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  Friday, 19 April, 2002, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK
The Tendulkar phenomenon
Sachin Tendulkar hits out during the second Test against England
Tendulkar is the darling of the Indian public
By Indian sports journalist Arjun Sandhu

Sachin Tendulkar possesses the capacity of embarrassing fellow cricketers and organisers alike with his crowd-pulling ability - but often at the expense of giving a complex to both his team-mates and opponents.

Whether cricketers publicly acknowledge it or not, there's envy all around Tendulkar despite his standing and popularity.

Tendulkar is a crowd-puller beyond comparison for millions of India's cricket fans, who relish few things in life more than a scintillating Sachin knock.

Even during India's low-profile domestic cricket, getting Tendulkar to play means a financial bonanza for any host association.

Tendulkar could be the cure for the ills plaguing India's domestic cricket, which is fast losing its spectator appeal.

Alas, he doesn't get to play too many domestic matches, given India's packed international schedule.

"Change cricket's laws, let Tendulkar bat every day," read a placard during last year's India v England Test match in Mohali.

The fan who raised that placard echoed the feelings of tens of millions of Indian cricket buffs who throng Test match venues only when Tendulkar is batting.

Gloom often descends at venues when Tendulkar departs from the middle, and it is not unusual to see the crowds thinning after his dismissal.

Fellow cricketers have failed to comprehend Tendulkar's grip on the Indian public's imagination, which has been tickled by cricketers for over five decades.

Sachin Tendulkar acknowledges the crowd after his century
Tendulkar's popularity with India's fans is unprecedented
India's fans have idolised several generation of cricketers and placed them on a par with film stars, but never has this infatuation come anywhere near Tendulkar's appeal.

But there is a flip side.

It can never be a comforting feeling for any batsmen who steps in to replace Tendulkar in the middle and sees the bulf of the crowd heading for the exit.

It is a scene that gets repeated at venues across the width and breadth of India, with no-one able to explain this phenomenon.

Ravchand Vaghari, an employee working at Ahmedabad's Motera Stadium, said his attraction for doing a 16-hour shift was to see Tendulkar in action.

"My interest is restricted to watching Tendulkar bat, hoping for him to score a century and shape an Indian win," Vaghari said.

"For me, nothing in cricket compares with these things occurring in a sequence."

Tendulkar's public appeal is not subject to, or threatened, by the Indian team's poor performance.

Sachin Tendulkar (centre) is blessed by Swami priest Vidya Chandra Vijay
Tendulkar's presence can be a mixed blessing
At the moment, cricket often rides the popularity charts on his shoulders.

But having such a genius in the team could be a mixed blessing.

It is not infrequent for spectators to boo openers when they linger on too long in the middle, denying them an extended innings from Tendulkar.

Not that they can help it, but not everyone feels comfortable playing the supporting cast.

Given a choice, few batsmen would like to bat ahead of Tendulkar.

It is considered a blessing that Tendulkar became an opener in limited overs cricket.

At venues where sale of daily tickets is prevalent, the sales pick up only when people are assured of Tendulkar batting on that particular day.

But his quick dismissal could upset the best laid plans of any organiser.

Sachin Tendulkar and Don Bradman

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