Features and Interviews

Warne relives battles with Tendulkar

A tribute to one genius from another

A tribute to one genius from another

“I would go to bed having nightmares of Sachin dancing down the track and hitting me for sixes”. Shane Warne said these words in jest after the historic 1998 Sharjah tri-series.

Unlike the popular interpretation, Warne didn’t say this because he was ‘scared’ of bowling to Sachin Tendulkar. These words are, in fact, a testimony to the great bond that the two geniuses of the game share. They exemplify the respect that one legend of the game holds for another.

As he watched the “best batsman or our era” play the last match of his incredible career, in Mumbai, the champion Australian leg-spinner took us down the memory lane and spoke of his battles with the batting maestro.

Here’s Shane Warne on Sachin Tendulkar, as told to bcci.tv.

What was your first impression of Sachin Tendulkar

He was an amazing batsman. I my first series, in 1992, seeing an 18-year-old get a hundred in Sydney, where the ball was reverse swinging and spinning and then to do the same in Perth, when the Perth track was fast and bouncy, was brilliant. Mike Whitney was on fire and we knocked India out cheaply, but Sachin still scored a hundred. That told you that this guy was something special. It was my debut Test series but I could still sense that he was something else.

I’ve always admired him and respected him as an opponent and most importantly, he and I have become very good friends over the years. We have gotten to know each other off the field, we have spent time together having dinners, I have been to his house and gotten to know his family. We often talk cars, music and all sorts of things. We always keep in touch and it’s nice to be here for his last Test too.

What was the one technical aspect that made him more difficult to bowl to than the other great batsmen you’ve come up against?

Tendulkar stands out in the last 25 years in being the best and the only guy that comes close to him is Brian Lara. There have been some fine batsmen but there’s a huge gap between them and Sachin. I think what set him apart from everybody else is that he judged the length of the ball so quickly and that gave him extra time to play his shots. I had a great view from the slip cordon when he batted against some fearsome fast bowlers. And of course, I saw him smash me all around the park when I bowled to him.

You were a genius at setting up a batsman for dismissal. And Tendulkar was equally adept at anticipating what ball was next. How did that battle pan out?

To be mentioned in the same breath as Sachin is very humbling. People have said that he was the best batsman and I was the best bowler on each side. It’s funny to think like that but also very nice, so I’ll say thank you. But honestly, the mind games were such a waste of time with Sachin. He was so good that he didn’t really bother about that stuff. Our battles were very interesting. I haven’t got him out many times and he scored a lot of hundreds against me, so he easily won the contest. He enjoyed the battle and I thought whenever I came on to bowl, he lifted his game and concentrated even harder. Irrespective of what the outcome was, it was fun to do battle with him.

Can you think of any one instance that exemplified that battle between you two?

One that stands out where it was him versus I, was the 1998 Chennai Test. It was such a shame that between my first Test series, in 1992 and our tour to India in 1998, we didn’t play a single Test against each other because I think both Sachin and I were at the peak of our games during that period.

Anyway, in that Test, he hit me for a four first up, I beat his bat and then got him caught by Mark Taylor. This was the first innings of the match and we were setting up the Test well. India were chasing our first-innings lead of 71 runs. I think he hit me for a six in my first over and went on to make a match-winning 155 for India. It was an amazing innings in tough conditions and I was bowling pretty well too. There were a lot of ODI knocks, like the back-to-back tons in Sharjah and others. But that Test knock in Chennai stood out for me.

Ahead of that series Tendulkar called all the leg-spinners of Mumbai and asked them to pitch the ball on the dug-up leg-side spot in the crease because he knew you will bowl round the wicket to him in Tests. Has any batsman prepared so thoroughly against you before or since then?

Not that I know of. I got to know about his preparation after the series. I think he scored some 200-odd in the warm-up match before the series. I didn’t bowl round the wicket in the practice match because I wanted to save it for the Test matches. He guessed that. I remember getting him out lbw on 10 or something in that game but it was not given. He was plumb. However, in the Test match, he came good at whatever I threw at him. You know, he scored a lot more hundreds than I got him out but at the end of the day, people will remember the battles that ensued between us.

VVS Laxman recently said that Sachin always made it a point to take maximum strike against a bowler if he sensed his partner was uncomfortable against him. Did he do that often against you?

