Amitabh Bachchan, who needs no introduction as an actor, is also one of India’s biggest all-time brands. And he epitomises the same virtues as master blaster Sachin Tendulkar—humility, modesty and grace. Bachchan is an ardent Sachin fan. Interestingly, this is what Sachin says of Bachchan: “He’s the ultimate Indian achiever. I can never be compared to him.” In this candid adda with Boria Majumdar, Bachchan speaks about his favourite Indian cricketer and how he feels about being compared to Sachin.
What does Sachin mean to you as an Indian?
To me, he actually means India shining. He’s one who has done India proud on the world stage and has given the country a lot to speak about. Ours is a land with a 5,000-year-old history, tremendous heritage and culture, and of course, ours is a land of incredible intellectual wealth. But Sachin has been able to add to this heritage and wealth. Every time there is talk of cricket in the world, we talk of India and we say so with a degree of respect and reverence. This has largely been made possible by Sachin, who has excelled on the world stage and taken India to a position of pre-eminence because of his achievements over the last 24 years. When a performer does well despite adversity, he adds to the glory of his country. And that’s what Sachin has done for well over two decades. He has made us all proud as a result of his feats of individual brilliance: and we, as proud Indians, have taken pride in these feats of Sachin.
Sachin stands for all that a mobile, progressive and dynamic India stands for—passion, dedication and excellence. I have the greatest respect for him both as a performer and as an individual.
You finished the last answer mentioning Sachin the individual. Can you please elaborate on Sachin the man as against Sachin the cricketer?
As a person, Sachin is the exact opposite of Sachin the cricketer. If as a performer, he is dominant, aggressive and bold on the field, which are the hallmarks of a real champion, as an individual, he is humble, dignified and rooted. He has not forgotten his roots and that makes him a very special person. He comes across as someone who has not let success transform him, and this is indeed incredible, considering the scale of his achievements. In fact, if you watch his expression when he walks back to the pavilion after he’s out, whether after a low score or after he is out for a century, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. He continues to epitomise the values of gentlemanliness associated with the game of cricket, values which we hardly see adhered to in cricket as it is played today. He is able to do so because his foundation (built on the values inculcated in him as an individual while growing up) is really strong and he has never wavered from following these principles and values.
As a performer who has been on top of his profession for a long time, there is a distinct similarity between Sachin and yourself. What explains this professional longevity that the two of you share? How is it that the two of you have been able to be active for years and can keep motivating yourselves time and again?
I am slightly embarrassed that you are comparing me with Sachin, for I don’t think I have achieved even half of what he has. But, to answer your question, it is about a very strong sense of self-belief and it is also about being comfortable with the thought that you are not infallible and can make a mistake. Sachin knows that his is a quest for perfection. It will always be. Every performance is. Yes, he will fail on occasion, because even the best do. But the important thing is to retain the desire to keep learning and improve the next time you get an opportunity. That’s what he has been able to do over 24 years. Despite being the very best in what he does, Sachin knows that he can fail and that he isn’t invincible. No one is. At the same time, he knows that he can learn from a mistake and get better. And better. That’s what he has done all his life and that explains his longevity.
What, according to you, will be Sachin’s most enduring legacy at two levels, first, as a professional cricketer and second, as an Indian citizen?
I think his legacy will be that he will forever be remembered as one synonymous with excellence. He stands for excellence and the highest standards of it. Every Indian should aspire to get to where he has in his life. More importantly, he has been able to sustain excellence for the longest time. That, as you well know, is a really difficult task. There is little doubt that he will forever be remembered as one who did the country proud on the biggest stage of all and stands for all that is pristine in sport, ethics and gentlemanliness.
How is it that you both have never become predictable, that you have been able to offer us all something new all through your careers?
Again, you embarrass me. It is difficult for me to say what I have done, but for Sachin, he has constantly been able to innovate and add to his repertoire over the years. For example, the cut over the slips or the slash over the point, which often go for a six, are shots that have a Sachin imprint on them. It is as if he invented them to answer the questions the bowlers posed to him. This is because he has constantly been working on his game, trying to iron out flaws and add new skills to his already incredible range. He has challenged himself and raised the bar every time he has gone out to perform. As I said, his is a constant quest for excellence even at this age, and that explains why he has never turned predictable or sterile. Like millions of my countrymen, I’d wish to see him play on for many more years, because Sachin brings out the best of emotions in me still. I watch the game with bated breath when he bats and sometimes switch the television off when he gets out. And I am sure I am not the only one to do so. He has been a constant phenomenon in our lives for the last 24 years. I’d like to wish him all the joys for his 40th birthday, which is a milestone in itself!