Cricket Article

India's Greatest - Sachin Tendulkar

Few players have had as much an impact on a sport as Sachin Tendulkar did on cricket. Cricket was never a very popular sport, but by the time Sachin retired, it had become the second most followed sport after football. His legacy will long live on in the memories of players, fans, supporters and cricketing world till time immemorial. What Sachin has given to the sport and his country will remain unparallelled and can not be put into words.

Tendulkar is the finest player ever produced by India. He is often regarded as the best batsmen in the history of cricket, only Sir Don Bradman rivaling his status. He ended his career last year as the leading run scorer in tests and ODI’s as well as scoring the most centuries in each format. His 35,000 international runs and 100 hundreds are both records and will probably never be broken, especially with the increasing amount of T20 cricket being played. Sachin was the first player to reach 10,000 runs and all subsequent milestones in ODI cricket and also the first to 15,000 in tests. He was the first player to cross the 20 century barrier in the shorter format and also the first to cross 40 in test matches. He has held almost every record that there is when it comes to batting, with one of his rarest feats coming just when he was about to retire. He became the first male batsman to score a double century in ODI’s when he hit an exact 200 against South Africa. In fact, some of his best performances came in his 2 years before retirement after turning 37. He won his ‘holy grail’ the World Cup in 2011 at home in India, as well as helping India to finally climb to the top of International rankings in both ODI’s as well as Test matches.

Sachin will be remembered for many , many things in cricket folklore. Not just for his batting, but also his temperament, the way he carried himself both on and off the field and for how one man carried the hopes of an entire nation for almost a decade and became revered as ‘God’ in his homeland.

Coached by the famous Ramakant Achrekar, the story goes that Sachin and his friends were offered one coin after every practice if they managed to hold onto their stumps for an entire training sesion. Such was the passion at an early age that Sachin not only won the most coins out of all his friends, but he treasured them for the rest of his life and still considers them as one of his most prized possessions. He held these dearer than any of his other gifts.

Sachin first came into prominence while playing for his school with his childhood friend Vinod Kambli. The duo put on a record 664 run stand in a regional school game which stood as the record partnership till a few years back in any form of cricket where actual records were available. He would treat his friends and team mates to vada pavs off the local streets after special performances such as these, a hallmark of the most humble beginnings.

Sachin quickly rose through the ranks and was fastened into the Indian batting line-up at the age of 16. becoming the youngest Indian to play for the country. He had already scored debut centuries in all the three domestic competitions of India and he seemed destined for greatness even before his International debut. A talent such as this was paid a visit by the Original Master Blaster Sunil Gavaskar himself as he presented Sachin with his own set of pads as a token of his admiration, an incident that would later signify the passing of the torch from one master to the next.

His first game came against the mighty Pakistan on their turf and it could not be more intimidating for a 16-year old India boy. Also making his debut in the same game was one Waqar Younis. Sachin would go on to score a brave half century, despite being hit on the nose, blood spewing out. This game was just a sign of the things to come from the Little Master.

Sachin would score away test centuries in both Australia and England , thus underlying his class from a very early age. His hundred at Perth especially stood out, scoring the only hundred by an Indian on the tour, something Virat Kohli would accomplish a couple of decades later. His progress continued as he slowly became the mainstay of the Indian batting, especially after the retirement of the original Little Master, Sunil Gavaskar.

Sachin always considered himself a middle-order batsmen, and with his test career taking off, it was hard to argue with it. But a freak injury made Sachin open the batting in New Zealand for an ODI where he would score a belligerent half century and there was no turning back from there. This marked the beginning of the most famous and decorated ODI career of all time.

Sachin would go into the 1996 World Cup in the sub-continent as the premier batsman in word cricket alongside Brian Lara. It was here that he separated himself from the rest, ending the tournament as the highest run scorer and almost single handedly carrying the Indian team through to the semis. In the semis, India were on course for a famous win at the Eden Gardens, but once Sachin was dismissed, the rest of the batting line-up would fold up in a matter of few overs. This would be a familiar sight for any Indian cricket fan for the next couple of years as the hopes of the entire team rested on the Master Blaster’s shoulders.

His performance against South Africa in Cape Town, scoring 169 remains to this day one of the best counter attacking innings in test matches in South Africa.

