| Warne and Tendulkar at the MCG in Melbourne in January 2005 during a charity match for tsunami victims. (AFP)
Durban, Dec. 21: “Sachin Tendulkar gives nightmares” was Shane Warne’s confession after Little Master II creamed off 446 runs in five Test innings and 357 in three ODIs against Australia in early 1998.
Today, hours after Test cricket’s No. 1 bowler announced he would quit after the Ashes, Sachin paid a handsome compliment: “To play Warne, you had to stay awake. He gave no breathing space and was such a fierce competitor that you could never take him out of a game.”
Warne’s decision, announced emotionally in Melbourne, has brought an end to one of the most talked-about battles within the larger war — his face-off with the former Indian captain. A rivalry without parallel, in recent times at least.
Even the late Sir Don Bradman recognised it, for the only two cricketers he entertained on his 90th birthday were Sachin and Warne.
Sachin, though, insisted he never looked at the duels in the manner the public did. “Such rivalries keep happening. They were there before we played each other and will continue. I’ve always maintained it was India versus Australia, not between individuals. People keep building rivalries.”
Speaking to The Telegraph at the Southern Sun Elangeni (after interacting with the media in general at Kingsmead), Sachin picked his second innings unbeaten 155 in the Chennai Test of the 1997-98 series as the “memorable” encounter.
“I got runs in Sharjah as well, a while later, but that was special. We came from behind to win. That’s the most memorable face-off.” Incidentally, Warne got Sachin just once in that series (caught by captain Mark Taylor for four in the first innings in Chennai).
Warne did get Sachin on a couple of occasions the next time, 1999-2000 in Australia, but didn’t outpoint him as emphatically as he’d himself been at the receiving end in 1997-98. Owing to the tennis elbow, Sachin didn’t play the first two Tests in the last India-Australia series, at home two years ago.
The next is slated for 2007-2008 in Australia.
Given the success he continued to have, Warne’s decision has come as somewhat of a surprise. “I don’t know what was going on in his mind. I’d rather look back on his achievements. Warne has been a great ambassador for cricket and Australia. Besides being one of the greatest spinners — there’s one (Anil Kumble) in my team and (Muttiah Muralidharan) Murali — he has been a wonderful person and friend. A nice human being,” Sachin said.
He added: “Not many have it to actually stand next to Warne and say they’ve achieved something similar. As I’ve pointed out, he has been a valuable friend and I have sent him an SMS.
“There were occasions when we joked with each other. I remember hitting him for a six when I got my first ODI hundred (Sri Lanka, 1994-95) and saw that he’d muttered something. After the match, I asked about it and both had a good laugh.”
Elaborating on the SMS, Sachin said: “I’ve wished him for whatever his new innings is. Among other things, he should have good health.”
Clearly, Sachin has saluted Warne most affectionately. Expect the same from the latter when Little Master II decides to quit. Hopefully, it won’t be soon.