Sachin Tendulkar-For a man who has it all

05 Feb 2010 by Mahendra Prasad in Sachin Tendulkar

For a man who has it all….Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar, a definition could be found by his name on google perhaps. The only reason why it’s been missing all these years is perhaps because the greatness of this man cannot be defined. He is called the legend, he is called the master blaster, he is called the little master, he is called the GOD! And these tags have been associated with him right throughout his career.

Tendulkar was a prodigy right from his school days. He helped his school, Sharadashram Vidyamandir win many titles both as captain and player. Many greats, especially Dennis Lillee had predicted that Tendulkar would play for India, at the time when he was as young as 14. In two years, he made his debut for India against Pakistan.

The greatness of the boy was seen when he batted continuously in a Test despite being hit on the jaw by a snorter from Waqar Younis. Pakistan’s intimidating bowling attack at the time didn’t affect him one bit as he took up the challenge and transformed from a boy to a man. His average of 35 in his first series was modest but many saw Tendulkar as one man to watch out for in the future. Even in the one-dayers, he impressed by hitting Abdul Qadir for 28 runs in an over in one of the matches.
His diminutive height didn’t get the better of him as his stature as India’s top batsman in test cricket in three years of his career was confirmed. All his innings were worthy and the best one could ever see, from the match-saving 117 not out at Manchester to 114 at Perth on one of the world’s fastest wickets against a strong Australian attack.

However, his one-day form wasn’t impressive as he scored his first century against Australia in Colombo in 1994 in what was his 79th ODI. In the same year, Tendulkar changed India’s fortunes in the one-day game as he hit a quick-fire 84 against New Zealand in Auckland as a make-shift opener. Ever since then, Sachin Tendulkar has been the first-choice opening batsman for many Indian captains and has escalated in this format of the game.

Due to his stature in world cricket rising by the day, Tendulkar signed a contract with the world’s largest sports management group World Sports Management (WSM) in 1995, making him the world’s richest cricketer in the process. In 1996, the World Cup was a landmark in his career. He not only ended as the tournament’s highest run-getter, but also helped India reach the semi-finals by playing some responsible innings. He was rewarded in the same year, as he became Indian captain for the first time in his career after Mohd. Azharuddin was removed from the team. Perhaps, the only blot in his career till date is that he wasn’t able to lead India to many victories as a skipper. Yet, his clean image was apt to make him a global icon who represents India and by far the most respected cricketer in the world.

When it comes to duels against top players in world cricket, Tendulkar has always won. Whether it was against Brian Lara in 1995 or Shane Warne in 1998. At a time when both the players were in their prime. Tendulkar’s mind-set and preparation is also remarkable against teams which have some of the world’s best players. For example, days before the Australia series in 1998, Tendulkar practiced in Chennai with Dennis Lillee and former Indian leg-spinner L Sivaramakrishnan.

He asked Sivaramakrishnan to bowl him balls on a spot outside the leg-stump through which Shane Warne got a lot of turn. He practiced hard and reduced Australia’s morale by hammering a double-century for Mumbai in a warm-up match. This had an impact on the entire Test series as India went on to win 2-1, with Tendulkar winning the duel against Warne comfortably and was the top run scorer amongst both the teams. Hailing his heroics, Mark Taylor, the Australian captain said “We didn’t lose to a team called India. We lost to a man called Sachin Tendulkar.” Clearly, the man’s aura was at its peak.

Burying the ghosts of 1997 as Indian captain even as he was adjudged the Wisden Cricketer of the Year, 1998 was the year when Tendulkar proved he had the Midas touch. Following the win against Australia in tests at home, India was to face the same opponents in a tri-series in Sharjah which also involved New Zealand. The series was remembered for Tendulkar’s brilliant knocks against Australia. His 143 in the knock-out round may have not won India the match, but it definitely helped India qualify for the final on the basis of net run rate. And could it get any better.

The final was on his 25th birthday. And his birthday gift was an Indian victory thanks to his wonderful knock of 134. At the end of the match, Warne himself came up to Tendulkar, taking his autograph, showing immense respect he had for him. The icing on the cake was that Sir Don Bradman, unarguably the best batsman ever seen in world cricket, also confided to his wife that Tendulkar batted similarly as he did. The ultimate tribute to a legend coming from a legend! Followed by which Tendulkar’s confidence rose as he helped India win the tri-series involving Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe yet again in the desert state of Sharjah. The first ICC Champions Trophy was lit up by Tendulkar’s match-winning all-round performance against Australia, yet again! As India reached the semifinals of the tournament. Indian cricket was on a role just as Tendulkar!

However, 1999 was a testing year for him as the home series against Pakistan was a grueling one. In the first test at Chennai, Tendulkar batted brilliantly as India needed 252 to win in the second innings on a tough wicket. He scored another hundred but at one point of the innings, he felt cramps. He batted in pain but it was in vain as he was declared out of the bowling of Saqlain Mushtaq, by far Pakistan’s Shane Warne and India went on to lose by a narrow 15 runs. Was excessive cricket finally catching up with the master? Well, not yet.

