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Tendulkar defined new epoch, patronised cricket as multibillion dollar business

By Harsh Thakor 

On April 24th the sporting world celebrates the 50th birthday of Sachin Tendulkar, who arrived on this earth in 1973. Sachin Tendulkar is probably the most iconic sportsman in Indian history, let alone cricketer. No adjective can do justice to his sheer impact or influence n the game or the weight of his very presence. Tendulkar virtually defined a new generation, epoch or era in the game. Hard to visualise a more charismatic cricketer who pulled crowds in the manner of a magnet. Sachin was like a voice of millions of people of India. Rarely has any sportsman been a great cynosure in the eyes of the public or borne the entire pulse of the nation.
Standing at a diminutive height at around 5feet 4 inches, Sachin joined the club of batsmen with minimal height like Bradman, Kanhai, Gavaskar and Harvey. Never in cricket history did anyone perform so outstandingly from such a young age. From his very baptism at the tender age of fifteen, Sachin revealed his power of genius.
Tendulkar is arguably the most complete of all batsmen. possessing every component of perfection. He blended, technical correctness, ability to improvise and explosive power, in the manner not more than 2-3 batsmen ever did, in cricket history. Sachin was reminiscent of batting connoisseur, blending the methodology of an engineer, with the imagination of a composer. A stroke of Sachin was like an embodiment or manifestation of perfection --"a medley of perfect grammar with creativity at a superlative height.
I can’t conceive any batsmen who were his equal in the ‘V’region, who even sent good deliveries packing over the fence. No batsmen read length better or surpassed his sheer timing. Tendulkar’s backward punch was also scintillating.
It is unquestionable that in International cricket no batsmen or cricketer equalled Tendulkar’s longevity and possibly none remained at the top in spot for such a tenure.
Statistically Tendulkar penetrated zones untranscended in cricket history, climbing peaks unscaled in batting, be it in test cricket or combining it with One day International Cricket. His figures were so staggering that it was hard to conceive any batsmen, reaching those landmarks. Sachin was the youngest to achieve all the thousand run landmarks from 1000 runs to 15000 runs.
More than statistics it was the sheer weight of his runs and manner he compiled his runs.Tendulkar conquered all types of wickets or conditions be it the seaming English tops , bouncy Australian and South African strips , or turning strips of the subcontinent.
Sachin carried the weight of India’s batting on his shoulders like none ever or bore more pressure than any great batsmen.
In his era Tendulkar took consistency to heights unscaled and longevity in realms no cricketer, let alone batsmen ever did since the War.

Baptism

It would take a book in itself to trace how Sachin crystallized or evolved from a child playing in the Sabitya Sahwas housing complex in Bandra East to receive baptism or induction into the formal game.Brother Ajit first brought his endowed ability openly and brought him under the tutelage o Ramakant Achrekar. After barely 2 weeks in the nets Achrekar inducted him into formal games.
As a very schoolboy he exhibited his virtues of natural genius and capacity to toil from Shardaashram Vidhyamandir High school in Mumbai.
At the tender age of 12, he scored a century for his school in the inter schools Harris Shield, and two seasons later scaled a pinnacle of glory in a 664 run partnership with Vinod Kambli. At only 15 years, Tendulkar scored a century in a first class game at Mumbai.

