‘I thoroughly enjoyed my one-on-one battles with Sachin’, says Jason Gillespie

Image courtesy of: The Age

“Coming up against Sachin, I knew that my margin for error was low”

Former Australia pace bowler Jason Gillespie has become the latest cricketer to pay tribute to legendary India batsman Sachin Tendulkar, stating that “I thoroughly enjoyed my one-on-one battles with Sachin”.

As of right now, Tendulkar has amassed 15,837 runs in Test cricket, but nearly 25 per cent of his runs have come against Australia as he has scored 11 centuries and 16 half-centuries in 74 innings against the baggy greens at an outstanding average of 55.

On the list of bowlers who have dismissed Tendulkar the most times, Gillespie is joint third with his countryman and long-time team-mate Glenn McGrath after having dismissed the ‘Little Master’ six times each.

“As a cricketer, you want to challenge yourself against the best,” Gillespie said. “Whether it be with bat or ball in hand, the thrill of the fight is what drives you to put in your preparation in the nets, on the field and in the gymnasium. The mental rehearsals you go through as you prepare to come up against your opponent allow you the opportunity to strive for consistency. These are the things that went through my mind when I was coming up against batsmen in Test cricket.

“My philosophy was to prepare as well as I could physically so that mentally I was ready to go – give myself the best chance so I could get out there, relax and enjoy the challenge. Coming up against Sachin, I knew that my margin for error was low – he could put a good delivery away with ease so I needed to be spot on from ball one, no warm-up balls to allow him to settle.”

Gillespie also revealed that different tactics Australia used to have to dismiss Tendulkar.

“If there was bounce and carry in the pitch, we would look to bowl a fourth-stump or fifth-stump line on a good length, the definition of ‘good’ being a length that Sachin would endeavour to get forward to if he could and potentially look to drive the ball through the offside,” Gillespie said. “If there was less bounce and carry, like on some Indian pitches, our line would be straighter to hit off stump. We would also use the bouncer on occasion. Sachin always used a heavy bat so we thought early on it was a good option to hurry him up and possibly force a mistake.”

While Australia have succeeded in dismissing Tendulkar early into his innings numerous times, there have been plenty of occasions where the ‘Little Master’ just could not and would not be stopped.

“As a team we won some battles against him, and personally I was able to force an error early, yet you only have to look in the record books to see the times we did not get him early, and the scores that resulted,” Gillespie said. “If Plan A did not come off, other options included bowling wide of off stump with a strong offside field to try and dry up the runs, or having five fielders on the leg side and bowling to hit the stumps every ball.

“Others things we tried were cutters and changing the seam position to see if the ball would behave differently off the pitch. The absolute key to bowling in Test cricket, and certainly bowling to Sachin, was patience. Build up scoreboard pressure through aggressive, disciplined bowling and positive body language.”

The former Australian bowler admitted that he was always raring to bowl to Tendulkar, “even when it was not quite going my way”.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my one-on-one battles with Sachin, even when it was not quite going my way,” Gillespie said. “I always had the mindset that I was only one ball away from getting him out – it did not always work out like that though!”

Despite reminiscing about how he dismissed Tendulkar numerous times, the 38-year-old also noted that Tendulkar always respected the umpire’s decision, even if it was wrong.

“I did manage to get him out a few times: bowled, lbw and caught behind were the modes of dismissal,” Gillespie said. “I do remember having an lbw decision go my way at the Gabba in Brisbane when Sachin padded up. The replays clearly showed it was missing the stumps but you would not have known from Sachin’s demeanour – he accepted the umpire’s decision and walked to the pavilion. That is what will stay with me: that a superstar of a player was so incredibly humble and respectful, yet remained a fierce competitor on the field. I would like to wish Sachin all the best for his retirement. He has been a credit to himself, his family and Indian cricket. The game of cricket will be poorer for his absence.”

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