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You are seeing the best of Tendulkar: Waqar
April 21, 2004 12:57 IST
Fifteen years ago the "kid" did not impress him. Now Waqar Younis believes Sachin Tendulkar is a batting genius who will figure "way, way up there among cricket's all-time greats".
Karachi, November 15, 1989: the Indian batting genius and Pakistani bowling great made their debut in the same match -- the first Test of the four-match series between India and Pakistan. Tendulkar was 16 years and 205 days old, Waqar 17 years and 364 days, only one short of his 18th birthday.
Waqar recalls, "An Indian Under-19 team had come to Pakistan a year earlier. Ajay Jadeja and Nayan Mongia came with that team. They were talking about some Sachin Tendulkar guy. He could not come with them because he had his matriculation exam. Ajay was a good friend and he told me that you must watch this guy. I asked how old is he? Ajay said 15 or 15-and-a-half. It was hard to believe that a 15-year-old could be that good.
"Then he came to Pakistan with the Test squad a year later and played at Karachi. We made our debut together. I too was a kid then but I looked bigger than him. I got him out (bowled for 15). He did not really impress me. I thought, okay, fair enough, he is a good player. I got injured and did not play in the next two Test matches."
Waqar, who retired from the game few days ago, continues: "In the last Test match [in Sialkot] it was a green-top wicket because we wanted a result, the first three Tests having ended in draws. The way Sachin batted on that pitch I thought the kid has got some potential. The ball was bouncing, swinging and sailing and he got hit a couple of times. He got 50-odd. I thought okay but I never believed he was going to do what he has done."
Asked in an interview to list the five batsmen whom he found most difficult to bowl to, the former Pakistan captain, who took 373 Test wickets and 416 One-Day International scalps, named Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting, and stopped there.
Waqar is reluctant to say who is a better batsman, Tendulkar or Lara, saying it is a very difficult question.
"A few years ago I said Lara because when he is on song he is very difficult [to bowl to]. He is probably more talented, more fluent, but Sachin is in a different class altogether. He is a very mature batsman. Probably Lara did not mature enough.
"I should not be comparing them. They are both world class players," he says, pointing out though there was extra pressure on Tendulkar because he plays for India.
How much has Tendulkar's game changed over the years?
Waqar's response: "He has just gone a little compact. He has started playing like a very mature batsman now. Earlier he used to slash and run down the track. With the passage of time he has understood what Test cricket is and that he has to stay at the crease. Now you do not see him play any flashy shots.
"He hardly played a bad shot in the 194 he made at Multan the other day. Everything was just perfect. Virender Sehwag got over 300 and was all over the park. That is a different class. Sachin played a very, very top innings," he says.
When told that many of Tendulkar's fans feel disappointed that he is not as daring as before and that his game has undergone change, Waqar replies: "If you do not change your game, the bowlers are going to catch you. Even bowlers, let us say, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami have to do something different; likewise Sachin has changed his game and is even more difficult for bowlers."
The Pakistani reacts sharply when asked if Tendulkar is on the decline. "No, he is on the rise at the moment. You are seeing the best part of him. This year he has got unbeaten knocks of 241 and 194. You do get out a few times because sometimes the bowler has to win, but Sachin has done really well and I think he is enjoying his cricket now more than what he was three or four years ago. He has set his own benchmarks; scoring 50 runs is not enough."
Where does he see Tendulkar going from here?
"He is a top batsman who is hungry for runs and wants to do well. He has still got three to four years of cricket in him. He will probably create records which will be tough to break."
Among all the great all-time batsmen where would he place Tendulkar?
"Look, I haven't seen Sir Don Bradman bat nor many other top players before the 1980's. But I know about their game and for the last 15 years I have seen and played against all top batsmen. Sachin will definitely be among the all-time greats," he concludes.