The greatest batsman of the modern era, and probably the second greatest willow wielder of all time, has pulled up stumps. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar has just completed his 200th and final Test match against the West Indies at his home ground, the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Out for 74 off 118 balls in his only knock in this game, caught at slip by Windies captain Darren Sammy off the part-time bowling of Guyanese batsman Narsingh Deonarine. Of course India won this hastily arranged series 2-0. But the BCCI got this right. The great man deserved to finish his career with a 200th and final Test appearance at his home ground and not in a random South African Test venue. There’s every chance this could be the first and last time any player reaches his or her 200th Test match.
SR Tendulkar made his Test debut on the 15th of November 1989, aged 16, against Pakistan at the National Stadium in the Southern coastal Pakistani city of Karachi. He was bowled for 15 in his only innings of that game by a fellow debutante, Waqar Younis. Less than 12 months later Tendulkar made his maiden Test century, with an unbeaten 119 off 189 balls to help India draw a Test against England at Old Trafford, Manchester.
The young maestro’s next big challenge was the 1991/92 Test tour of Australia. 16 & 7 in the first Test at the ‘Gabba, 15 on Boxing Day at the MCG. Was the kid overrated? He batted well for 40 in the second dig at the ‘G before being well caught by Aussie skipper Allan Border from a skied shot from the bowling of Peter Taylor in what turned out to be Taylor’s final Test. This innings seemed to ignite the Tendulkar spark though as he joined Ravi Shastri in savaging an Australian attack that included a leg-spinning debutante by the name of S.K.Warne in the 3rd Test at the SCG. World cricket’s new 18 year old hero stroked a classic unbeaten 148 in India’s total of 483 in this drawn game. But this was a low, slow, spinning track. Like back home in India. Could the prodigy do this on more fast bowler friendly tracks? Only 6 & 17 in the 4th Test at Adelaide as the home team won by just 38 runs. But it was the 5th and final Test at the WACA Ground in Perth where the young Tendulkar came of age. Elevated to number 4 for the first time, the new sensation stroked a brilliant 114 off an attack the included McDermott, Hughes and Whitney all at their peak supported by a promising debutante in Victorian Paul Reiffel on a fast, bouncy WACA pitch. All Australians were converted.
The Tendulkar juggernaut rolled on. Many very good Test innings until greatness came in a golden 1996. 122 v England at Edgbaston, 177 v England at Trent Bridge and probably his best Test innings to this stage of his career, a sublime 169 against South Africa in a huge 282 run loss at Cape Town. The Little Master was now a superstar.
The 1996 World Cup in India, Pakistan & Sri Lanka only served to enhance the great man’s reputation. 127* v Kenya. 70 v the West Indies. 90 v Australia. 137 v Sri Lanka. 3 v Zimbabwe. 31 in the quarter final v Pakistan. 65 in the losing semi-final against Sri Lanka. Not his fault India didn’t progress to the final. The Little Master’s ODI prowess arguably hit it’s peak in the late nineties. No better performance than his 141 and 4/38 with the ball in the ICC Champions Trophy Quarter Final against Australia in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The brutal Tendulkar was best on display in an unbeaten innings of 155 against Australia at Chennai in 1997/98. Although carrying a shoulder injury, S.K. Warne was dominating the Indian batsmen with big spinning around the wicket leg breaks until the Little Master arrived at the crease and took charge. The Test was won on this performance.
Tendulkar dominated world cricket for the next decade. Great performances in all parts of the cricketing world. Even in a quiet series in Australia he could pull out an unbeaten 241, his highest score at the time, at the SCG. 11 months later he would reach his highest Test score of 248 against Bangladesh at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka. His 51st and final Test century was a knock of 146 against South Africa at Cape Town on the 4th of January 2011. There were some lean times in the Test arena since then but the Little Master had more than enough credits in the bank to keep playing for as long as he wanted. The final Tendulkar International century came with an innings of 114 against Bangladesh at Mirpur on the 16th March 2012. His 49th ODI ton and 100th International ton. If anyone ever matches this feat they will be a special player indeed.
Sachin Tendulkar retires as the greatest ODI batsman ever and probably the second best Test bat ever. While he has been compared to the Don in batting style there are definite similarities in their demeanour and humbleness. Just watch Tendulkar walk out to bat in his final Test innings and you could be watching the Don walk out at the Oval in 1948. But even the Don didn’t have 1.2 Billion Indians and countless other cricket fans around the globe cheering him on for a last hurrah. Tendulkar handled the adulation beautifully. There were no scandals in his career. A model sportsman. India have some very talented batsmen coming through. Though Tendulkar is irreplaceable, there are quality replacements. Tendulkar’s legacy is leading India to Test respect and ODI World Cup glory with their 2011 win in the final over Sri Lanka.
Definitely the greatest Indian and Sub-Continental batsman ever. A great pair of hands in the field and under utilised bowler with his big swinging medium pacers and big spinning leg and off breaks. While his compatriot VVS Laxman and rival Brian Lara were better to watch, Tendulkar was Mr Reliable. He would make the runs to save your life if needed. Batting with the same ruthlessness as D.G.Bradman, and the same appetite for runs. What a player. Hail the Little Master.
Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar
Born 24/04/1973 Mumbai, India
Tests: 200 Runs: 15,921 Average: 53.78 51 x 100, 68 x 50 115 Catches 46 wickets @ 54.17 B/B: 3/10
ODI’s: 463 Runs 18,426 Average: 44.83 49 x 100, 96 x 50, 140 Catches, 154 wickets @ 44.48 B/B: 5/32
T20 Internationals: 1 10 runs @ 10.00 1 wicket @12.00