With cricket becoming ever popular in India, the entire nation banked on Sachin to deliver day in and day out and he seldom disappointed. Records after records were broke as Sachin entered his purple patch in the late 1990’s, devastating opposition bowlers and guiding his team to a string of famous wins. It was in 1998 that Tendulkar faced off against the Aussies and Shane Warne in his own back yard, in what would prove to be one of his best performances. Sachin tormented the Aussie bowling and helped India to a series win against one of the best test sides in the world captained by the superb Steve Waugh. Such was his hold and effect over the bowling that Shane Warne later admitted to having nightmares of Sachin stepping out and smashing him for sixes. And if this wasn’t enough, his performance in the Sharjah tournament against the Aussies once again underlined his status as one of the world’s best. His hundred in the last league game to guide India into the finals against Australia will remain as one of his best knocks. With their backs to the wall and a sand storm looming large, Sachin scored 143 and helped India qualify for the finals, despite wickets falling all around him. He waged a lone battle, hitting six after six and was only dismissed that day due to an umpiring error. In the very next game, he was at it again, hitting an unbeaten 134 to overcome the mighty Aussies and lead India to a famous win. It wasn’t just the win or the runs, it was the way they were scored that made the difference. Such was the class and superiority over the opposition that Sir Donald Bradman could see himself in the way that Sachin batted. A more genuine or higher order of praise can not be thought of. The Aussies would become Sachin’s favorite opposition as he would repeated;y come back to haunt them, after he had already pummeled their ace bowler Shane Warne, regarded by many as the best bowler in history.

The 1999 World Cup was not the best time for Tendulkar as it coincided with the passing away of his father in the middle of the tournament. Sachin would return back to India for his funeral, only to return and score an emotional century.

A couple of lean years followed after the highs of the previous ones, as the likes of Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly and VVS Laxman also came into their own and scripted many wins of their own. With a stable batting line up beside him for the first time in many years, Tendulkar and India looked set to dominate in the coming years. Perhaps the most famous and one of the high points of his career followed.

In 2000-01, India came up against the Australians once again in their own backyard. Steve Waugh’s team was now firmly the best side in the world, and were riding a 15 game winning streak in tests, a feat unmatched by any other team in history. The team that toured India has gone down among the best in the history of cricket, alongside those of West Indies in the 1980’s and Don Bradman’s Invincibles. It was dubbed the ‘Final Frontier’ for the Australians, and a victory here wold have given them wins in every nation and probably settled the debate for the greatest team in history. And it looked high likely after India lost the first test by 10 wickets and were forced to follow on in the second test. However, one of the greatest rearguard actions in cricket history took place with VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid putting on a record stand with Laxman scoring the highest score by an Indian in test cricket. This turned around the match and the series and Indian cricket has never again been seen in the light. As India scripted the most dramatic of comeback wins, Sachin was at it once more, this time with the ball as he scalped a couple of priceless Aussie wickets. This marked a golden era of Indian Cricket which would continue well past Sachin’s retirement.

After spending years waging lone battles and carrying the hopes of the entire team, Sachin finally had a stable group of players beside him, players who could win matches on their own and reduced the burden off Sachin’s shoulders. With Rahul Dravid in impeccable form in the next few years, Tendulkar flourished and so did the Indian batting. It was around this time that the 4th World Cup in Sachin’s career was played out, this time in South Africa. Tendulkar would be come into the Cup with some doubt surrounding his ability to still perform at the highest level, with his Tennis Elbow injury still bothering him. A number of injuries had caught up with Tendulkar, but he showed no signs of them in the World Cup. Tendulkar would end up as the highest run scorer in the tournament once again and once again settle any doubts about his ability. His 98 against the old enemy Pakistan in the Super Six stage of the competition was the stand out performance of the World Cup as he destroyed a much vaunted Pakistan attack that included the likes of Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar. With this pulverizing knock, Tendulkar was back to his best and no one could doubt it. He would help India reach the finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1983, but they sadly came up short against the Australians in the finals. It was a hard pill to swallow for the Little Master, as his quest for the elusive World Cup went on.

The following summer India would tour Australia and Sachin would go on to score his highest test score in Sydney at that time, an innings remembered for its patience and self control. After getting out caught outside the off stump all throughout the series, Sachin cut out any shots on the off side and scored almost all his runs through the leg side. It was the most amazing display of his powers of concentration. India would draw the series down under 1-1, an amazing achievement given their track record.

This was a good time for Indian cricket as they enjoyed a couple of famous away wins and drew series in England and Australia after a long time. Another fantastic performance came against England at Leeds where his century set up another win.

With India doing so well, Sachin could finally feel part of a great test side. India won a series in Pakistan as well, winning both tests and ODI series. This was however punctuated by Tendulkar getting out in the 90’s repeatedly. This is a time marked by Sachin getting out in the nineties seven consecutive times, unable to get the elusive hundred. But he still did enough to help India’s to the top.

