Cricket: Tendulkar wins over Yorkshire: Derek Hodgson on the Indian prodigy who has gained acceptance as an honorary Tyke despite less than total success with the bat

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SPONSORED cars have become, ridiculously, an emotive issue in cricket. Old players who once had to argue with county secretaries over bus and train fares, then over petrol receipts (three Lancashire Test players once went on strike over one such disagreement) are appalled to see fresh-faced kids, barely shaving, zooming around in their GTis only weeks after joining the staff.

County members see sponsored cars as an ostentatious perk. The public at large probably take the most sensible view: Test players apart, professional cricketers are poorly paid, their careers can be very short and there is no guarantee that they will get a benefit after 10 years' service in one county as a capped player.

For county secretaries, the problem of who does and who does not get a sponsored car is one they can do without (one such disagreement cost Yorkshire a capped player).

What then did Chris Hassell, the Yorkshire chief executive, make of the telephone call to Headingley from one player asking to do without? 'Sachin Tendulkar sounded embarrassed,' Hassell recalled. 'I thought he wasn't happy with the car but it turned out that it was his name on it that bothered him. Too many girls were hanging around wherever he parked it. He's still got the car. We've taken his name off it.'

Most players find such attention one of the lesser burdens of playing cricket seven days a week. Tendulkar is different and it is his application, his sense of professionalism, that has struck a chord in Yorkshire hearts and awoken memories of the last star.

Hence the story that Indian restaurants now offer two new dishes, a Boycott curry and a Tendulkar curry. The difference? 'Ah, sir, with the Boycott curry the runs come more slowly.'

Tom Schofield, a retired radio journalist and veteran Yorkshire watcher who now looks after Yorkshire's public address system, is probably more in touch with the spectators than anyone. 'What I've found astonishing is the instant acceptance of Sachin,' Schofield said. 'Craig McDermott might have made more impact on the field. But I doubt if he would have ever been seen as an honorary Tyke. He would have been the overseas professional.

'Sachin, without setting the world on fire with his scores, is already seen as a member of the family. In a few weeks he's become one of us. The reception he gets some Sundays, when there may be 8,000 on one of the smaller grounds, is extraordinary. When you think of the reputation of Yorkshire's crowds in their attitude to outsiders it becomes amazing.'

Tendulkar gets his next chance to endear himself today when Yorkshire take on Northamptonshire in the second round of the NatWest Trophy. His popularity seems to have dispelled any lingering resistance to a non- Yorkshireman in the team.

Talk of Yorkshire's recruiting more outsiders brings this response from the county's cricket manager, Steve Oldham: 'I'm not sure the members would stand for that. Sachin's OK, but anyone else . . . '

But what has he contributed to Yorkshire cricket? So far he has played well, without being outstanding. He came to Headingley with a career average of 56, and has so far averaged 43.38, third in the county behind Craig White and Martyn Moxon. Still to hit a first- class century for his new employers, on four occasions he has been within 14 runs.

Sometimes he has been unlucky. He has twice been out, to that rare dismissal, run out while backing up - the bowler, in trying to field a straight drive, deflecting the ball on to the stumps. On another occasion he was out playing on, the ball finding the stumps via his chest. With an inch of good fortune his average could be much higher.

What is not in doubt is the high regard in which he is held by his fellow professionals. 'You can't measure the lift he's given the dressing- room,' Oldham added. 'They are all better players for his presence. His confidence is infectious and they all want to bat with him.'

Hassell, who joined the club from Lancashire only a few months before Tendulkar, is best-placed to sense the change he has brought. 'When I arrived, membership had been falling for about seven years and it was no secret that several players were thinking of a future elsewhere. Sponsorship was becoming more difficult to raise year by year. Income was falling fast.

'Since Sachin we have added 1,500 new members. The dressing- room seems settled again and a recent Test player with another club has asked me if I think he has a chance of a place here. Where, a year ago, we were ringing up companies to try to talk them into sponsorship, now, even in a recession, they are approaching us.

