Sachin Tendulkar in all his cricket glory
I have always followed ‘cricket’ and ‘news’ but ‘cricket news’ has fascinated me like nothing else.
I was in school when news broke that a young boy was going to be part of the Indian cricket team to tour Pakistan under a new captain — Krishnamachari Srikkant. No one in the world had any doubts about the talented young boy from Mumbai but to throw him in the deep end to face the pace battery of Pakistan, led by Wasim Akram and the spin wizardry of Abdul Qadir, who had earned himself a sobriquet of “Googly” for foxing the batsmen world over, had many questioning the wisdom of his selection.
But Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar — who would prove to be the real baby-faced assassin of all bowling attacks and a nightmare for bowlers of legendary stature like Shane Warne — had other ideas.
It was in November 1989, when Sachin was packing his bags for the Pakistan tour, that my school sports coach was giving batting tips to us ahead of a game against a school rival.
Although I doubt my coach had ever watched Sachin play, he was full of praise for the then 16-year-old. I am sure he must have gone through the interviews and column spaces dedicated to him to find a replacement for the aging middle order of the Indian cricket team in late 1980s. Most of the talking and writing revolved around two young schoolmates from Mumbai who had shared a world record partnership of over 600 runs — Sachin and Vinod Kambli.
The duo would play many games — Test matches as well as One Day Internationals — but Sachin has since outlived many careers. He is not the oldest person on the circuit but he has played more years and more games than all the current active cricket players.
There are perhaps only three batting records that Sachin does not own — he does not have the highest score in a Test match (that is with Brian Lara who scored 400 in an innings against England), he does not have the highest test match innings average (that rests with Don Bradman who averaged 99.96) and he does not have the highest number of first class centuries (that rests with Jack Hobbs who scored 119 centuries in his first class career).
The way Sachin is playing these days, despite being all of 37 years and nearly seven months old, Bradman’s will be the only record that shall remain out of his reach. If he can score 200 in a 50-over game, the only player to have done it in 39 years of ODI cricket, 400 in a Test inning is not far fetched. The 119 centuries is still not out of his reach but he will have to play more domestic cricket to add to his tally of 76 first class hundreds. Not that the maestro does not like to play domestic cricket, he has opted out for two reasons – to prolong his international career which was threatened by an elbow injury and to allow more youngsters to showcase their talent.
However, the going has not been easy for the Little Master, as the statistics might make one believe. Carrying the hopes and expectations of over a billion people is not an easy task. So, the first ODI century, on September 9, 1994 against Australia in Sri Lanka at Colombo, was five years into his career but looking back it came 16 years ago. He has since scored 45 more — almost one every eighth inning.
For many people — not only in India — if cricket is religion, Sachin is its God. He’s achieved so much that it will take more than a lifetime for even good batsmen to emulate him but it is his appetite for cricket, runs and nuances attached to the game that set him apart from the rest.
Look at his career figures in Tests and ODIs:
Matches Innings Not-outs Runs Highest Score Average 100’s 50’s
Tests 172 282 30 14292 248* 56.71 49 58
ODIs 442 431 41 17598 200* 45.12 46 93
A couple of weeks ago Sachin, after over two decades of his cricket, completed another milestone when he hit a ball from Australia’s Nathan Hauritz for a boundary to complete 14,000 test runs, the highest ever from a batsmen in the world of cricket.
Probably one of the reasons why Bradman said that the only batsmen in whom he saw his likeness was Sachin Tendulkar.
Sachin has been in such good nick over the past two years that he has won the ICC (International Cricket Council) Cricketer of the Year Award. He has also regained number 1 position in the ICC test rankings after eight years. This year has been great for Sachin. He averages 97.69 in tests and 204 in ODI for this year. He would have crossed the 50 century mark in ODIs long back had he not fell in the nervous 90s far too often.
That would often bring in the criticism that Sachin plays more for himself and he has not played match winning or match saving knocks too often.
In Sachin’s career up to the mid-1990s, one has to think whether he was the only batsman in the Indian line up who could stand up to any bowler.
Over the years, with the emergence of Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and V.V. S Laxman as support batsmen to the maestro, the win percentage for India when Sachin scores big has also improved. This again supports the assertion that he was the only batsman in the team in his early career. Cricket is a team game and solo shows can win you some, but not all, games.
Sachin attributes his poise to his father Ramesh Tendulkar, a poet and novelist rather than a cricket fan. “I grew up looking at my father as to how to behave. In watching him, I grasped so many things. His own temperament was of a calm person. He was very composed and I never saw anger in him. To me, that was fascinating.” Sachin said in a recent interview to one of the country’s leading newspapers.
Sachin on February 23 this year became the first batsman to score a double century in ODI history when he pushed a delivery from South Africa’s Charl Langeveldt through the off-side and ran himself into the history books to become the first man to score 200 in an ODI.
Since the introduction of ODI in 1971, the cricket world had to wait nearly four decades to see a batsman score 200. The previous highest score in an ODI was shared by Pakistan’s Saeed Anwar (194 against India in 1997) and Zimbabwean Charles Coventry (194 not out against Bangladesh in 2009).
Like many of his shots, even Sachin’s celebrations have become a trademark. As the crowd erupted with unbridled joy, Sachin took off his helmet and looked skyward.
After Sachin scored his double century, his fans across the cricket-mad country celebrated by lighting firecrackers, beating drums and dancing on the streets.
Now all eyes are on him once again as he is set to add another feather to his cap. Many are anticipating that the little master will complete his 50th century during the ongoing series against New Zealand.