SACHIN TENDULKAR tackles England in the first Test at Lord’s tomorrow needing just one more century to complete his 100th international ton.
And a couple of well-known Indians plying their trade and business in the Huddersfield area are fully expecting the ‘Little Master’ to reach yet another major landmark in his long and illustrious career.
Scholes batsman Iqbal Khan, who won the Drakes League’s top batting prize in 2009, is not just a Tendulkar fan, but also a very close friend of the Indian star, having played alongside him and shared a dressing room for almost seven years.
“I played in the same side as Sachin for Bombay, before it became Mumbai some years ago, and we also played for the Cricket Club of India team during which time I got to know him very well,” reflected Khan.
“Sachin always has been, and was always going to be, a class player.
“He was always mad keen to bat, and never wanted to get out. Even if he’d scored a century and then got out, when you went to congratulate him he would reply, ‘yes, but I shouldn’t have got out.’
“I batted with him many times, and almost ran him out in one game, when he called for a single, and came racing down the pitch and I’d never moved.
“Fortunately the fielder fumbled the ball and I managed to get to the other end, otherwise one of his dismissals would have been down to me.”
Tendulkar has 51 Test centuries and 48 in One Day Internationals, but has never scored a century at Lord’s.
Khan added: “Some people in the media have tried to compare him with Sir Donald Bradman.
“But it is impossible to make accurate comparisons between the two.
“Sachin has played on covered wickets all his life, Sir Donald didn’t. And Sir Donald played only in Test matches, and not a lifetime of one-dayers and 20/20 matches.
“But Sir Donald once said when he was watching Tendulkar batting on television: ‘this young man reminds me of myself,’ and Sachin says that was the greatest compliment anyone could have paid him.”
This could well be Tendulkar’s last tour of England and he’s well liked in Yorkshire after playing for the county.
“Sachin has proved himself at every level in every form of the game and is probably one of the very few players in history to fulfil every expectation placed on him by everyone,” said Khan.
“And even now he still retains that remarkable desire.
“My wife and I caught up with him socially last year, and it is obvious that he still has that incredible hunger for the game, just like a young schoolboy, even after everything he has achieved in 20 years at the top.
“I know everyone is expecting him to get his 100th international century.”
Despite the presence of Tendulkar, Khan is not going overboard about predicting victory for India in the series, even though they are No1 in the world to England’s No3.
“England are a very good team, particularly at home, and I’m a little concerned that without (the injured) Virender Sehwag as opener we may be exposing our No3, 4 and 5 to the new ball a bit too soon,” he explained.
“Gautam Gambhir is a very good batsman, but he does not dominate like Sehwag, who has the ability to take an opening attack apart quickly and take the shine off the ball. But if the openers go quickly against what I rate a very good England bowling attack, then our strokeplayers – who are all excellent players – are nevertheless exposed to the new ball attack too soon.
“Tremlett is in excellent form and I do think England have got a very good bowling attack, in fact better than their batting, while India are the other way round, with Zaheer Khan our only bowler of note in English conditions, because I don’t think Harbhajan Singh will trouble the England batters.
“But England’s batting could be suspect with Strauss, having just found a bit of form with his latest ton after some poor scores, and only Cook really on song. Ian Bell is also a very important player for England, but I think with Rahul Dravid coming in at three, followed by Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh, I think India definitely have the better batting line-up.”
Another man who knows not only Tendulkar, but the majority of Indian Test players who have starred in the team for many years, is Dewsbury-based sports businessman (and agent) Solly Adam.
“Sachin has not played for a few months, having missed the West Indies tour, but I’d like to think he can get to his 100th century on this tour,” said Adam, who will be renewing acquaintances with some of the other Indian legends like pals Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar.
“It promises to be a very big series with all India’s ex-Test players invited.”