Tendulkar didn’t play in some matches prior to the World Cup as he was rested. But he was declared fit for the big event in England. It was then that catastrophe struck. His father Ramesh Tendulkar died of a heart attack and he had to leave the team mid-tournament to attend his funeral. However, the true champion he is, Tendulkar returned and missed just two matches. This event showed Tendulkar’s calmness and fight-back qualities as he struck a memorable 140 not out against Kenya and gave India a chance to enter the Super Sixes. Without Tendulkar, India lost to a minor team like Zimbabwe. So, there is no India when there is no Tendulkar. Such was his impact on the team.

The second half of 1999 was when Tendulkar returned as Indian captain following an injury to Azharuddin. He helped India win against New Zealand at home. The series was unforgettable for him not just as captain but also as player as he smashed his first double-hundred in test cricket. Surprising, for a player of his class. In addition, Tendulkar hit his highest one-day score of 186 not out in Hyderabad. However, the pressure of captaincy returned to haunt Tendulkar as India failed in Australia whitewashed 3-0 and he didn’t have a good run with the bat, despite a fighting century at Melbourne.

No amends were made in the tri-series to follow as India nearly lost all of their matches, setting up an Australia-Pakistan final. This was perhaps his worst tour in his career as right after the series; he resigned from captaincy in the one-day game. It was a good decision in the eyes of many as Tendulkar once again never thought of himself and secondly it was the right opportunity for a new and possibly young captain to lead India. Tendulkar was forced to lead in the Tests and India were whitewashed 2-0 by Hansie Cronje’s South Africa, therefore being the first captain since Kapil Dev to lose a home series.

However, the one-dayers against South Africa were essential in revitalizing Tendulkar as there were glimpses of him returning to his best, without captaincy playing in his mind.

But just as things were going right for him and India, the match-fixing controversy arose. Tendulkar was also questioned as a part of the investigation done by the CBI, but no fingers pointed at him. His squeaky clean image never made one feel that Tendulkar would betray his country. He also played a major role in saving Indian cricket at the time, when he assured that most players in the team were innocent.

The man truly represents India! Even off the field, he stands up for his team-mates when it is needed the most. As the controversy died down, Indian cricket took a U-turn. Tendulkar clearly was in the right frame of mind as he plundered runs against Zimbabwe and in the second ICC Champions Trophy in Kenya where India reached the finals under Sourav Ganguly. Ganguly’s captaincy was giving Tendulkar the freedom to bat.

Then came the greatest series of them all! India beat Australia at home in 2001 with Sachin playing at his best in the decider at Chennai, his favorite ground! The mammoth innings of 155 assured India a 2 wicket victory. However, sometimes his bowling too can come in handy. The Kolkata Test might have been known for Laxman’s and Dravid’s exploits but it was Tendulkar’s three scalps of Steve Waugh, Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne which made India win. Tendulkar’s contributions also helped India win Tests in Zimbabwe for the first time away from home since 1986. He is truly India’s match-winner! It was good that India started winning away from home.

However, Tendulkar’s image within India was bought out in the South Africa and England series in the end of the year. In South Africa, Tendulkar was banned by the match referee Mike Dennis for ball-tampering. This led to huge riots in India and this issue was even raised in the Indian Parliament! Tendulkar had full support of the BCCI, which resulting in the ICC revoking the ban. Whereas, in the home series against England, Tendulkar proved why he is the ‘God’ of world cricket.

Nasser Hussain, the England captain set negative fields to curb Sachin’s run-making. Yet, Tendulkar remained calm and patient and scored heavily to make sure India win 1-0 and not lose a home series for the second time in two years. Hussain himself admitted ‘We couldn’t get Tendulkar out by conventional fields.’ It is a fitting tribute to his batting, even as good as Bradman’s.

His discipline undoubtedly is unmatched with any other player. This discipline made him play well in the West Indies and England as India lost in the West Indies after winning a Test. In England, he was in sparkling form. In the series, he scored his 29th Test hundred, thereby equaling the man who praised him the most, Sir Don Bradman. He clearly was the bulwark of Indian batting alongside Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, forming the ‘Fab four’. And expectedly, he went past Bradman in the home series against the Windies by scoring 176 not out at Kolkata as he saved India from the jaws of defeat. 2002 was a relatively good year for him in the one-day game as he struck hundreds in England which helped India win the Natwest tri-series as well as India shared the ICC Champions Trophy with Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka, even if he was demoted to No.4.

2003 started off badly but by far was one of the best years of his career. He got injured in New Zealand and flopped in the matches he played. In the World Cup in South Africa, India lost in the warm-up match to a local team. They won against Holland but not so convincingly and were thrashed by Australia in the first round. This obviously led to riots as in India, cricket is a religion. But Tendulkar spoke up for the nation and in one of his most moving speeches apologized to the nation on behalf of the team and promised that they will give their best till the last ball is bowled.