Career

In his 1st test against Pakistan in 1989, Sachin scored 15.On that tour one can never forget Tendulkar giving the clobbering of his life to Adul Qadir in an exhibition game, reminiscent of a combing operation. A young Tendulkar stunned Qadir by smashing him for 3 back-to-back sixes in one over. '6, 0, 4, 6 6 6' - how Qadir's over to the 16-year-old Tendulkar read at the time.
Tendulkar scored his first century at Old Trafford in 1990, rescuing India from dire straits. The sheer flow in his strokes made the knock unforgettable. He was 17 years and 112 days old, that day.
In 1992-93 at home Tendulkar’s 165 at Chennai set up an emphatic victory carved in classical style.
Tendulkar overseas played some of his finest innings on the fast Australian and South African pitches.
Tendulkar’s 169 at Johannesburg in 1996-97, his 155 at Bloomfontein in 2001, 111not out at Bloomfontein and his 147 n.o at Durban in 2011 were exhibitions of sheer technical mastery blended with domination at a helm. Facing likes of Alan Donald or Dale Steyn Tendulkar exhibited composure of a monk and the skill of a surgeon. Rarely was top pace tackled with such finesse or prowess in cricket.
In 1996-97 in the 2nd test against South Africa Sachin Tendulkar, captaining the Indian team, had only just come to the crease, batting at No 5 after Venkatesh Prasad.
That did not deter Tendulkar from playing two confident front foot drives first up. Shaun Pollock was in the middle of a fine spell and he pitched one on a good length, Tendulkar took a short stride forward and played a classic straight drive for two. Next, Pollock pitched it on a similar length but slightly wide and Tendulkar drove it through cover for two more.Those two shots marked the beginning of what is remembered as one of Tendulkar’s finest Test knocks.Sachin’s drives of good length deliveries of Alan Donald was simply mastery personified.
In the 1st test in 2010-11 at Bllomfontein Tendulkar briefly but beautifully counter-attacked Dale Steyn making full use of his experience and ability. He formed a very good 172 run partnership with MS Dhoni. He hit 13 fours and a six in an imperious innings of 111 runs. Ironically this was his 50th test century. A masterpiece, considering the conditions.
In Australia he was consistency personified. averaging over 50.His 114 at Perth in 1991-92 took bating virtuosity to heights almost unscaled, with his 148 at Sydney n that same series, not far behind. Very hard to envisage any batsmen ever revealing such skill at so young an age. Possibly no one as much batted in the manner of Don Bradman .John Woodcok termed it the epitome of batting perfection, like a Bradman re-incarnated.
Sachin was victimised by Aussie umpires in 1999-2000, but still registered 4 fifties. In 2003-04 down under Tendulkar failed till the final test when he scored an unbeaten 241 and unbeaten 60.at Sydney. This reflected the volumes of his temperament. In 2008-09 Tendulkar scored two 150’s, on challenging tracks. Tendulkar played bowlers like Mcdermott, Merv Hughes, Glen Mcgrath, Shane Warne, Gillesepie and Brett Lee with assurance no player of his era did.
At home in India Tendulkar manufactured many gems. In 1994-95 he scored an effortless 179 at Kanpur against West Indies., including 24 boundaries and a six. His unbeaten 155 at Madras in 1998 versus Australia was masterpiece, when he made Shane Warne appear like a club bowler. Domination against great spin was penetrated in regions very rarely transcended. When scoring 136 against Pakistan in a 4th innings chase in Madras in 1999, Tendulkar played possibly the best ever innings in losing run chase and close to the best ever innings in a 4th innings. Sachin’s batting was reminiscent of a surgeon performing an operation on patient considered incurable .It will never evade my memories how he composed shots out of the book and made even good balls look innocuous. On bad wicket very rarely has cricket witnessed such sheer audacity, tenacity or skill. Travesty that it did not win the game for India, who fell 12 runs adrift of the victory target, with back spasm preventing Sachin from delivering the final flourish.
In England few overseas batsmen penetrated such realms of domination which was best shown by his 122 at Trent Bridge in 1996, after hitting 19 fours and a six and at 177 Edgbaston. His stroke play was simply breath taking, giving vibrations of a new invention created in batting. In my view the Edgbaston 177 was amongst crickets classics, being mascot f batting’s virtuosity, where he launched one of the most cavalier and clinical counter attacks.
