KOCHI: If ever there is one man who does not have to prove anything to anybody in the sporting world, it is Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. His closest ally — a heavy cricket bat — has unerringly come down hard on any pretender who dared try pull the rug from under the emperor’s feet; majestically. It has happened far too often to be judged incidental. Perhaps, Shahid Afridi, in challenging the maestro to score his historic 100th international century against Pakistan in the ICC Cricket World Cup semifinal at Mohali, suffers from a slight case of dementia. Whether Tendulkar takes his destined place among the greatest of all time, transcending sporting barriers — after all, what is sports if barriers remain, is another matter. But why should a rival captain stoke a fire which already burns bright in his belly? Ask the Pakistani spin wizard Abdul Qadir. Back in 1989, he dared a 16-year old Sachin to hit him and went for 28 in an over, including four sixes. Ask the Aussie magician Shane Warne. He came to conquer but went back vanquished, nightmares haunting him. Ask the Zimbabwean showman Henry Olonga. He danced in front of Sachin having surprised him with a bouncer and wasn’t the same bowler again after the next match. Ask the Sri Lankan buccaneer Duleep Mendis. He said Sachin could not play the left-arm swing of Chaminda Vas straight down the ground, and poor Vas suffered, driven left and right off either foot. Ask the Zimbabwean upstart Andy Blignaut. He too once bounced the master, and was pulled into submission in the next outing. Ask the Pakistani loose cannon Shoaib Akhtar. He said Sachin was good, but then hinted he was better and lasted just one over into his opening spell during that famous 2003 innings in Centurion. Ask the Aussie task master Greg Chappell. He suggested Tendulkar should retire, and how Sachin has grown in stature, Chappell humbled. And, most recently, ask the English spin-man Graeme Swann. He came to test and took back to England three sixes from the champion. They messed with Sachin, and were left struggling to find a hole big enough to hide themselves in. Not for nothing does the little genius keep his thoughts to himself, lest it should lessen the intensity of his art. Obviously, Sachin Tendulkar, has a great memory; he remembers his notes and learns his lessons quickly. Should history repeat itself at the picturesque venue in Mohali, this time it could well be Afridi’s turn to cower.