A double century in the second Test match against Sri Lanka in Colombo in July 2010.At a time when the world was gaping at the bizarre claims made by the publisher’s of ‘The Tendulkar Opus’-that one could now buy God’s blood in a book, weighing a massive 37 kg and,A double century in the second Test match against Sri Lanka in Colombo in July 2010.At a time when the world was gaping at the bizarre claims made by the publisher’s of ‘The Tendulkar Opus’-that one could now buy God’s blood in a book, weighing a massive 37 kg and costing a whopping Rs 35.2 lakh, the man himself remain unflustered. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar just did what he does best, scored a double century in the second Test match against Sri Lanka, and quietly moved on to another milestone. SRT also became the most capped player in the history of Test cricket while taking to the field in the third Test match against Sri Lanka.Setting records has never been an aberration for Sachin, but this leg has been exceptional. Some records may never be breached, while the ones which may eventually be broken will take a gigantic effort from an equally gifted player.But neither the book nor the records (both veryenviable though) fascinate me, it’ssomething more momentous and profound which catches my fancy. Reaching milestones and creating records is just a by-product of what Sachin has been doing for the last two decades. It is indeed the way in which he’s reached here and the journey itself that is worth a lot more than the eventual outcome.Tendulkar has always been technically strong in terms of his body positioning and balance.He came into the international circuit as a frail teenager who relied heavily on his heavy bat’s downswing to generate power. His stance, quite different from the one he has now, was also not exactly perfect. He would lean too much on his bat and the head was rarely in line with the toes. He had a bigger back-lift and even bigger audacity to take on the bowlers. He chose aggression over caution and rarely played percentage cricket which, perhaps, explains why he took a relatively long time to score his first international century.Since then a lot has changed-his batting style, his shot selection and even the weight of his bat (a lot lighter after the tennis elbow). But one thing thathasn’tchanged since is the hunger to score runs, dominate bowling attacks and win matches for his team. It is without a doubt, this facet that intrigues me the most-the constant evolution of the player called Sachin.advertisement”Some of his records may never be breached, while the ones which may eventually be broken will take a gigantic effort from an equally gifted player.”Chopra has opened the batting for India and played for Delhi For fans, Tendulkar is God.He’s always been technically strong in terms of his body positioning and balance. But in this day and age of exhaustive analysis, it’s almost mandatory for a player to keep evolving and stay ahead lest the opposition find out. Sachin cracked this code quite early in his cricketing life, and continues to follow it to the T. At first he altered his stance slightly by flexing his knees a bit which automatically ensured that the head wasn’t falling over. Constant tuning and fine-tuning has now led to a perfect stance, enough to be cited as an example in coaching manuals. A perfect stance ensured that there wasn’t an obvious flaw which the opposition could exploit.Then came a time when he gave up that high back-lift for a more controlled one for he didn’t need the big downswing anymore to generate power. He’d deciphered the code of using the appropriate transfer of bodyweight from one foot to the other at the point of impact which in turn generated enough power without an expansive back-lift. Two of his trademark shots manifest it the best-the straight drive off both feet hitting the ball down the ground straight pass the bowler. He would take a stride forward leading with his head and shoulders, very textbookish, and then present the full face of the bat at the time of transferring the weight from back-foot to front-foot. The same goes for the back-foot drive. Front elbow high, arms close to the body and plays the ball right under his eyes. Maximum output with minimum input- that’s what technique is all about.An assertive Sachin’s game was all about meeting fire with fire. He would prefer a cut or apull to stamp his authority. But with time, he added another dimension and a new cog to his batting which was all about subtle manoeuvres. He started using the pace of the ball more often by playing paddle sweeps and very late-cuts, it goes without saying, to maximum effect. He was still scoring runs, perhaps more than ever, but received a lot criticism for changing his style. Little did people realise that he had observed a different role in the batting line-up and it was only wise to eliminate risks for consistency.advertisementFor along time his success was imperative for India’s success. Once he found people around him who’d take the team home with or without him, he climbed another summit. Sachin looks skyward after his, and the world’s only, double century in ODIs, against South Africa at Gwalior in February 2010.For a long time he was the pivot around which the Indian batting line-up revolved. His success was imperative for India’s success. But once he found enough people around him who’d take the team home with or without him, he climbed another summit. He needed the freedom to scale that one final peak which I call ‘Nirvana’.Some like to call it his ‘second wind’-he’s batted and continues to bat as well or better than he’s ever batted. People say that he’s back to his dominating self. Yet, there is something else about Sachin that may not be so obvious, yet perceptible. I have a feeling he’s conquered that one aspect of the game that differentiates stars from legends.He no longer seems to be playing cricket but playing with the minds of the bowlers. His foot movement gives me the impression that he not only knows where the bowler is going to pitch the ball but also, at times, dictates them to do so. His double century in Gwalior against South Africa seconds the point. In that innings, he rarely played a non-cricketing shot and yet scored at a fair clip. He would go deep inside the crease as if taunting the bowler to bowl fuller and when the bowler obliged, he despatched the ball to the mid-wicket fence with ease.He walked across the stumps, exposing the leg stump and giving the hapless bowler a hope of hitting the stumps which they obviously couldn’t even till the end.The world may consider him the God of cricket, but for him cricket has always been the God and he a devout worshipper. He must have set the rules of his worship pretty early in his career for I didn’t see even a slight change in the way he conducted himself every single day. You could bet your last dollar on Sachin, comfortably seated on the very first seat of the bus listening to music regardless of however early you board it. Once the time decided, he’d never insult or flout the rule. Twenty years is a long time to be so committed when others, much junior, around him constantly pay fines and render apologies for being imprudent. He’s followed it as a ritual and yet it hasn’t become a mundane routine, for he still enjoys every ball hitting the middle of the bat as much as he did two decades ago.advertisementReaching milestones is just a by-product of what Sachin has been doing for the last two decades. The way in which he’s reached here is worth a lot more than the outcome.