Former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly calls Sachin Tendulkar the "greatest cricketer I have ever seen". In a tribute paid to the Little Master, who is grappling with form and has repeatedly been probed about his future in international cricket, Ganguly says: "He is the best I have seen and will perhaps ever see. No batsman in the next fifty years can score 100 international hundreds."
Ganguly has wished Tendulkar ahead of his 40th birthday on Wednesday. In an article in the Outlook, Ganguly, now a widely respected TV commentator, says: "…he is the greatest cricketer I have ever seen. I haven't seen Bradman, but he is as close to perfection as you can get. His insatiable hunger, combined with incredible talent, makes him a real genius. When people criticise him, all I point out to them is the 100 international hundreds. Can you imagine the hunger and motivation of a player who has achieved that?"
One of the most successful Indian captains, Ganguly goes on to say: "The difference between Sachin and a really good player is that the latter, if he scores a hundred in the first innings and has once again scored a fifty in the second, will, in all likelihood, play one loose shot thereafter. It happens to us all. Sachin, however, will leave nothing to chance and will get the second innings hundred as well. That's why I always say that Lara was a great and Ponting too was brilliant, but Sachin, without any hesitation, is the greatest."
Ganguly remembers his close association with Tendulkar, who he fondly calls "Boro Babu" (the big boss)! The two of them met at an under-14 camp when both of them were 13. Room-mates on the 1992 Indian tour of Australia, Ganguly recalls Tendulkar's conviction and focus in establishing himself as a premier batsman.
Recalling several instances where Tendulkar guided him during his captaincy, Ganguly recalls an incident during the 2003 World Cup in South Africa that underlined the Little Master's vision.
Ganguly says: "This is about the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. It was a tournament where we played some of our best cricket ever and Sachin was in imperious form right through. Before the tournament there was a debate over his batting position. I felt he should bat at number four and guide the middle order. Needless to say, I was wrong.
"We had a meeting in South Africa between John Wright, Anil Kumble, Sachin and myself, and Anil suggested that he should open the batting for us. I asked Sachin what he wanted to do and he preferred to bat at the top of the order. I had never imposed my wish on my teammates and agreed to the proposition. The rest, as they say, is history. Sachin tore into opposition bowling attacks and was instrumental in guiding us to the final. And this included playing one of his best knocks ever against Pakistan at Centurion on March 1, 2003."
Ganguly remembers how Tendulkar contributed off-the-field as well. Not a man of many words, Tendulkar once advised Ganguly against a team chat during that memorable game against Pakistan at Centurion.
"Pakistan had scored a challenging 273 batting first. While walking out at mid-innings I asked Sachin if we should have a team talk. He was clear we shouldn't. He said we were already playing very well and there was no need to disturb the momentum. Talk would only end up confusing the boys. I dropped the idea and left it to him to go out there and play his game.
"Needless to say, he did. We hit 60 in the first five overs; soon it was all over for Pakistan. Sachin had once again done it for us with an innings of the highest calibre. It was definitely the tournament's most high-pressure encounter and he had delivered when it mattered the most."