Shane Warne pays rich tribute to Sachin Tendulkar

Legendary Australian spinner Shane Warne has paid rich tribute to Sachin Tendulkar terming him the "best batsman" of his generation and said that there won't be another player like the retiring Indian great in years to come.

"Sachin Tendulkar was the best batsman of my generation and it will be a privilege to be in Mumbai this week to commentate on the first two days of his final Test," Warne, who is expected to be present in Mumbai for the iconic batsman's 200th and final Test match, said,

Warne, the second highest wicket-taker in the history of Test cricket, had many interesting duels with the Indian legend and feels that Tendulkar was the "best in all conditions against all types of bowling" and also possessed a wonderful temperament.

"The pressure he was under from the India public was immense but he handled himself on and off the field in a way that was respected by all," Warne wrote in his column for the Daily Telegraph.

Tendulkar, who is all set to become the first man to play 200 Test matches, has almost all the records in his kitty, including highest number of runs in both Tests and ODIs as well as 100 international centuries. But for Warne, Tendulkar's feats can't merely be measured by a few numbers.

"There will not be another Sachin Tendulkar. I always teach young players that cricket is not about averages even if it is a stats-based game. It is about how and when you score runs or take wickets. The great players deliver when the team is up against it and statistics do not tell you the truth about such things. Sachin is far more than a man with great numbers to boast about," Warne wrote.

Warne termed the phase between 1994 and 2000 as the best years of Tendulkar in international cricket.

"His best years were between 1994 and 2000 when he was just brilliant. He is still a very good player but it is hard to compare the Sachin of today to the man of 15 years ago."

"In the mid-1990s, he was phenomenal against the quicks and spin. He judged the length of a ball so quickly, which enabled him to have a lot more time to play the right shot or let it go."

According to Warne, Tendulkar kept the basics of batting pretty simple.

"Sachin also kept it very simple. He was still at the crease so, if it was pitched, up he drove it, if it was short, he pulled it. It was his judgment of length and clarity in his head with shot selection that made him so dominant against all opposition bowlers in all sorts of conditions." Warne wrote.

As per Warne's assessment, next to Tendulkar would be West Indian Brian Lara, who according to the leggie was "more destructive than Sachin".

"Second on my list would be Brian Lara. We all used to love watching Lara bat except when you had a ball in your hand and he was probably more destructive than Sachin. A third pool of players would include Jacques Kallis, Graham Gooch, Ricky Ponting, Mark Waugh and Kevin Pietersen but there is a fair distance between those guys and Lara and Tendulkar."

For Warne, the two stand-out Tendulkar innings were his 155 on a difficult Chennai track in 1998 and 241 in Sydney in 2003-04 when he didn't hit a single cover drive for almost 10 hours.

"I saw Sachin play some great innings but two stand out. In the 1998 Test in Chennai I dismissed him fifth ball in the first innings. In the second, he hit me for six second or third ball and went on to make 155 in tough conditions to set up India to win the Test.

"Six years later at the Sydney Cricket Ground he made 241, his first Test double-century. I was injured at the time so was commentating but I had a great view of his innings from the box. He had been dismissed a few times in that series by Australia bowling full and wide. He nicked off to slip and the keeper and went into the Sydney Test on the back of scores of 0, 1, 37, 0 and 44."

Warne recalled how Tendulkar curbed his natural instinct to play a cover drive.

"He [Tendulkar] decided he would respond by not playing a cover drive. Now the cover drive is a fairly large part of a batsman?s armoury. When bowlers are pitching it up and trying to swing it you tend to play a lot of cover drives, but he did not play a single one in more than 10 hours at the crease. It summed up his mental strength."

Warne, who has 708 wickets from 145 Tests, said that it was quite flattering he alongwith Tendulkar was considered as the best batsman and bowler of that generation.

"A lot of people have said, quite flatteringly, that we are the best batter and bowler of our generation. It is nice to be in that company but it is even more special that away from it all we have got to know each other and his friendship is important to me and something I respect."

Enjoying Mark Knopfler's guitar tunes with earphones plugged at Tendulkar's residence was a "fascinating experience" for him.

Warne was sporting in admitting that most of their duels was won by Tendulkar.

"We had a lot of battles on the field and generally he won. I got him out three times in 12 Tests and most of the time it felt like his testimonial whenever he played against Australia because he would just make another hundred.

"One of my favourite dismissals was getting him out with a straight one that he failed to pick in the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne in 1999. He padded up and I had him lbw which was very satisfying, but generally he was on top."

One of the most cherished moments for Warne was being invited along with Tendulkar to Sir Don's 90th birthday.

image_20131110174922"Sir Donald Bradman paid him the ultimate compliment. On his 90th birthday, he asked to meet two cricketers, Sachin and myself. We went to his house in Adelaide together and shared a special day. We were both a bit shy and quiet when we met Sir Don but treasure the few hours we had with the great man talking about the modern game and how he used to prepare."

"He [Sir Don] told us the biggest improvement in the modern game was fielding and he said his preparation was going to the office for a few hours before walking down to the Adelaide Oval for a few throw downs. It is a bit different to hydration tests and three hours of warm-ups before the game these days."

"Before we left, I remember he said to Sachin that he loved the way he batted and of all modern players he reminded him the most of himself. You can?t get a greater accolade than that," Warne concluded.