Sachin was not at his best in West Indies, like Gavaskar, but at his best bated as well as anyone when scoring a century in most difficult conditions.
In World cup cricket Tendulkar has been the most prolific ever. He twice topped run aggregates, including a record one of 673 in 2003. Tendulkar's 523 run scoring in 1996 was that of a sheer run machine, in he manner he relentlessly and mercilessly drove the best bowlers all over the park. In 2003 at Centurion park Tendulkar scored 98 against Pakistan, which scaled batting perfection in terms of technical skill and strokeplay, to realms possibly not traversed in a world cup. The manner he took Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar to shreds, was like witnessing one of sport’s spectacles or an orchestra, virtually composing strokes.
At Sharjah in 1999 when scoring successive centuries with 142 and 134 against Australia against an attack featuring Shane Warne, Damien Fleming and Michael Kasprowicz, in a triangular ODI tournament, Tendulkar took batting prowess and domination to its absolute pinnacle. Tendulkar played with remarkable fluency despite the lack of support from the other batsmen His demolition of Shane Warne was possibly the best batting ever against this spin wizard. Sachin simply strode out of his crease to send Warne’s deliveries for towering sixes.
In 2004 Tendulkar carved his career best unbeaten 248, at Dhaka against Bangladesh, enabling Indian to gain a resounding victory.
Tendulkar fell into decline from 2005-2008, inspite of flashes of brilliance. In this period he was overshadowed by Rahul Dravid, Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting. Centuries eluded him in ODI’s in England in 2007.
In 2007-2008 after facing a tennis elbow Tendulkar made a Muhammad Ali style comeback.He rose like a phoenix from the Ashes, to score 2 one hundred and fifty plus scores in test matches at Sydney and Adelaide. He went on to dominate series in New Zealand, in 2009.In a home series against Australia in 2010 and in South Africa in 2010-2011, being a personification of consistency. To me, it was comeback which compared with the best ever in sport.
In 2007-08 at Sydney in a triangular ODI tournament Tendulkar scored a scintillating unbeaten 117 to take India home to a 240 run target.
In 2008-09 at Madras against England , Tendulkar skilfully guided India to trod across the line facing a steep target of 387, when scoring an unbeaten 103 .Simply skill and temperament at highest zenith, proving Sachin’s capacity as match-winner. No doubt the seeds of the victory had earlier been sown by Virendra Sehwag, with a blistering 84.
In 2009 in an ODI against Australia in 2009, Tendulkar scored classic 175, taking India to the being of reaching untold glory, after chasing a target of 351.Batting skill, durability and temperament was manifested in a zone rarely transcended. Rarely has any batsmen carried a team’s batting on his shoulders or singlehandedly taken a team to the pinnacle of domination. Possibly best ever ODI innings in a losing cause.
In 2010 at Gwalior Tendulkar was the first to scale the Everest of a One day Double Century at Gwalior against South Africa in February, with an unbeaten knock of 200 off just 147 balls with the help of 25 fours and 3 sixes. Reminiscent of new epoch being written.
Sadly he ended his overseas career in England in 2011 with no notable success, apart from a 56 at Nottingham and 91 at the Oval in the final test. He retired after having a long stint from 2011- 2013, without scoring a test hundred. Still he sparkled with a series of fruitful fifties against West Indies at home, in Delhi and Mumbai, , scoring a 73 at Melbourne and 80 at Sydney and 76 against England at Eden Gardens and 81 v England at Chennai. He retired in fitting style with an immaculate 74 in his home ground, at Wankhade.
We saw two Sachin’s in his career. One was the cavalier batsmen who set out to conquer any delivery, till 2003. The other was the calculated and restrained Sachin .In the 2nd period it is notable that Tendulkar was not the architect of famous Indian test wins like Virendra Sehwag, VVS Laxman or Rahul Dravid.Still he did play the role of a fulcrum to India, with his presence making all the difference.
In ODIs he scored 18,426 runs at an average of 44.83 in 463 matches. In 200 tests Tendulkar scored 15,921 runs at an average of 53.78 with 51 centuries.
From 1992-93 to 2003 Sachin scored 7726 runs, with 27 centuries, at an average of 62.60, standing 7 runs ahead of compatriots Steve Waugh at and Brian Lara at 50.53. This testified why Tendulkar was ranked amongst the top 2-3 batsmen ever.