He tried to do that all the time. When he was batting well, he wanted to face most of the deliveries. He would orchestrate the innings such that he would take most of the strike and let his partner settle in. These are the things that statistics don’t tell you. I don’t think there will ever be another Sachin Tendulkar the man. There might be people who emulate his runs or numbers but there will never be another man who plays the game in the way he did. I loved how he played the game. I’ve always told the youngsters that it’s not about how many runs or wickets you get but how you get them and when you get them that matters. Sachin is the paragon in that regards.

Did you ever get him to sledge you?

The only time Sachin and I had a go at each other was during an IPL game in Jaipur. I was getting one of the younger Mumbai Indians player fired up. Sachin interrupted to protect his team mate and I told him to go worry about his own game. He said something back to me and we went past each other. There was a bit of giggle later on and things were fine. There was nothing nasty that ever happened between us.

What’s your favourite Sachin Tendulkar Test knock?

I wasn’t playing that match; I was out injured unfortunately. It was the 2006 Test in Sydney and he scored 241 runs in the first innings without playing a single cover drive. It showed his mental toughness. It showed how he can work his game around every situation and conditions. There are so many other gems that he has unleashed with his bat but that knock stands out in my mind for the sheer discipline and will power he showed.

Features and Interviews

Best relives his battle with Sachin

WI bowler says he wanted to dismiss Tendulkar for his son

WI bowler says he wanted to dismiss Tendulkar for his son

The morning of the second day of the Mumbai Test was enthralling. Sachin Tendulkar resumed batting from his overnight score of 38 and the mammoth crowd was on its toes. Tino Best started the proceedings with the ball. What ensued was an entertaining battle between the master and the man who “Was trying to impress him”.

Cheteshwar Pujara, at the other end, took easy singles off length balls as Best preserved his fire for Tendulkar. “Sachin is a legend. He’s completed 24 years in the game and I am like a baby to him,” Best told bcci.tv of his battle with the great man.

“I was just trying to impress him while also trying to get him out. I wanted him to have a memory of Tino Best and I gave more than 100 per cent for that.”

Best kept pitching it short or just back of a length, beating Tendulkar on several occasions. Invariably, the champion batsman would hit back with authority – a gorgeous straight drive, a cracking backfoot cover drive. The West Indian pacer would go down on his knees with disappointment in his follow through. He wanted the wicket really bad and there was a more personal reason.

“It’s my son’s birthday today. He turned 13 and I had promised him I’ll get Sachin’s wicket for him. But the man came on top even at the age of 40. The 74 runs he scored were just pure class. He showed he still has it in him even in his last game.”

The barrage of short balls that Best hurled at Tenddulkar was a strategy that the bowler admits didn’t work as they had hoped. “It was a team plan. We thought he can still drive and cut well but maybe at 40 he might be ruffled with the bouncers. But that wasn’t the case. He fought and won the battle against the short balls,” Best acknowledged the legend.

Best didn’t get the wicket he was desperate for, but he did end up with the important wicket of MS Dhoni. When Darren Sammy completed the catch, Best broke into a series of wild celebratory moves – a kiss on the cross around his neck, a few punches in the air, chest-fisting.

“I had worked really hard since morning but didn’t pick any wicket. So, to dismiss Dhoni, who is an incredible player, was a bit emotional,” Best said of his celebrations. “I am a very passionate player and believe in living it to the fullest because we get to play only for a few years. Not everyone has a long career like Sachin, most successful careers last about 10 years.

While Best got Dhoni, the race among the Windies bowlers of ‘who will dismiss Tendulkar in his last Test’ was won by off-spinner, Narsingh Deonarine. “I think he is going to talk about it until he dies. He definitely has the bragging rights,” Best said.

As his own battle with Tendulkar goes, Best had the consolation prize – his moment with the master, if you will. After Best beat him with a short ball, Tendulkar, on his way to the non-striker’s end, patted the excruciated bowler on his shoulders and said a few words. The moment will remain with the pacer for a long time.

“He just said, ‘Keep trying, young man’! It was very nice of him to encourage me like that and it kept me going. It just told me that the game is not easy and you’ve just got to keep trying.”