When Tendulkar speaks, everyone listens. And he and the team lived up to their promise. Tendulkar bettered his 1996 World Cup performance of 523 runs by scoring 647 runs in 2003 and playing thrilling knocks against Namibia, Zimbabwe, England, Sri Lanka and more importantly the famous 98 against Pakistan in Centurion. The three sixes that he hit of Shoaib Akhtar’s first over nearly sealed India’s victory. The manner in which he scored showed that his hunger for runs never diminished even if he turned 30 after playing for almost 15 years. He was clearly India’s senior statesman.

Indian cricket reached new heights in 2003 as they leveled the series in Australia with Tendulkar scoring 241 at Sydney after a lean run to assure India a drawn series. In 2004, India beat Pakistan for the firsttime ever in Pakistan in both Tests and ODIS. In the ODIS, Tendulkar scored with the bat but his fielding played a crucial role in winning the ODIS. The catch he took of Inzamam-ul-Haq’s bullet-like hit at long-on was a delight.

In Tests as well, his 194 at Multan increased India’s morale of winning the Test series. However, fitness taught up with Tendulkar, like in 2001 as he suffered from tennis elbow which prohibited him from taking part in the ICC Champions Trophy as well as warm-up matches in England and Holland. India performed badly losing to Pakistan and England. Then the worst happened. A loss to Australia, the world champions in the Test series at home. Tendulkar missed the first two tests due to the injury but he made his mark at Mumbai, his hometown by scoring a modest 55 on a turning and treacherous track as he helped India win atleast one Test, as the series ended 2-1 in Australia’s favour. India certainly can’t do without Tendulkar.

Tendulkar being fit enough scored his highest Test score of 248 against Bangladesh in Dhaka, in the process, equaling Sunil Gavaskar’s record of 34 Test hundreds.

That record too was broken but only next year in the home series against Sri Lanka when he scored a memorable but tough 105 in Delhi. That was Tendulkar’s sole highlight performance of 2005. It wasn’t a great year for him as he missed the summer of 2005 as well due to the elbow injury occurring again. Though he made a decent comeback against Sri Lanka in the ODIS in October at home. He had a modest run against South Africa and Pakistan. And worse, he was booed by his home crowd in Mumbai in a test match against England in March 2006 after he scored only 1 run of 21 balls. Was the great man’s career coming to an end? Has the great man’s aura diminished? Has 17 years of cricket finally taken a toll on his body?, were some of the many questions discussed in the world of cricket.

The fears were coming true as Tendulkar’s run in 2006 too wasn’t decent except one ODI century against West Indies in Malaysia on his yet another comeback. And the ICC Champions Trophy at home or the series against South Africa away didn’t help his cause greatly. India’s chances for the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean were optimistic as many hoped that Tendulkar would be India’s savior like he was in 1996 and 2003. However, the highest run-getter in World Cup history scored only 60 runs in three games of the tournament as India crashed out infamously in the first round, losing to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Ian Chappell, Tendulkar’s biggest critic called for his retirement like many others.

But Tendulkar would never give up when it comes to playing for India. He loves his game and enjoys pressure. He took the challenge and made the rest of 2007 memorable by being one of the top run-getters of the calendar year. And India won the test series in Bangladesh and England as well as winning a Test in Australia. This Australian tour was marred by controversies but Tendulkar’s word assured that Harbhajan Singh, who was accused of making racist comments towards Andrew Symonds was innocent.

In the final of the one-dayers, Tendulkar hit two blazing knocks of 112 and 91 reminding many of the 1998 Sharjah finals. Sachin after a wonderful series in Australia unfortunately couldn’t replicate his performance in the asia cup. When Australia came back to India in 2008 he glided the ball to third man of debutant peter siddle and broke Brian Lara’s record in test cricket at Mohali. Tendulkar helped India regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and his superb run against the world champions of his era continued. England too came to India and his quick-fire innings helped India take a clean sweep in the ODIS as well as win the Test Series 1-0.

Tendulkar’s love for Chennai continues when he hit a match-winning century in the second innings chasing 387. He dedicated this knock especially to the Indian commoner who is always threatened by terrorism, especially after the Mumbai attacks on 26/11.
India hasn’t been successful in New Zealand, but with Tendulkar’s hundred at Christchurch helped India win the ODIS 3-1. However, India created history by winning 1-0 in 3 Tests as Tendulkar scored a match-winning hundred. He had then gone past 40 Test hundreds and seemed to go ahead of his closest rival, Ricky Ponting by far. 2009 was an inactive year for Tendulkar as he rested for a number of games. But the recent 175 against Australia in Hyderabad clearly showed the vintage Tendulkar! He crossed 17000 runs in the ODIS. The records continue to belong to Tendulkar. Who can fill the man’s big boots?

Tendulkar is India. What is India’s future without him and who can ever fill in his big boots?
Tendulkar has achieved everything in his life and has broken almost every record made for the batsman. If something is left that he would want to achieve then that would be the world cup (2011) for India. The man has brought India glory—just the one thing missing in his cabinet—and that’s the world cup. Similar to ponting (fitting for him to win an ashes in England in 2013 and then retire); it would only be fitting if Sachin Tendulkar lifts the world cup in Indian colours front of his home crowd at the wankhede stadium in Mumbai.

And the rest as they say is unsaid. The great man lives on…

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