'You can't just run up to him and bowl,you know'
by Allan Donald
I had been watching Tendulkar on and off before we (South Africa) were
re-admitted in 1991. People were always talking about him so I was aware
of what we were going to come up against and I remember Craig McDermott
telling us that he was going to be the best in the world.
Our first engagement was in 1991, at Calcutta, in front of 90,000
people. He made 62. And it was blatantly clear then that he was going to
be a player to remember.
Before I played against him I was always looking forward to having a
crack. Then I realised just what I was up against. When someone like
Tendulkar walks to the crease, you have to know what you are going to
do. You can't just run up and bowl. You have to have planned your
attack, your line, a week in advance.
Everything about him is just so exceptional. He is wonderful technically
and he has everything class, speed, all the shots, and he is cool
under pressure. Cricketers always talk about his amazing balance, even
the Aussies. I've seen tapes of Sunil Gavaskar and if you split the
screen between him and Tendulkar, they look virtually identical. I have
never seen a man with such immaculate balance it is freakish.
People go to a Test match just to watch Tendulkar. I, for one, would
rather watch him than bowl against him. Actually, I'm glad I'll never
have to bowl to him in a Test match again, though I've been quite
successful against him.
He is No. 1 in my book the best player I have ever had the privilege
of bowling to. There's Steve Waugh and there's Brian Lara, who was
wonderful in 1995, but Tendulkar is a class above, consistently special.
Your margin for error against him really is marginal. If you get him on
a flat track, when he is, say, 50 not out off 24 balls, then you know
that you have a very long day ahead and the situation can be very, very
demoralising. The best knock I can remember him playing was at Newlands
in 1997, when he was just unstoppable. We only got him thanks to a
blinding catch by Adam Bacher off a hook shot, otherwise he would have
gone on and on.
Under Hansie Cronje we studied hard for a Tendulkar weakness. We thought
he might be vulnerable, especially early in his innings, to the ball
that is bowled from wide of the crease, coming back in off a good
length. He might then be bowled through the gate, or be lbw, especially
on English wickets. We also tried peppering him with short balls not
many top-class batters like that but it didn't really seem to bother
him. The one thing that might rattle him is being restricted. He loves
scoring, and scoring quickly, and if he is frustrated, sometimes he goes
out and looks for the big shot.
I don't think he really gets rattled by sledging. Glenn McGrath tried it
during the World Cup and Tendulkar just kept running at him and hitting
him back over his head for four. I think that, like Steve Waugh,
sledging just makes him more focused: I don't think it is a good idea to
have a word.
The ball I bowled to him at Durban in 1997 was the best ball I have
bowled to any cricketer. I think he hit the first two balls after lunch
for four, then I came from wide of the crease and the ball really went a
long way to bowl him. I don't think I've ever celebrated like that you
save those for the big ones. We had discussed how to bowl to him, and I
knew what I was trying to do, but I never expected it to go so far off
the seam to knock out the off stump. It was a great sight. That series
was billed as the Donald-Tendulkar battle, but he got his own back at
Cape Town with one of the best knocks I've ever seen.
Tendulkar is already a legend so I'm not sure how he'll be remembered
what comes after legend? He is still young and if he plays till he is 35
who knows what he'll achieve. He's the best in the world, one of the
most magnificent players there's ever been. He's also a nice guy, a
soft-hearted bloke who gives 110 per cent and just loves playing
Allan Donald spoke to Tanya Aldred
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