Yohan Blake, the world knows, is the true successor to Usain Bolt. The ‘Beast’, as they lovingly call him, runs fast—and, like many fellow Jamaicans, watches cricket. Double silver medallist at the London Olympics 2012, Blake is focused on going one better at Rio 2016. However, that will never keep him from watching his favourite icon Sachin Tendulkar play and from nurturing a desire to bowl to Sachin once. Blake, an ardent Sachin fan, was all gung-ho when asked if he’d be keen to talk about Sachin on the eve of his 40th birthday. Here are excerpts from a conversation with Boria Majumdar:
Yohan, your take on Sachin turning 40 and still continuing to enthral spectators around the world.
Firstly, I don’t consider myself qualified enough to talk about an icon of the level of Sachin Tendulkar. Having said that, I must say I grew up watching Sachin bat. I have been a cricket fan since I was four years old and from the earliest years, Sachin has been one of my heroes. In our part of the world, there were two names as far as cricket is concerned—Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar. While most of my mates were Brian Lara fans, I always felt an affinity towards Sachin. I just loved his consistency.
I have heard that you always take time off to follow Sachin whenever he is batting. Is this true?
Yes, of course. I even have dvds of some Sachin classics and watch them off and on. However, the story I wish to share with you goes back to the day he scored his one-day international double hundred. We were watching the match at a pub in Jamaica, and when he reached 120, there was talk among us about how many he’d get in that innings. Some of my friends suggested he’d get 150 and no more. I was the only one who suggested he’d get a double, the first in ODI history. We had a bet, and the deal was they’d take me to dinner if he did and that we’d party all night if it happened. I was thrilled when he scored his double, and if I had had his number then, I’d surely have called him and thanked him for winning me a fabulous dinner. Also, when I went to training the next morning, I had a cardinal Sachin lesson with me, which was: “The impossible is attainable”—if you put in the extra yard. I have always kept this in mind and must say it has helped me evolve as an athlete.
Talking about India and IPL...
Wait maan, I will tell you a story. You must be aware that I am a close buddy of Chris Gayle. Whenever we meet for a drink or dinner, I always ask him about India and cricket, and Chris tells me amazing stories about India and the IPL. He’s told me a lot of Sachin stories too, and about how Sachin is deified in India. He has even told me that when Sachin bats, all of India comes to a standstill. I wonder how! I was stunned to know that Sachin can’t step out of his house without being mobbed and that he can’t go and have a meal in a restaurant without being mobbed. I wish to ask him how he manages to lead such a reclusive lifestyle. And I would also say to him that I won’t be a bad recruit for the Mumbai Indians!
Now that you say this, I have heard you have a secret ambition of playing in the IPL?
Chris Gayle was the one who suggested I have a career in the IPL. I said to him that I’d certainly be up to it: I have broken many window panes hitting sixes as a child. Look, I am a fairly good cricketer and Usain (Bolt) says I should think of the IPL once my athletics career is over. It will be brilliant if I can play for Sachin’s team and share the same changing room with him.
Do you think anyone can break Sachin’s records, especially that of scoring 100 international hundreds?
Look, half a century earlier it was unimaginable to think one can run 100 metres in under 10 seconds. Now, 100 metres in 9.5 seconds is a definite reality. Accordingly, it will be impossible to predict what will happen 20-25 years down the line. If you ask me to name someone, the only one who comes to mind is Virat Kohli. I like his attitude and approach to the game. Not once am I saying that he’d be the one to break the record. All I am saying is he can prosper into being a real great of the game.
Do you think winning the 2012 T20 World Cup can change Caribbean cricket in the long term?
It was surely a step in the right direction. (Darren) Sammy is a very good captain, and as long as Chris is around, we have a chance. He is the true successor to Lara and is Sachin’s equivalent in Jamaica. You need icons like Sachin or Chris to inspire people, and I am puzzled why these problems with the West Indies Cricket Board even surface. All I can say is, if we play our cricket to potential, we can be a sure match to teams like South Africa, India and Australia, and the World Cup win was a very good start.
Your thoughts on Sachin’s retirement.
It was painful to hear he retired from ODI cricket. I think you should leave it to him and that it is completely his own call. I was delighted to see him score 81 against Australia and he looked in sublime touch. I think we are lucky to see him play and hope he continues to entertain us for some more time in the future. I’d like to wish him a very happy 40th birthday and all joy and happiness.