'Sachin will figure among all-time greats'

Published: Wednesday, April 21, 2004, 17:06 [IST]
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New Delhi:15 years ago, the "kid" did not impress him but Waqar Younis now believes that Sachin Tendulkar is a batting genius who is still on the rise and whowill figure "way, way up there among the 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 the archrivals. 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 matric exam. Ajay was a good friend and he told me that you must watch this guy. I said 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 to list the five batsmen whom he found most difficult to bowl to, the former Pakistani captain, who took 373 Test wickets and 416 One-day scalps, named Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting, and stopped there.

Waqar is most reluctant to judge who is the better batsman between Tendulkar and Lara saying that it was 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.

How much has Tendulkar's game changed over the years? Waqar responds, "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 stayat 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 it is mentioned to him that many of Tendulkar's fans feel disappointed that he is not as daring as before and that his game has undergone change, Waqar comments, "if you do not change your game, the bowlers are going to catch you. Even bowlers, let us say, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Sami have to do something different, likewise Sachin has changed his gameand is even more difficult for bowlers."

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, the great bowler is asked.

"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.

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