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Friday, March 18, 2011

Why Yorkshire Loves The Wrong 'un

The Outlook Magazine, Jan 04,1999
As the county's first overseas player, an 'unfinished' 19-year-old Sachin was a dream

During the December 1997 Sharjah series I remember telling my good friend Sunil Gavaskar that I was thinking of writing that Sachin Tendulkar should stand down as captain. I strongly felt that that extra responsibility was holding him back as a batsman. He is a nice lad, polite, well-mannered—yet I felt the Indian team needed a good ‘kick up the backside’. I didn’t think it was right for him and India to spend so much of his mental and emotional energy on others. Sunil said, ‘Don’t write it Geoffrey—there will be hell to pay!’ Well, the selectors had the same view and it proved to be the right one. Freeing Tendulkar of the captaincy was a godsend.

Once relieved of the extra stress, he had a magical year. The Indian team has blossomed and he has solved the question on everyone’s lips as to who is the best—Brian Lara or Sachin Tendulkar? I have been privileged to see quite a lot of both fine players. But while Sachin has moved forward with dominating and majestic innings, Lara has gone backwards. Technically, you can’t fault Sachin. Seam or spin, fast or slow—nothing is a problem. Of course he will get out cheaply from time to time. Who doesn’t? All that will prove is that he is human.

When he came to Yorkshire as our first overseas player in 130 years he was a promising talent, a young man on the verge of his career. Much was expected of him in India but nobody was quite sure how good he would become. Who could know for sure? Most of us don’t have a crystal ball. With hindsight some will say ‘I told you so’ but it is easy to be right with hind-sight! There are people in England who still say he didn’t do that well for my county. I say they are wrong and all of our Yorkshire supporters loved him. We’d have him back tomorrow if we could!

It was vital that we had as our first overseas player someone who was no trouble. How awful it would’ve been if he had been seen out disco dancing on match days or drinking late at night in pubs or off—hard to members, sponsors and media. Sachin was a dream. A boyish smile, warm, friendly—nothing was too much trouble for him. Our members and the office staff loved him.

Yorkshire prided itself on having only Yorkshire-born players and by pure mis - chance we had never had a coloured cricketer. Therefore, we were open to the criticism of being prejudiced. Sachin’s arrival did away with that and every youngster knew from then on that what had been said was true.

I am delighted to have been the prime mover and proposer that changed Yorkshire’s club rules, and proud that the first one was a little embryo genius! Sachin played well for a medium team but at the age of 19 he was not the finished article. We didn’t expect him to be but he created an enormous amount of interest and left behind tremendous goodwill. I wouldn’t have swapped him for any other player.

From now on as his greatness unfolds there will be the inevitable comparisons with the ‘little master’—Sunil Gavaskar. It is always unfair to judge people who play in different eras but it won’t stop some individuals. The rules today are different for Sachin. Sunil played in an era where unlimited short stuff was allowed at the umpires’ discretion. Today there are only a handful of genuine fast men but Sunil had to take on—and won—against the all-conquering West Indians who had four of the very best operating all day long—every day.

So while we are all heaping praise on Sachin, don’t put down Sunny’s contribution. What we should do is enjoy Sachin’s batting while we can. His wicket will be the biggest prize sought after by every bowler around the world. That has always been the case for batsmen who hold the mantle of ‘best in the world’. From Grace to Hobbs to Bradman to Sobers and Richards. That won’t change—but I am confident Sachin can handle that.


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