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Tendulkar - The ultimate role model

Posted in World Cricket

Great is an overused word in sport.

The statement itself is becoming overused and clichéd, but that does not make it any less true.

Too often now, one great innings, a great goal or any remotely impressive sporting feat leads to a label that should take a career to earn.

In reality, there a few sportsmen – Muhammad Ali and Pele spring to mind – who have achieved true greatness.

Sachin Tendulkar can be added to that list.

To truly earn the label, one has to transcend sport; achievements off the field are just as – if not more – important than those on it.

It is easy at a time like this –Tendulkar has just become the first man to score a 100th international century – to remember his brilliant on-field moments; the centuries and remarkable shots are certainly worth looking back over.

Yet, when I found out this morning he was approaching the feat, I was thinking about something very different.

Ahead of the first Test against England at Lord’s last year, I had the pleasure of watching the Little Master in the nets.

After the session, he strolled from the Nursery Ground and past the Media Centre, where he was greeted by a band of screaming fans – the noise was deafening.

The security guards around Tendulkar braced themselves, but he relaxed, went around the group and signed autographs.

Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar ends a year-long wait for his 100th international century in today's Asia Cup clash against Bangladesh in Mirpur

He did not look comfortable – far from it. I could not help but think he would rather have been in the sanctuary of the dressing room, not faced with all the attention.

Yet he still signed the autographs. It was far from an imposition.

I have seen many others in similar situations and none – with the exception of Tendulkar’s long-time middle-order partner Rahul Dravid – have greeted supporters so pleasantly.

In an era where some sportsmen are becoming increasingly flashy, full of their own self-importance, they would do well to look at Tendulkar.

Later that week at Lord’s, thousands of people queued outside ahead of the final day, desperate for the hottest ticket in town.

They wanted to see Tendulkar bat and chase what had, until today, proved an elusive feat: a 100th international century.

Can you imagine another player drawing such a crowd?

He failed that day, as he did for 12 months before today, March 16 2012 – a date that will go down in history.

The pressure was intense in that period, but for Tendulkar, that has been the norm for much of an international career that began 23 years ago when he was just 16.

No-one has experienced the levels of adulation and pressure that follow the Little Master, who cannot walk the streets without being surrounded by thousands of people.

Tendulkar does not seem to crave the limelight, yet he accepts it. He does not moan, or look upon it as a burden.

Every time he walks out to bat, the hopes of a nation rest on his shoulders; anything less than a century is considered a failure. It is unprecedented adulation.

Something is amiss, therefore, when few have carried themselves with the same dignity.

In an era where the word great is thrown around with reckless abandon, observers would do well to look no further than Sachin Tendulkar to find a true definition.

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