin does too. You put him in gully cricket, in any cricket, even a table tennis match — he doesn’t like losing.

You also have to shut out the burden of expectations and comments and opinions about yourself. It is a no win situation. At low times, under-fire, you generally ask yourself a question: Am I giving a 100 per cent? If you are, then forget about the rest. It’s not easy and it gets to you but you need to look ahead. The more you react to things people say, the more you feel like giving up and saying I’ve had enough.

Sachin clearly hasn’t, even through all that he’s faced as the man who’s the answer to a billion prayers. I also think what keeps you going is an unwavering pride in performance and an ability to put the team’s cause before your own.

When I decided to call it a day after almost 20 years in the game, it was a decision born purely out of the fact that my body couldn’t take it. And Sachin was one of the first guys I told. I went to him and said, “My time has come”. He said ‘no, you can’t quit, you can play a bit more’. I had to convince him that I couldn’t go on.

Finally, to stay on top of your game, to be able to handle everyone — players, teams, the public and sponsors wanting a piece of you — you need lots of support. He’s had that in a wonderful, supportive family. They’ve been the key.