Tendulkar in action during the second Test against South Africa at Johannesburg in November 1992.It was a chilly winter morning in 1989. The Karnataka team was alighting at the porch of the Patiala cricket ground to face Bombay in the quarterfinals of the Wills Trophy, at that time the premier,Tendulkar in action during the second Test against South Africa at Johannesburg in November 1992.It was a chilly winter morning in 1989. The Karnataka team was alighting at the porch of the Patiala cricket ground to face Bombay in the quarterfinals of the Wills Trophy, at that time the premier domestic one-day tournament.Suddenly we heard cries from the back benchers of our bus, “Hey that must be Kambli?”. “No, no HE is Sachin.” That was my first glimpse of the famous Bombay duo of Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli. In fact at that time it was Kambli who was the more conspicuous of the two, with his flashy attire and overwhelming enthusiasm.Even before the match began, and definitely while it was on, it was amply clear to all of us that these twowere treated as the two “special” Bombay boys, even by the established seniors, Dilip Vengsarkar and Ravi Shastri. Without a doubt they were the cynosure of all eyes in the match. Kambli played a bigger role in sealing a win for the Bombay team and Sachin was just impressive with his batting technique.Sachin in the company of Dilip Vengsarkar and Sanjay Manjrekar.Eighteen months down the line, I found myself sharing the same dressing room with the boywho was to become the Little Master. Always in the company of Sanjay Manjrekar, it appeared as if Manjrekar had been given the duty of grooming this prodigy and making him at home. Sachin somehow remained by himself. He did not belong to the group of rookies like us and at the same time kept a measured distance from the seniors like Kapil Dev, Vengsarkar and Srikkanth.That year, in the season of 1991-92, he produced two 100s-one at the world’s fastest wicket, the Perth WACA, and the other against Allan Donald and co, the fastest bowler in the world. It was a stunning statement of intent and arrival.advertisement”It has been tough to argue with Sachin on any issue related to cricket. Be it batting or bowling, his logic is unique which is drawn from his own abilities.”Srinath spearheaded the Indian pace attack and took 551 wickets in Tests and ODIs With childhood friend Vinod Kambli.I can still vividly remember the crack on the Perth wicket from where the ball was deviating dangerously off the track. The rest of the Indian batsmen struggled for survival at the centre and Sachin stood tall not just negotiating the awkward bounce but belting the bowlers disdainfully. Under the shadow of Sachin, it honestly looked as if the batsmen at the other end had been sent into oblivion. The common chorus that often rang in the dressing room was, “why can’t he give the strike to Sachin”?On many other occasions, and the fans will remember this, if Sachin was dismissed, it seemed to us as if the match was over. It was his extraordinary brilliance which led to what I could only think of as the diminishing value for the other performers around him. Sachin’s dismissal often brought back the lost confidence of the opposing bowlers; there was a spring in their step, suddenly all the fielders perked up. Their attack looked more penetrative, the wicket looked more difficult to bat on. That’s how it affected our own team.After a run of very successful seasons in international cricket, he was put in charge of the team. It was obvious to us that the crown of captaincy did not fit him perfectly. Under Sachin’s leadership for the first time in 1996, many of us found it difficult to match his expectations. His demands and anticipation of his teammates’ performances originated from his own talent. Lesser mortals found the going tough even to understand their roles, never mind the whole business of taking on the pressure of international cricket.Everytime he was in charge, a curious pattern of a slump in form followed. To others it may not have been a slump, but by his standards it was. Sachin took some time to realise that it’s not practical to expect others to emulate his feats. Basically, his talent was inborn and those skills cannot be acquired or transferred to anyone. The loss of any game under him his captaincy worked him up so much that it preyed on his batting abilities.On many occasions, if Sachin was dismissed, it seemed to us as if the match was over. It was his brilliance which led to what i could only think of as the diminishing value for the other performers around him. His dismissal often revived the lost confidence of the opposing bowlers. advertisementChild prodigy Sachin practising brother Ajit Tendulkar.The genius then realised very soon that detaching from the top seat was the way forward in his career. Unlike many other captains who stand down, the fact that Sachin was not leading the team made no difference. Players knew very soon who the true leader was in the dressing room and on the field.Things changed in the late 1990s with emergence of Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and then shortly after that, Virender Sehwag. The reliance on Sachin lessened, but the importance of his presence in the side remains. Today, that presence could best be described as an ancient cricketer whose legendary skills are still on display and are still contemporary.People wonder whatkeeps him going even today.The runs, records, wins and accolades under his belt can weigh anybody down with a great sinking sense of achievement.Once an athlete achieves what he dreams of, he asks himself the next question, “What do I do now?” It is like Sachin has always known and he is the kind of sportsman whom sports psychologists and pundits want to analyse constantly to discover the answers for sustained motivation.While his achievements are both weighty and numerous, he could have been bogged down by many things-the pain, expectations, disappointments, pressure. Adulation and public stress caused by the media are two sides of the same coin in Indian cricket.During tough times, Sachin has always said his brother Ajit has been the source of strength. But many close to him know that Sachin wages his own battles within before making some adjustments and bouncing back stronger. Sachin scoring his fourth century on November 28, 1992 against South Africa at the Wanderers stadium in Johannesburg.The constant media glare and public attention imposes high discipline and demands great sacrifices of cricketers in their personal life too. It can often give rise to the dark side of sportsmen of the highest calibre. As far as I know, this exemplary cricketer has no dark side to worry about.To spend more than two decades under the glare of a focused spotlight and to steer clear of any controversy is, frankly, twice as tough as scoring tens of thousand of runs. He has faced a different set of problems, particularly the longer he has played. Injuries, the fatigue syndrome and loss of form can make a cricketer, even of the most immense achievements, run into a wall.During such tough times, Sachin has always said that his brother Ajit has been the source of strength and a sounding board. But many close to him know for a fact that Sachin wages his own battles within, before making some adjustments and bouncing back stronger. I believe his response has much to do with his very strong nuclear family upbringing.Whenever doubts were raised about his future during injury layoffs, Sachin has been able to strike back with his familiar rhythm. The champion in him has defied time and age again and again.All that is what everyone sees in the public eye. As his teammate, we have shared times both good and bad and been entertained not just by his batting on the field. I have to say that it has been tough to argue with Sachin on any issue related to cricket. Be it batting or bowling (swing, spin or fast), the logic he applies is unique which is drawn from his own abilities. As a talented bowler, he can turn and spin the ball either ways. This creative of idea of swing and spin came from his hours of bowling in the nets.He is one man who is either batting or bowling in the nets all the time and he has had to be stopped from over-working himself. I knowother people have that nickname, but having played with him for more than a decade, I think of Sachin, teammate, friend, as the real Mr Cricket.advertisementEverytime Sachin was in charge of the team, a curious pattern of a slump in form followed. He later realised that it’s not practical to expect others to emulate his feats. His talent is inborn, not acquired or transferred.