'He's a great example to me and to everyone'
As eulogies pour in from cricket lovers all over the world to mark Sachin
Tendulkar's century of Test matches, India's cricket coach John Wright has added his tribute to the tidal wave of appreciation for the master batsman.
Wright, a left-handed batsman and former skipper of the New Zealand team, was responsible for a catch at mid-off that robbed Tendulkar of his first century during India's tour of New Zealand in 1989.
Recalling the moment, Wright says with a laugh, "We'd heard about this prodigy and he didn't get any runs in the first Test. It was a green wicket and we thought, 'well sometimes these stories are quite exaggerated'.
"Sachin had just toured Pakistan before coming to New Zealand. It was a very flat wicket in Napier in the second Test and he was on 80-odd.
"Then he batted quite beautifully and we all saw what in the end he had. Completely unexpectedly, he hit the ball to me at mid-off, which was a wicket that we quite gladly accepted."
Wright, who is keeping his fingers crossed for an Indian victory at The Oval, compares Tendulkar to other great international sports personalities like boxer Cassius Clay, basketball star Michael Jordan and golfer Tiger Woods.
"He's a bit like them; he has great presence," says Wright. "He has that aura and that presence about him and he's also very tough mentally and, obviously, very organised in that area.
"But he has wonderful humility about him; that's what I draw from him. He's a great example to me and to everyone. His humility, his presence is very special and unique. It probably has something to do with the sort of player he is.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he made 200 centuries. I think all of India and most of the cricket world would be pleased to see him do another one."
Wright, who has been the Indian team's coach for nearly two years and has had the opportunity to watch Tendulkar at close quarters, says he never tries to force an opinion on the star batsman.
"He knows what he's doing and what he wants. I never force any opinion on him or any idea. Generally, I wait for him to ask because he knows what he's doing. He's doing well, he's played well and he's getting runs.
"I'm coming up to two years as coach and I've seen him at close quarters. It's been a great; I've enjoyed working with him. He's the sort of player who knows his own game inside out and asks occasionally, and it's more of a
"I have great confidence and faith in him, so I'm not going to get in the way unless he asks, which he does occasionally.
"He's got a lot of other people who'll help. His brother is very close to him... and Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri he's in touch with. He has some mentors as well."
Wright says he sees his own job as encouraging Tendulkar to get fit and enjoy his cricket. He predicts that so long as Tendulkar retains his joy and passion for the game, he will enjoy special status both in India and abroad.
"He's important for cricket, not just for India but for world cricket. I think he's going to go further than the great players. I think he's something very very special. He's only 29 or 30 now and what he's achieved so far is what most players get to when they're 36 or 37."
As told to Shyam Bhatia
A big first innings score will be critical: John Wright