For once, I take no risk in making a definitive statement. For once, common sense, fact and emotion sit in the stands, happy to share three adjacent seats watch and talk the game and reach the same conclusion ... Sachin Tendulakr is the best I've seen.
I might successfully argue Tendulkar is the best there has been but I couldn't be bothered splitting cricket hairs with you.
I watched his debut hundred against Australia at the SCG just days before I began serving my eight year sentence in a remote country hell. It was only his second century and the glue was still wet on the lad's pubic hair as he drove through the on side and unleashed cuts and drives whilst Ravi Shasti made a celebrated double century. Reid had broken down (again) and McDermott and Hughes were plundered but his sternest discipline was reserved for the tubby, blond rookie bowling leggies. In the years which followed, it was a position of ascendancy - a mastering - he never once gave up. His dominance of the game's best bowler is one of the truest marks of his greatness.
Another is his ability to lift the boring and mundane from its collection of medium pace trundlers and fielding restrictions and coloured clothing and repetitive tactics and outcomes and suddenly blow a handful of Tinkerbell's magic dust over the event and make it memorable. Even the highlights of his 175 this week are unforgettable, the stuff of breath taken away.
Yet, he waves this magic wand with little fanfare and almost embarrassing humility. He takes the spotlight but never wants to talk about anything but cricket as the camera's click and whirr, gathering more moments to sell. He smiles occasionally but mostly sticks to talking about this game or the game but is rarely cornered on his game. He understands the game is more important than any of its players.
I watched the last outing of that old red hankied warrior. I applauded him to and from the wicket on his last day, numbing palms and fingers in the doing. I revelled in his last ditch stroke play and was disappointed as he left, proud as he should have been, for a job well done. Despite my affection for Waugh, despite my admiration for his style, his grit, his contribution to the Baggy Green's legend, its Tendulkar double century which was the remarkable achievement during those few days at the SCG. I doubt I'll ever watch better batting.
When Waugh slog/swept one last, career-ending time to forward square leg, my love of irony was sated again. It was Tendulkar who took the catch. It was as though something more than a cricket ball had passed between them.
The Little Master ... you'd better believe it!
Read what my mentor Roebuck says ... http://www.smh.com.au/news/sport/cricket/peter-roebuck/2009/11/07/1257247789373.html