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Sachin Tendulkar: Class and Talent
Throughout his 20-plus year international career, Tendulkar's biggest challenge has been shouldering the responsibility of being the cornerstone of the entire batting lineup. This was especially true in the 1990s when it was common knowledge that if Tendulkar failed, India failed!
In today's era of professional cricket, a top star like Tendulkar has to cope with a lot more than just on-field pressures and an endless line of endorsements. Tendulkar has to live up to the hopes of more than a billion fans who idolize him. While this might make him sound like a rockstar--which he is in India--it adds a lot of pressure on him.
Tendulkar has thrived and emerged on top of the cricketing world in an era when the playing field has been fairly even. During his time, teams as diverse as the West Indies, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Australia and now, England have been the biggest thorns in his side.
He has been pegged against great bowlers like Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Allan Donald and Wasim Akram. In almost all these rivalries, the Little Master has been able to hold his own--if not come out on top. He's travelled far more extensively than Bradman did and he's been successful in almost every country he's played in. Unlike the Don, Sachin has had to cope with an endless variety of wickets, conditions, and formats while maintaining his status as an all-time great.
After seeing Sachin play on TV, Bradman himself had pointed out the similarities between their batting techniques. Like Bradman, Tendulkar is also a great timer of the ball and employs perfect stance and footwork going into any shot.
However, unlike Bradman, Tendulkar tends to start off watchfully. This is generally true of most test batsmen but in the Little Master's case--given the importance of his wicket--this is a given almost every single time. While he plays aggressive shots in the beginning of the innings, they are usually only off loose deliveries. He only starts lashing out after he's completely set--or after a big hundred.
Over the last 22 years, Sachin Tendulkar has given the average Indian fan something to root for every time he plays. Playing for a team that was not used to producing world-beaters and prolific centurions, Tendulkar has scored century after century and has notched up the most impressive stats in both one-day and test cricket.
He also holds the record for being only the second player--after Javed Miandad--to play in six World Cups. Besides, India's triumph at the 2011 World Cup was the ultimate achievement for this veteran who laid the foundation and reaped the rewards of his labour.
Tendulkar led the Indian side on and off during the mid- to late-1990s. While there's no doubting his resolve, the pressure of captaincy often got to him and it showed with his sub-par performances during that period. All in all, Tendulkar works best when he's allowed to play his game freely without the added pressure of leading the most high-profile team in cricket.
Don Bradman: Grit and Flair
While Don Bradman was the the greatest test batsman of his time, he had to work really hard to focus on the game he loved. This was because he played international cricket at a time when every cricketer--and sportsman, in general--had a day job.
Bradman was no exception to this rule and he even had to relocate from his native New South Wales to South Australia when he switched jobs. In fact, he even had to put his career on hold during the late 1930s and early 1940s to serve his country in World War II.
To add to this, Bradman had to contend with the likes of English skipper Douglas Jardine, who unleashed the infamous Bodyline attack on him. This was back when there were no helmets and chest guards and a malicious fast ball could actually be lethal!
Bradman thrived in the Wild West days of test cricket. Shortly after his debut, he gave his side a much-needed edge over the English, who up until that point had dominated in the Ashes rivalry.
Bradman's aggressive approach made him an important scalp for bowlers everywhere. Of course, in those days, there were far fewer competitive international opponents--these were mostly England followed by South Africa and the West Indies.
However, Bradman dominated every bowler he faced. And at a time when there were no lucrative endorsement deals, his sole motivation was his love for the game. Having said that, the weight of expectation on his shoulders was far less than that on Tendulkar's today.
Unlike Tendulkar, Bradman was known to be aggressive from the get-go. Although his batting technique was similar to Tendulkar's, he often swung hard at the ball, no matter the context of his innings or the game at large!
Given that he lost a few years due to the war, he was completely out of cricket for the better part of five years. In fact, when he returned from active service, he had even developed a muscular problem called fibrositis. This made it difficult for him to even comb his hair, let alone swing a cricket bat!
So Bradman had to relearn some of his past skills and adjust to life at the top flight of cricket again. While he was less effective thereafter, he still managed to make quite an impact internationally.
One of Bradman's biggest contributions to Australian and world cricket at large was his aggressive approach. Despite being the target of hostile English bowlers during the 1932 Ashes series, he stood his ground and rallied on. This approach is typical of all Australian teams since they have now become the aggressors themselves!
Bradman's contributions can also be measured in numbers. One of the key numbers being his career average of 99.94, which remains a benchmark in all of cricket. He came desperately close to a three-figure career average but his final stats reflect a glorious 20-year journey.
As opposed to Tendulkar, Bradman proved to be an exceptional leader. He captained his country during two separate spells and was successful during both those periods.
In 1948, during his last days in international cricket, he led one of the most formidable Australian test outfits in history. The group was dubbed 'Bradman's Invincibles' and it demolished England in their own backyard.
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