'What pleases me is the enthusiasm that greets the words 'Yorkshire cricket'. We printed 60,000 promotional brochures in the spring and the printer insisted we treat his costs as a sponsorship.'

Hassell has a volume of experience of selling sport, not only with Lancashire, but with Everton, Crystal Palace and Preston North End. 'What is a small blaze now, could easily become a forest fire.'

Even the fact that Tendulkar is Indian and most of Yorkshire's Asians are Pakistani has not diminished the interest. A few years back India and Pakistan played a one- day charity match at Harrogate; roads were blocked for miles around. Hassell's eye gleamed. 'If Yorkshire could tap into some of that, who knows?' Yorkshire do have one player of Pakistani background at their Bradford Academy, the England Under-17 all-rounder Adil Ditta, now nicknamed 'Fivedulkar'.

With so much riding on one small frame, Yorkshire want to extend their contract with Tendulkar beyond this summer and the two- year option. So do Yorkshire Television, who put up the original pounds 30,000.

The club have already accepted that India may claim him before the last match of this season, at Hove, for the tour of South Africa. Sir Lawrence Byford, the club president, who made the decision to switch immediately from McDermott to Tendulkar, is trying to find out how much an Indian tour of Sri Lanka next summer might affect Yorkshire.

Yorkshire may now be seeing Tendulkar Sunrise rather than Tendulkar High Noon but he is only 19 and, as the old lady interrupted to say during Yorkshire's last county game at Sheffield, white rose brooch pinned to her sun hat: 'He's a reet lovely lad and far better than any big-'eaded fast bowler.' Martyn Moxon might not entirely agree with the sentiment in cricketing terms, but he and the club know they have to acknowledge, and remember, it. Sachin Tendulkar has become much more than an overseas cricketer.

----------------------------------------------------------------- TENDULKAR'S RECORD SO FAR ----------------------------------------------------------------- 1 May v Kent (B&H). . . . . . . . . . . . .7 3 May v Notts (SL). . . . . . . . . . . . 40 7 May v Hants (BAC). . . . . . . . . . . .86 15 May v Gloucs (BAC). . . . . . . . . . .92 16 May v Gloucs (BAC). . . . . . . . . . .23 21 May v Kent (BAC). . . . . . . . . . . .15 22 May v Kent (BAC). . . . . . . . . . . . 8 24 May v Hants (SL). . . . . . . . . . . .16 31 May v Kent (SL). . . . . . . . . . . . 33 2 June v Hants (BAC). . . . . . . . . . . .0 4 June v Hants (BAC). . . . . . . . . . . 34 6 June v Somerset (BAC). . . . . . . . . .13 7 June v Somerset (SL). . . . . . . . . . 10 10 June v Glam (TT). . . . . . . . . . . .40 13 June v Derbys (BAC). . . . . . . . . . 89 14 June v Derbys (SL). . . . . . . . . . .32* 17 June v Essex (BAC). . . . . . . . . . .93 19 June v Worcs (BAC). . . . . . . . . . .42 20 June v Glam (SL). . . . . . . . . . . .34 22 June v Worcs (BAC). . . . . . . . . . .46 23 June v N'land (NW). . . . . . . . . . .32* 27 June v Warwicks (SL). . . . . . . . . .15 5 July v Leics (SL). . . . . . . . . . . .41 6 July v Leics (BAC). . . . . . . . . . . 23 ----------------------------------------------------------------- RECORD: First-class: 13 innings, 564 runs, Ave 43.38. One-day: 11 innings (2 not- outs), 300 runs, Ave 33.33. ----------------------------------------------------------------- (Key: BAC=County Championship; SL=Sunday League; B&H=Benson & Hedges Cup; NW=NatWest Trophy; TT=Tilcon Trophy; *=not out) -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photograph omitted)

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