Deputy Sports Editor
The New Daily
I was 13 years old the first time I remember seeing Sachin Tendulkar bat.
It was that glorious unbeaten 148 he made at the SCG in January 1992, and although I can’t remember the specifics of the stroke play – I do recall how effusive the commentators were in their praise.
At that embryonic stage of my cricket viewing, I hadn’t heard Richie, Ian and Tony quite as glowing in their assessment of a batsman, especially one so young (Tendulkar was 18 at the time), with Brian Lara’s 277 – in just his fifth Test – still a year away.
My family moved to Australia in 1988 from Scotland, and like most self-respecting Scots I’d inherited the ‘anti-cricket’ gene. I didn’t understand the game they played in England, and didn’t care to.
The first couple of summers in Australia did little to change my perception – unless you count Ijaz Ahmed’s 121 off 331 balls in Melbourne as first-rate entertainment.
Likewise, the England of the day offered precious little in the 1990/91 Ashes series – David Gower played some shots, but I’ve seen drunk blokes in bars that look like Norman Gunston score quicker than Mike Atherton.
But that Sunday I sat in the lounge room of the family home in Perth and knew I was watching something incredible. It suggested radically different possibilities for a game I had grown up with no respect for at all.
Indeed, probably the best compliment I could pay Tendulkar’s innings that day was that it inspired me, fuelled by an injection of Christmas cash, to purchase my first cricket bat, ball and stumps.
That knock, the second of Tendulkar’s 51 Test centuries, came almost 22 years ago. Tendulkar has been there through high school, university, my first love, my first job, my first car, but still there was always Sachin.
I’m 35 now and don’t know the game without him. My story is not unique. If he could have that kind of influence on a Scottish migrant in Perth, there must be millions of people around the world – and I daresay quite a few in his native India – who can’t comprehend the game without Tendulkar.
I’m not a rabid cricket viewer, but if I am flicking through the television late at night and stumble across Tendulkar batting, it is impossible to change the channel. It is like getting the chance to watch Monet paint or Ali box. Of Tendulkar’s contemporaries only Lara could be mentioned in the same breath.
And now, after a quarter of a century of strokes, Tendulkar is signing off. India’s second Test against the West Indies in Mumbai will be Tendulkar’s 200th and final match. Test cricket won’t be the same.