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Mr Cool on and off the field

Updated: 2013-11-13 07:20
By Mark Ray ( China Daily)

Sachin Tendulkar was only 18 when he first toured Australia in 1991-92. He already had 11 Tests and a century to his name.

Australian cricket lovers couldn't wait to see this Indian prodigy in action. I first saw him at a practice session before the first Test in Brisbane.

As the session was ending, Tendulkar went in for a second bat and a few of his teammates stayed behind to bowl to him.

The net next to his was vacant, so I walked about halfway down, stopping five meters from him.

I stood still because I'd taken a liberty getting so close. Tendulkar didn't pay me any attention.

The main things I noticed were his fast, simple footwork and perfect balance. At one point he skipped down to a ball from spinner Ravi Shastri and flicked it way over my head.

The nets were at the edge of the oval and the ball sailed over a wall and into a nearby street.

Mr Cool on and off the field

Shastri watched it fly out of sight, glanced back to Tendulkar then looked up into the sky with a faint smile, as if to say: "Well, I better get used to it. This kid's going to be around for a long time".

Later that summer Tendulkar made his first century against Australia, 148 not out in the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

In a fierce late spell on the fourth afternoon, Merv Hughes threw everything at the 18-year-old: pace, bouncers and advice. Tendulkar played with the cool of a veteran.

He swayed out of the way of most of the short stuff, then occasionally leant back and cheekily clipped one over the slips for four. Hughes was not amused.

At stumps, Tendulkar was 120 not out and received a standing ovation.

As he walked off, a weary Hughes ran from the other side of the ground, put his big arm around Tendulkar's shoulders, bent down and said something which made the young batsman roar with laughter. The big fast bowler might have offered to retire or told the kid he'd be a heck of a batsman when he grew up.

I only chatted casually to Tendulkar once. It was at a regional airport in India. I'd gone through the security check and was chatting with a few colleagues.

We watched as three security officers asked him to open his cabin luggage. He did so calmly and when the search was finished walked over toward us. As he passed, I said, "You're a very patient man, Sachin".

He shook his head and said, "Why do they do that to me? As if I'd have anything dangerous in my bags."

A few minutes later he went over to a senior security officer and made his point without making a fuss.

Everyone knew the three security guys just wanted to be in the great man's presence a little longer. After a tough Test series, Tendulkar could have lost his cool, but he remained quiet, self-controlled and polite.

An impressive performance for a man carrying the hopes of a billion people on his shoulders.

Mark Ray is a former professional cricketer and copy editor at China Daily. He can be contacted at

(China Daily 11/13/2013 page24)

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