There are paeans being sung for Sachin Tendulkar all over the country. Every expert and cricketer has a word of praise for the maestro. However, it all pales in comparison when two of the most fearsome bowlers the legend faced say he is the best in the world.
Pakistan bowling greats Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar rated Tendulkar the best in the world ahead of Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting and even their teammate Inzamam-ul-Haq.
“He is right at the top in the world,” was how Younis thought of Tendulkar, while Akhtar called him the “greatest player” at an event here on Tuesday.
When Younis and Akhtar, who redefined aggression, praise a batsman who went after them in the field, the player does not need any other certificate. Especially, considering the intense rivaly.
Akhtar said that he was proud to get Tendulkar’s wicket. “He has changed the history of cricket.
He’s the world’s greatest player. I felt great when I got him out and I take pride when he did not hit me out of the park,” he said.
Younis added, “From being a boy, he went on to rule the world of cricket. All the four Tests of that series (1988/89) were played on greenish pitches and he played very well. He’s right at the top. Not only in subcontinent he has scored outside too. His statistics are the proof.”
Akhtar said he was not aware of Tendulkar’s popularity till he met him for the first time in Kolkata.
He also clarified that he never said that the Indian batsman was afraid of his pace bowling.
“I never said he was afraid of fast bowling, but I thought he was a bit casual when he came out to bat after I had bowled Rahul Dravid. The ball was swinging and I wanted to bowl a swinging yorker. When he was out, I was stunned by the reaction of the crowd. I had no idea when I came to India that Sachin is so big this country,” he recalled.
Remembering the famous cut over point that went for six during the 2003 World Cup where Tendulkar scored a 75-ball 98 at Centurion, Akhtar said it was difficult to bowl to him.
“I struggled with the line. He thrashed me, the faster I bowled the harder he hit me. He hit me for a six over point. He batted amazingly and from the first ball looked very focused,” he said.
Waqar reminisced about the bouncer that injured Tendulkar on his debut Test against Pakistan. “He was hit on the nose off the glove and the injury was not as bad. He did not fall down. After a few minutes he started batting again,” said Waqar.
Waqar rated Tendulkar’s 136 in a losing cause in the Chennai Test of 1999 against Pakistan as his best knock he has seen.
“Saqlain and Afridi were turning the ball square. The way he batted was amazing. Then he mishit and got out when India needed 13 runs to win and we wrapped up the remaining wickets in two-three overs,” said Waqar.