Leeds: With 117 appearances and over 8,000 Test runs, David Gower knows more than a thing or two about batting. Indeed, the former England captain was himself the very epitome of grace. Appropriately, then, The Telegraph requested him to talk exclusively about modern day icon Sachin Tendulkar. Gower, now among the most respected of TV commentators anywhere, obliged Sunday morning.
The following are excerpts
On his impressions of Sachin when he first toured England, in 1990
Even then, he was preceded by a reputation... Just a few months before that series, I remember Sachin got 88 in New Zealand (Napier Test)... In any case, Asian cricketers mature so early, itís been a feature from the time of Mushtaq Mohammad ó though in his case, if I may point out, there must have been some elementary error in dictating (the date of birth)! Actually, seeing someone so young as Sachin (17 then), one of my first thoughts was I hope it will be okay for him.
On Sachinís first Test hundred, that unbeaten 119 at Old Trafford
That he had talent and temperament was apparent even before that innings... Conditions werenít straightforward, yet Sachin got a very fine hundred. If I recall correctly, that helped save the Test for India... That knock gave us an insight as to what would happen in the future. Moreover, very quickly, Sachin earned our respect.
On whether the general mood in the England dressing room, till Old Trafford, was that the teenaged Sachin could be knocked over
When you have hardened pros, as is always so with an England team, then inevitably an effort is made to Ďplayí on the age gap... However, when somebody so young begins to play in the manner Sachin did, all illusions disappear fast. The temptation to force a bit of psychological pressure will always be there, but if the batsman responds with a hundred, youíve got to applaud. We did, at Old Trafford.
On Sachin the batsman
The last time India played a series in England (1996), it was during an era of too many one-dayers and, so, the feeling was that Sachin and the others must get back into the Test-mode. That they should look to building innings and not just... Iím happy that situation has been rectified... Without specifically speaking about the different phases in Sachinís career, let me just dwell on the past month or so... This period, after all, has seen so many on Sachinís back, so many questions being asked... Has the magic gone' Has the hunger gone' Yet, thank heavens, Sachin kept his head and replied in the way he should have. Bottomline is character.
On Sachinís performance in the on-going Test series
Lordís was a downer... In Trent Bridge, though, Sachin was determined. He didnít get many in the first innings (34), but authored an outstanding 92 in the second. More than those runs, the manner he got them made that innings special. As for the 193 here, I couldnít find a fault. Yes, Sachin did get that freedom to strike, late on the second day, but youíve still got to play those shots.
On whether Sachin has a weakness
(Smiles) Quite some years ago, I was reading a pre-series write-up wherein the writer had this to say about Peter Willey: ď... Is susceptible to the fast away-going delivery pitched on off...Ē My instant reaction was: But, then, that could have applied to Sir Don Bradman as well... Look, there will always be some delivery somewhere which will test the best in the world... Essentially, what separates the great from the not-so-good is how they handle the remaining deliveries... Sachin does make the odd mistake ó and Iím glad he does, because we need to be reassured even he is human ó but the mistakes are few, are far between. And, what Sachin does between mistakes is awesome. In fact, he makes others jealous. His ability to Ďmanipulateí, clearly, is extraordinary.
On the Sachin shots which make him ďjealousĒ
Most of his drives through cover... In Trent Bridge, however, there was one stroke I wonít forget... I donít recall the bowler, but the ball was pitched short and Sachin went back, on his toes, to smash it for a straight four. It was an unusual shot, executed perfectly.
On the Sachin versus Brian Lara debate
Both are great and, at this point in time, why should I pick one over the other' I enjoy watching both.
On the greatest batsman he played with/against
Viv Richards... Nobody comes very close... Viv was lethal... As I usually fielded in cover, I wasnít always in the firing line, but did always get to watch Viv from pretty close... As Iíve suggested, he could do anything.
On The Oval match being Sachinís 100th Test
I suspect others will make more of a fuss than Sachin himself. Having said that, the harder part, for Sachin, will be to ignore those other people... Should India win the Headingley Test, as appears likely on the fourth morning, then the real pressure on Sachin (at The Oval) will be to produce yet another innings as the 193.
On what really separates Sachin from the rest
His ability to continue judging the merits of every delivery... Invariably, Sachin has the right solution that one fraction of a second earlier. It makes a big difference. Even Rahul Dravid has this knack, though he isnít quite as good a player as Sachin. The ability to make the right judgement apart, Sachinís confidence makes his CV even more handsome. He can make the bowler feel utterly impotent.
Finally, on where Sachin goes from here
(Smiles again) Depends on him... How many years does Sachin himself want to play' Just how hungry will he be a few years from now' The answer, really, must come from him.