In a break from our usual football posts, we have decided to dedicate today’s post to Sachin Tendulkar, the great Indian batsman who retired from professional Cricket yesterday after a career that spanned over twenty years. Guest writer, Gideon Sacofsky, from our Cricket Department, pays tribute to the little master.
As Sachin Tendulkar began his final test match in Mumbai on Thursday, India was coming to terms with the loss of their favourite son. The outpouring of love towards Sachin was there for all to see, both from the lucky 40,000 inside the Wankhede Stadium and from all across India and the cricketing world. ‘Cricket is our religion and Sachin is our god’ read one banner at the ground. Another suggested, ‘Commit your crimes when Sachin is batting, even the Lord is watching’.
But what made Sachin great? In the last twenty years, we have been fortunate to witness some world class batsmen- Ponting, Kallis, Lara, Dravid to name but a few. None of these men, however, received even close the adulation that has been heaped upon the little master. So what sets Sachin apart?
One of the key elements to Sachin’s greatness is his longevity. When Sachin made his debut in November 1989, the Berlin Wall had been down for a week and Milli Vanilli was at number one in the charts. Since that time, Sachin has played a record 200 tests (along with 463 ODIs), faced an astonishing 1,228 other international players and amassed a remarkable 34,347 international runs. These are numbers that no other player of the modern era can even get close to. The next highest run scorer is Ricky Ponting, who is 7000 runs behind!
It’s not just his longevity though; the consistency that Sachin showed throughout his career is unparalleled. Once his test average rose above 50 in 1993, it never again dropped below that magic figure over the next 20 years. He is also the only man to have scored test centuries 20 years apart.
Whether it was at home where he averaged 52.67 or away where he averaged 54.75, there is nowhere in the world that Sachin has not scored runs. He is the only man ever to have scored at least two centuries against every other test playing nation. It would be fair to say that the bowlers union won’t be too sad to see him go.
On top of the remarkable numbers, are the individual innings that will live long in the memory. There was the 241 against Australia in Sydney in 2004 in which Sachin did not play a single cover drive in his entire innings as he believed the shot had been getting him out too often in the preceding matches. The great man himself said that he would ‘put this innings right at the top of my hundreds’ and that is no mean feat. The innings that will live longest in my memory was the 98 he scored against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup. He scored at a strike rate of 130 against Wasim, Waqar and Shoaib Akhtar – surely one of the best pace attacks of the last 20 years. The control and grace against such ferocious bowling is something I will never forget.
Shane Warne said of Tendulkar, ‘Sachin Tendulkar is, in my time, the best player without doubt – daylight second, Brian Lara third’. It’s no wonder Warne was so full of praise when we look at Tendulkar’s record against him. In 12 test matches against Warne, Tendulkar averaged 60.45 at an strike rate of 64.65 – both of these are above his career average. Against the best bowler of his generation, Tendulkar raised his game and took his batting to another level.
That is not to say that Tendulkar did not have his problems against high-class bowling. He would often struggle against the top pace bowlers. Against arguably the greatest fast bowlers of his era, McGrath, Donald and Akram, Sachin averaged just 34.3 – a very modest total. Even this cricitism is very harsh though as through their careers, those bowlers averaged 22.5 – so when he batted against them, Sachin still raised their averages by more than 10 runs.
What really sets Sachin apart though from every other player in modern cricketing history is the pressure that he faces every time he goes out to bat. No other batsman in the world had to face the sheer weight of expectation that Tendulkar faced every time he strapped on his pads. Matthew Hayden summed it up very well, ‘When he goes out to bat it is beyond chaos – it is a frantic appeal by a nation to one man. The people see him as a God’. To achieve what he did, under this kind of pressure is surely what sets Sachin Tendulkar apart.