'I reckon his best years are ahead of him'
Allan R Border: 156 Tests, 11,174 runs -- more Tests, and more runs, than any other batsman in history.
But Border's real contribution to Australian cricket lies elsewhere. The depradations of the Packer World Series, the retirement in tears of captain Kim Hughes, the exit from the international stage of the Chappell brothers and Dennis Lillee, had left the nation's side decimated. The proud sporting nation had become the pushovers of international cricket, when Border took charge.
It was an uphill struggle, one seemingly destined to failure as Border presided over defeat after defeat. But gradually, working in tandem with coach Bobby Simpson, the dogged Queenslander pulled his team, and his country, up by its bootstraps. When he retired, the statistics that really counted were these: 93 Tests as captain, won 32, lost 22.
Australian batting star Dean Jones summed him up best. "If Mark Taylor is the prophet," 'Deano' once told us, "then 'AB' was God!"
On the eve of Sachin Tendulkar's 100th Test, we asked the Aussie legend and current selector to analyse the Indian icon.
I first saw Sachin Tendulkar when he was a teenager, in the early nineties. Obviously he created an impression with all the shots in the book and a temperament that was miles ahead of his age.
He scored a fantastic 148 in Shane Warneís debut Test in Sydney and then followed it up with another century at Perth, where Indians have traditionally struggled. The value of his hundred increased because all the other Indian batsmen struggled.
Of course, I didnít know then that he would achieve such phenomenal success, because you have got to earn your greatness. The world was at his feet then but there was no guarantee that he would have a magnificent career for at least ten years. I did not fraternize with the opposition and did not know at that time that he had a strong character, which would exhibit his batting prowess over the years.
He has got fantastic character. If you have mental strength, half your battle is won. Then you just need certain skills to take you through. Sachin is blessed with both. When you combine mental strength with character you get a Steve Waugh -- a strong desire, technique and the will to play the game in the right spirit. Sachin is a combination of both and that is explosive.
His weakness is the fact that he is so talented. His adrenaline pumps strongly when he walks out to bat with the noise of the crowds. You canít hear yourself think with that noise. If he was limited, he would score more double-centuries and even a couple of triple tons.
I like the way he plays. From the moment he arrives at the crease you know something is going to happen. He loves to dominate and take the game to the opposition. His stroke-play has made him popular with crowds around the world, that is why he plays better away from home.
I would never want to take the effervescence away from him. He has yet to peak. I reckon his best years are ahead of him. The true art of batting is achieved between 28-32 and I think Sachin is just there so look out!
TENDULKAR VS WAUGH
Tendulkar and Waugh are similar in the sense that they both have a strong character and the right mindset for the game. Sachin is a more free-stroking player than Steve, who has formed a strong game plan from which he finds it hard to waver.
Steve is a quality player but with a different approach. If I wanted someone to bat for my life, it would have to be Steve Waugh -- but I would pay $1000 to watch Sachin bat. I hope that explains the subtle difference.
TENDULKAR VERSUS LARA
Brian Lara has other issues going on in his head. But when Lara is at his best there are fewer sights better than him. When he scores hundreds he makes sure that he scores big hundreds. He has single-handedly won games for West Indies Ė and that is something Tendulkar canít play claim to.
In my list of top batsmen, Lara would make the cut but he needs to sort his life out. I have a lot of time for Lara; he is a terrific bat if only he could sort his off-the field issues.
Tendulkar on the other hand has his life in order. Everything is in sync for Tendulkar. He has managed his marriage, the adulation, the demands on his time very well.
TENDULKAR AS CAPTAIN
I would like to see Tendulkar captain India again. He was a young man when he got the captaincy and I think he was immature for the job.
He can do a great job if given the captaincy again. All the members respect him and that will help him a lot.
I think the enormous pressure of expectations on him took its toll in his first stint as skipper. Given another chance I think he will serve India for long.
TENDULKARíS BEST THREE
I have not been privy to a lot of his innings but I reckon the hundred he made at Perth in 1992 on a wicket that is foreign to Indians was by far his best knock. When all the other senior players fell away, this little fellow stood his ground and showed the way.
I thought merely for the intense circumstances that India was in, that innings rates as his finest.
To score a 148 at Sydney Ė and that too when you are 18 -- was out of the ordinary though the wicket was a lot like the ones you encounter in India, flat with lots of runs for the taking.
The hundred he scored at Melbourne in 1999 was also a tremendous knock. He was running out of partners and yet he dominated the proceedings. Though that was the only dominant performance of the series, he showed the amount of raw talent he possesses.
ON YA, SACHIN!
He has been a doyen to the game. Given the adulation and the expectations, he has carried himself in an exemplary manner. I am a huge fan of his and wish him well on his hundredth Test. And I wish that he gets many more hundreds.
Allan Border was talking to Faisal Shariff