When the ‘Don’ of our times called on Sir Donald Bradman in 1998, he was indeed nervous. He had Shane Warne, his great rival, for company. The duo was driving to the birthday boy’s Adelaide home, thinking what they would ask him. And Sachin Tendulkar very conveniently told the leg-spinner to take the lead as he was, well, Australian.
But once they got there, they let the old man do all the talking.
Tendulkar wouldn’t obviously let go of the opportunity to interact with the man who likened the Mumbaikar’s batting to his own. So Tendulkar asked Bradman how much he would have averaged if he were to be playing then.
“He said maybe 70. So the natural reaction was, ‘why only 70, why not 99.94’.
"He said, ‘come on son, that’s not bad for a 90-year old man’."
On a day when he felt “overwhelmed" at being appointed an “Honorary Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his service to Australia-India relations by promoting goodwill, friendship and sportsmanship through the sport of cricket”, Tendulkar’s recall of the above incident was the moment of the evening.
The master, who has toured Australia five times — 1991-92 (including the World Cup), 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 — publicly admitted that, after India, that is the country he loved the most.
“We all know that Australians are fierce competitors; when you do well against them they shower you with compliments. That’s what happened to me... the Australians have a big contribution in making me a tougher cricketer. One has to be there, one has to experience how cricket is played Down Under,” he said after receiving the medal and a stump from minister Simon Crean in the presence of wife Anjali, brother Ajit and Peter Varghese, Australia’s high commissioner to India, among others.
Crean’s speech was no less enthralling. After listing Tendulkar’s on-field achievements, he reminded the gathering that the maestro “just made 137 in the local cricket competition” (Ranji Trophy) in the lead-up to the Test series against England. “...And we can only hope that this means he is back in form. As Australian and Indian cricket fans know, there is nothing better than beating England!”
Crean labelled Tendulkar a global ambassador, a philanthropist, and a spokesperson for charities. He recalled those twin hundreds (148 in Sydney and 114 in Perth) which endeared him to the Aussie public. “On that tour, he was compared to a young Sir Don Bradman. ‘Daylight’ was the description that Warne used to describe Sachin. As in, Sachin is the best, daylight is second, and then there’s the rest.”
The honour, according to Crean, will enable Tendulkar to visit Australia whenever he wants to. Tendulkar promised to visit the country again, “maybe as a cricketer or as a tourist”.