LONDON: World Cup-winning captain Kapil Dev says a shy and quiet Sachin Tendulkar was carrying his tenth class school books during his first tour of England in 1990, when he was all of 17.
"He (Tendulkar) was very quiet. On that first tour he was carrying his school books to study in tenth grade. He was shy, did not talk too much and he was just a normal kid. He did not involve himself in topics. He used to observe," said Kapil.
"Two thing were very different about him at that age. His balance was so good... Unbelievable. And he did not hit the ball. He pushed the ball. He had a heavy bat. During that period I had never seen someone using that heavy bat and he held the bat low down," Kapil told the BBC Radio 5 Live show.
Kapil was told to look after Tendulkar on that first tour to England, rooming with him, and he watched the young cricketer's ambidextrous skills with amazement.
"He did with the left hand, writing, eating. But batting, bowling was with right hand. Later on I realised he must be a genius who has power in both hands. That is the future of cricket. If you can have balanced power you can control the ball and balance of your body."
Kapil recalled the first time he watched Tendulkar bat in a domestic match.
"The first time I saw him bat was at Brabourne Stadium (in Mumbai) and I was asked to bowl at him. I was told he would get encouragement from it. I said 'who is he?' and was told he had done well in school cricket and to just bowl a few balls," recollected Kapil.
"He looked like a 14 year-old. He played with decent balance and I was very nervous to bowl to him. He was too young for me to bowl to. I bowled a couple of quick ones. He flicked them off and in the net you could see he looked good at that age. His ability was there but could not dream this young boy would be one of the finest cricketers to walk this earth."
Another former captain, Rahul Dravid, said it will be impossible to replace Tendulkar once the senior India batsman retires from international cricket, but added the game will go on.
"I don't think you should look to replace him, it will be impossible," Dravid said.
"There is a lot of talent there and they have to become who they want to be. When Sunil Gavaskar retired people said where would the next Sunil Gavaskar come from but then we had Sachin Tendulkar come through," he added.
Tendulkar retired from ODI cricket last year but is expected to carry on with his Test career for some time.
"For a whole generation of people it is going to be strange because they have grown up with Sachin but it is inevitable. It will happen. People move on. It is life. Cricket will go on. It is bigger than any individual. The greats have played before him and will continue to play after him," he added.
Asked to pick Tendulkar's greatest innings, former captains Sourav Ganguly and Gavaskar said it was his 114 against Australia at Perth in 1992.
India were heavily beaten but Tendulkar made 114 on a typically rock hard, bouncy pitch at the WACA.
"That is still the best. He was a young boy, about 18. It was a bouncy Perth pitch. We were hammered in that series but he smashed (Craig) McDermott and (Merv) Hughes on a quick WACA pitch," said Ganguly.
"We go to Australia quite a lot now and are used to those pitches but in those days we went once every six years and it was even harder to get used to the pace and bounce."