The 2007 World Cup was a rare blemish on such a fabulous career as India went out in the first round after an agonizing loss to Bangladesh. India were one of the pre-tournament favorites but we’re knocked out amidst controversy in the first round.

The first T20 world cup was also played this year and a number of Indian greats sat out including Sachin. India had the youngest and one of the most inexperienced squads led by MS Dhoni. They would surprise everyone by winning the title and start a love affair with the new format.

Another series down under and there was another Tendulkar master class, this time in the ODI’s. India had reached the finals of the annual tri-series in Australia and were looking to win it for the first time. But the Aussies had a very strong line up themselves. Sachin would go on to hit a hundred and a ninety in the finals,producing match winning knocks in both finals to give India another famous victory. This has been regarded by many as one of Sachin’s best knocks and it came a decade after similar exploits in Sharjah against the same opposition.

When India toured South Africa in 2008, they were up against one of the best fast bowlers in history in Dale Steyn. He came up with one of the best spells of fast bowling in recent memory to bundle out the Indian middle order but, Sachin held firm at one end, hitting a superb century negotiating the swing and bounce Steyn produced in what turned out to be the best battle of the year between the finest batsman of his era and one of the leading young bowlers on world cricket.

One of Sachin’s best ODI knocks came in the 2009 India-Australia series. After helping India regain the Border-Gavaskar trophy, Sachin played a pivotal role in the ODI series for India even though they suffered a shocking 5-2 loss. Chasing 350 to win, Sachin played a blinder of a knock, hitting 175 against his favorite opposition and almost once again single handedly guided his team to a win. But just like so many times before, as Sachin got out, so did India’s hopes. He left the pitch with India needing just a further 17 runs off three overs, but they could not manage to get them and Sachin was yet again denied a win after a fabulous performance. His innings was paced to perfection, with calculated risks and efficient stroke play, however with almost no support from the other end, he waged a lone battle and in the end could not pull off the most unexpected of run chases.

Sachin was now over 35 years of age and talks of his retirement were going around. It was widely believed that the 2011 World Cup would be his swansong.

As the World Cup was coming close and he was starting to regain some of his old form back, Sachin played perhaps the most significant of his knocks that year against South Africa at Ahmadabad. On a belter of a track, Sachin Tendulkar became the first man in history of ODI cricket to score a double century, beating the previous individual highest score of 194 held jointly by Charles Coventry and Saeed Anwar. It was 14 better than his previous highest of 186, made against New Zealand way back in 2000. Sachin had to wait till the last over of the innings to reach his double century and it was one of the most fitting achievements of his career as it was clear by this time that there will not be a better ODI batsman than him.

He was still not done creating history however as he would comeback from a couple of harsh results to score yet more centuries and runs as he was closing in on 100 international hundreds, something that will probably never again be accomplished. He was also taking part in the Indian Premier League by this time, as one of the icon players of the tournament, captaining the Mumbai Indians.

As the home World Cup of 2011 was coming near, expectations were high that Sachin would reach his 100th International hundred in the World Cup against Pakistan in the semis. Sachin however narrowly missed out, but his in knock helped India reach a second final in three editions. In the final India would triumph over Sri Lanka as they lifted a second World Cup. Sagging was finally on a World Cup a inning side after six attempts. It was the highest of his career and was a fitting tribute to one of the greatest players in history.

Many expected Sachin to retire after the Cup but he went on playing for the country for another couple of years. He would help guide the team through a difficult phase of transition before announcing his retirement from ODI’s in 2012 and from all forms of cricket in 2013.

But before retiring Sachin would guide his team the Mumbai Indians to their first IPL crown, once again playing an instrumental role in the victory. His team would win the Champions League crown too though he wasn’t the captain at the time.

His last great act came in 2012 against Bangladesh when he became the first and so far only player in the history of International Cricket to make 100 International hundreds. He achieved the feat in the test series against Bangladesh, the hundred coming almost 2 years after his previous one. With the record secure along with so many other, it was finally time to call the curtains on the most magical career ever in the history of cricket.

Against the West Indies in 2013, Sachin announced his retirement and played his last game on his home ground in Mumbai. He would finish just short of a century in his last match, but not before ensuring a Indian victory.

A fabulous player, who always out the teams interest first and yet managed to hold almost every record there was for the taking, Sachin Tendulkar was the finest player produced by India and the best batsman in history of World Cricket. He may not have enjoyed a lot of team success in comparison to his individual exploits, but by the end of his career, Tendulkar had won and achieved everything that was possible in the game.

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