Niranjan K

Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement from ODI’s did not come as a surprise to me. After all, he has not been an active ODI player for quite some time now. But when I sit down and think about what we he achieved, my eyes fill with tears of pride. He has so made the format his own that now it’s possible to think if ODI’s itself is going to retire with him.

In a country that is obsessed with statistics more than performance, results more than playing a good game and individual performances celebrated above the team, he gave us reasons to do both.Talk about numbers while still amazed by the beauty of his batting, celebrate a victory while watching him talk about respecting his opponents and most of all, celebrate a Tendulkar century along with an Indian win. We explored the statistics to understand his genius. We read articles to understand his brilliance. In short, Sachin Tendulkar made an average Indian fan, better.

It is a monstrous task to compile ten of his best from a collection of over 18000 runs and 49 centuries over 400 matches. I am sure a lot of you would disagree with my list, thinking how did I miss this, how can I miss that types. The list that I have put down here are the ones that simply sprout out of my mind when I saw the news of his retirement from ODI’s. No research and no thinking over. The Sachin Tendulkar fan in me came up with it. I had combined a few performances in one, in a logical way to make room for others. It’s Sachin, how can I not?

10. He blasted 41 runs off 26 balls against Pakistan in the 3rd finals of Coca-Cola Silver Jubilee Independence Cup, a rollicking start (the score was 71 in 8.1 overs when he got out) that ensured India would chase down Pakistan’s 314 in near darknesss. Saurav Ganguly with 124, Robin Singh with 82 and Kanithkar’s invaluable 11 not out gave India the win with a ball to spare.

In action in the 3rd finals at Dhaka. © AFP

9. He was playing all sorts of role in the team when one day Sidhu woke up with a stiff neck in New Zealand and Azharuddin walked up to him and asked if he could open the batting. That offer changed the face of ODI’s forever. He blasted 82 off 49 against New Zealand and a superstar was born.

Cricket woke up to its greatest ODI batsman at Eden Park. © AFP

8. The great man has just lost his father and had to fly midway during the ’99 World Cup to perform the last duties. Most thought that his tournament was over, but the master came back and how! It may be against Kenya but his 140 not out in the match after his father’s passing was as important as any of his other. It showed how much he cared for his country. And he looked up at the skies as he got to a hundred, a sight that was to become commonplace on his getting to that landmark thereafter.

Looks up to the skies after an emotional hundred © AFP

7. He was in indifferent form going into the final of the CB series in 2008 against Australia. But he took the grand finale by a calculated storm that did not decimate the Aussies, but rather destroyed them steadily. The Aussies might have had a stronger chance of getting him out if he was in marauding form. But instead, he chose to play the Anchorman, piling on runs at a fair clip and guiding an inexperienced batting to the finish. Both the century in the first final and the 91 in the second was a master-class.

His first and only ODI hundred in Australia set-up a series win. © Getty Images

6. It may be India’s most embarrassing defeats, a forfeit, but still it was characterized as before and after Sachin. He made 65 out of the 125-8 that India managed in the world cup semifinal in ’96 before the hostile crowd at Eden Gardens stopped the match. It seems like the pitch had two layers, one for Sachin and the other for the rest of the batsmen. Such was the gulf in class.

India’s fortunes soared and sunk with Tendulkar in the ’96 world cup. Scenes at Eden Gardens as India sunk after a Tendulkar 65. © Santabanta

5. For all the great batting performances of the little genius, there is one over that showed how cool his temperament really is. That final over in the hero cup semifinal when he successfully defended 6 runs against SA is one of my earliest images of him, one that made me a worshipper of him. How can a top order batsman bowl a nerve wracking final over and win the match for India from a seemingly hopeless situation. I was very young and believed only god can do miracles. I wasn’t wrong.

When he defended 6 runs against a rampaging Brian MacMillan in the Hero Cup semi-finals. © AFP

4. It was a princess that waited for the right prince to come and conquer her. Saeed Anwar and Charles Coventry came within sniffing distance of her. Sehwag was thought to be the man to marry it. But eventually, ODI’s first double century was captured by the king of them all against an attack that had Steyn, Morkel and Ntini, a handful on any track. It was an innings of textbook perfection and clinical precision. Sehwag eventually bettered it. But this is first love. Need I say more?

Incredibly, Tendulkar even became ODI’s first double hundred scorer. © GETTY IMAGES

3. This happened a few weeks before the 200. But fans were transported to decade before when Sachin single handedly won matches for India. Set a demanding 350 to win, he scored exactly half the runs and when he got out, so did India, just like the old times. But that 175 was so breathtaking that even left the Aussies dazzled.

Tendulkar had Australia at his mercy for much of his career. His 175 at Hyderabad was among his best knocks. © AFP

2. Perhaps no other team challenged Australia like how Saurav’s boys did in the last decade and perhaps no other player dominated them like how Sachin did in the decade before that. The 2 sandstorms that decimated Aussies in Sharjah ’98 is part of cricketing folklore now. You may find this an exaggeration but to me, those 2 innings made him a legend of ODI’s.

Without doubt his highest point as a batsman came on 22nd and 24th April 1998 with those innings for the ages at Sharjah against Australia. © AFP

1. For all the centuries and a double century, this is the innings that still gives me the goose bumps when I think about it. How did he do all that? Playing Pakistan in pressure, more so if it’s in a World cup, and even more if playing for the first time in years. This was no stage for mortals or good players. The stage was set for only one man and how well he played. That 98 in the 2003 World cup is my pick for the best innings by Sachin Tendulkar in 23years. One shot stood out. A back foot cover drive off Wasim Akram still leaves me speechless, even after watching it hundreds of times.

His 98 at Centurion versus Pakistan in World Cup 2003. He went on to bag the Player of the Series award. © AFP

He defined the format, pulled the crowds to it and single handedly changed, not just of India’s fortunes, but the future of the game itself. And we all grew up with him. We were school kids when Sachin was decimating attacks in the 90’s singlehandedly, so he was the superstar. When we went to college in the 2000’s a certain Mr. Ganguly so dynamically changed Indian Cricket that Tendulkar went from one and only superstar to the greatest batsman of the golden quartet. As we understood the game better, he became a legend.

Farewell Sachin Tendulkar, albeit from colored clothing. We hope to see plenty of you in the whites, playing that breath taking straight drive, that audacious upper cut, that finest of leg glances or that ever so wonderful back foot cover drive. As a God, please inform the other one that created you that we said Thanks. We can say that we grew up and lived in the same time as the God of Cricket. Who else can?

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Comments
  1. Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan says:

    That Back foot punch off Akram! What a shot. You’re spot on with that. The follow through was better.

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