Akram deciphers Tendulkar’s genius
The debate on ‘who is the world’s greatest Test batsman ever’ will continue until the end of time. But does Sachin Tendulkar have any rivals when it comes to holding the title of the best ODI batsman of all times?
The man who Tendulkar himself considers the greatest fast bowler that he has faced, thinks the Indian is peerless. For Wasim Akram, the recently retired maestro was the toughest batsman to bowl to, especially in the limited overs format.
It is always fascinating to know the views of one great sportsman on another, especially when they were always pitted against each other on the field. It was hence, an intriguing experience to listen to Pakistan’s bowling legend give a first-hand account of Tendulkar’s batting genius.
In a heartfelt and enthralling chat with bcci.tv, the former Pakistan captain listed out the reasons that made Sachin Tendulkar a nightmare for any bowler. He spoke about his favourite Sachin ODI innings, his most cherished Tendulkar wicket, the master batsman’s weakness and much more.
What first comes to your mind when you think of Sachin Tendulkar as an ODI batsman?
Over 18,000 runs, 49 centuries – forget beating that record, I don’t think anyone will even come close. While those who have seen him play in ODIs will obviously miss his genius, the coming generation will never know what they’ve missed.
Can you single out one thing that made him such difficult batsman to bowl to?
Personally for me, when he came out to bat, he looked very cool and calm. He never looked anxious or under pressure. With 98 percent of batsmen I saw walk in to bat, I could tell they were under pressure, but this guy was always so calm; and that I think was the secret of his success as a batsman.
From a cricketing point of view, he was a difficult batsman because of his technique. His defence was solid and his shots were proper. As a bowler, you hardly had a chance to get him out unless you bowled a magic delivery.
Can you relive the slower delivery with which you bowled him in Sharjah in 2000? (Watch: Video)
I remember that wicket very well because I rarely got him out. I bowled a couple of short deliveries, a yorker and then bowled a slower one which was the wicket ball. The light wasn’t that great and it worked for me as he missed it and got bowled. That was one of the best wickets I remember taking out of the 500-odd  that I have in ODIs. Deceiving the maestro with a slower one was ultimate joy.
Can you recall any particular bowler-batsman mental battle between the two of you?
In that same Sharjah ODI he hit me for a couple of boundaries off short deliveries. Every batsman was struggling against my short-of-a-length delivery, but he pulled me twice. And then I said, ‘No more bouncers to him’. I realised that the best way against him is to keep bowling the middle-and-off line. I always looked at containing him because I knew that as an opening batsman, he is always going to play proper shots to an opening bowler and never slog.
What separated him from other great batsmen of his era?
He was the only batsman I noticed over the years who never changed his technique. When an Indian or Pakistani batsman goes to Australia they change their technique and go on the backfoot, but he never did that. That’s because he was so good at picking up the length of the ball. I don’t think any batsman picked up the length better in world cricket.
Even the greatest of batsmen have their weaknesses. What is Tendulkar’s?
We knew his weakness and that’s why we had Abdul Razzaq have a go at him all the time. Sachin didn’t like facing those medium paced outswing bowlers, and every time Razzaq bowled to him, he got him out.
What is your favourite Tendulkar shot?
It was stupid of me to bowl him a yorker in the 1999 Chennai Test when he was batting on 70-80 odd. It was a very good yorker with the second new ball and I had the mid-on and mid-off standing straighter as well. And he straight drove me for four. His straight drive is the best in the world.
Which is your favourite Sachin ODI innings?
I saw his knock against Australia in the final of the 1998 series in Sharjah. He scored 134 against the tough Aussie attack and under immense pressure. He has played some great knocks in limited overs cricket, but that one, in my book, is the best Sachin Tendulkar knock.