PORT OF SPAIN: Batting legend Viv Richards has not seen Sir Donald Bradman but of all those he has seen, including compatriot Brian Lara, none has been better than iconic Indian Sachin Tendulkar.
"I didn't see Don but to me, in all my years associated with the game, I haven't seen a better batsman than Sachin Tendulkar," said Richards in a eulogy to the "little man", who openly professes to have idolised him while growing up.
"If there is a better batsman than Sachin then he hasn't arrived yet."
In one stroke, Richards put Tendulkar in a pedestal above his contemporaries such as Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis and even to the legends such as Sunil Gavaskar and Javed Miandad of his era.
As for Bradman, his career lasted 20 years including a few years disrupted by Second World War. Tendulkar is already in his 22nd year of international cricket. Bradman scored 29 centuries in 52 Tests.
In all formats of the game, Tendulkar has 99 international centuries so far.
"To me the most remarkable thing about Tendulkar is how he has completed the full cycle of his cricketing career, overcoming, pain, agony, failures, fatigue, injuries yet continuing relentlessly till the point the circle was complete.
"He is the most complete package, the cricketer I respect more than anyone else."
Richards defended Tendulkar's decision to skip the complete West Indies tour.
"He is 37 and not getting any younger. You have got to respect him for his decision," said Richards as he turned up for a Johnny Walker promotional event at Queen's Park Oval on yesterday afternoon.
"He has done enough to decide what is best for him. He knows his commitments and the approach he must take for the rest of his career."
It doesn't though stop Richards from lamenting how much Tendulkar's presence could have done to inspire the young cricketers of the Caribbean.
"It would have been fantastic for the young boys to just watch him in action; how he prepares his innings; the way he goes about building his knock, overcoming conditions and opponents.
"It could have been an invaluable experience for our young batsmen."
Richards said he feels humbled by the respect and love he still generates within the cricket community of India.
"The other day, I was on a flight to London and Gambhir was with me. I was really touched by his curiosity and the keenness he had to know about batting. It's passion such as this which sets men like him apart. I was really impressed," he said.
It is ironical though that West Indies Cricket Board isn't quite inclined to take advantage of their own legend to improve the standard of cricket in the Caribbean.
"It's a fragile environment. Only strong leaders can accept independent men," said Richards.