Flaws and Impact on wins

The main flaw in Tendulkar’s career was that he was not as impactful or productive in International wins, in the manner of Viv Richards, Brian Lara, Inzamam Ul Haq or Ricky Ponting. Notable that at his best Sachin did not sculpt wins like the greatest of batsmen. When Indian cricket embezzled itself to glory in test cricket with wins between 2003-04 to 2006, with wins in Australia, Pakistan and West Indies the main architects were Sehwag, Dravid and Laxman. Tendulkar’s batting at best did not win India a world cup in 1996 or 2003. Sachin often did not deliver the knockout punch to opponents like Viv, Lara or Inzamam. It is surprising in spite of possessing temperament in scales the very greatest have not traversed , Sachin did not come to the party, to take India across the line. When scaling personal milestones, he hardly secured wins for India.
Sachin also at times floundered against bouncers or short pitched bowling, unlike Viv Richards or Sunil Gavaskar.
Tendulkar was not at his best in 4th innings, in the manner of Sunil Gavaskar , Viv Richards or Brian Lara, averaging around 36 runs.
In peak periods he did not equal the statistical domination of Brian Lara. Or Ricky Ponting, or superiority over peers.
Arguably in a crisis Tendulkar did not equal the tenacity of Rahul David or Steve Waugh in his day.
Possibly in the latter part of his career by curtailing or inhibiting his stroke making we did not witness the best of Tendulkar, in the manner of Viv Richards or Gary Sobers in their last years.
As a skipper he never proved himself, relinquishing his post after a very short tenure. Possibly he was not tested sufficiently of given ample opportunity, with his great game sense.
Tendulkar also did not leave Indian cricket as a fortified force capable of turning it into an empire. When appointed skipper he was unable to perform at his best, and failed to knit a bunch of talented individuals together, into a cohesive unit.
Still one must note that Tendulkar barely received any support at his best; singlehandedly carrying the mantle of India’s batting on is shoulders for around a decade. It is praiseworthy that in India’s wins Tendulkar averaged 61.93, aggregating 5946 runs, with 20 centuries.Tendulkar won India test series at home against England, and Australia, as well as test in England and West Indies at his peak .If he had received support of other players like Viv Richards or Greg Chappell, possibly he would have scripted many more wins. One should weigh the impact of Sachin’s mere presence in the Indian team, when it triumphed, which is comparable with the very best. Possibly no batsmen more as much pressure as Tendulkar. I would also like to mention that in spite of his not being man of the match Sachin’s very presence played an instrumental role in India’s world cup triumph in 2011. His quarter final 90, was a sheer masterpiece. In ODI’s Tendulkar averaged 56.63 in games won which is remarkable, and scored 33 centuries.

Comparison with greats

Tendulkar did not eclipse the sheer pulverising or domination of Viv Richards and Virendra Sehwag, or the wizardry of Brian Lara.Both, marginally possessed more natural talent or genius. Yet, Sachin was more clinical or consistently productive than any of them, and was capable of inventing strokes of his very own. Sachin did not have wristwork of a Gundappa Vishwanath or VVS Laxman, but flourished more than any batsmen when driving. He was capable of punishing the very best of deliveries with mastery almost unequalled. I would rate Sachin Tendulkar as an outstanding batsmen on bad wickets, close to the very best ever. In terms of pure game or perfection I place Tendulkar at the top of the pedestal with Barry Richards and Martin Crowe. Technically Sachin was up there with the very greatest, on par with Barry Richards and Len Hutton. Few ever made such a synthesis of the art of batting.
Noteworthy that Brian Lara overshadowed Tendulkar in peak periods or at his best, but did not equal his rival’s consistency or performances against the best pace bowlers. Lara at best, singlehandedly turned or won more tests, and scored many more mammoth scores. In it’s own right one may regret that Sachin never climbed the peak of the elusive triple century like Sehwag or Lara, or scored at least 3-4 more double centuries.Sachin scored test hundreds facing Alan Donald and Dale Steyn, unlike Lara .In my view in the history of the game we never witnessed 2 batsmen who dominated or exerted equal influence on the game to the extent of Lara and Tendulkar. Arguably, they comprised the most brilliant batting pair in a single period, in cricket history. Lara at his best played top pace and spin with greater composure and conviction than Tendulkar, but Sachin was as much a genius in his own right. In test cricket, even a whisker may not separate them, with morally, a dead heat, the fairest verdict. Lara was the ultimate genius, Sachin the ultimate master.
In my view unfairly Imran Khan stated that Sachin was not a match-winner selecting Sunil Gavaskar instead, and even Gary Sobers rated Tendulkar below Gavaskar. Some experts claim that Tendulkar did not face pace bowlers of the stature of Gavaskar or was as successful against them. Whatever credence there maybe to this statement , one must note that Tendulkar played in an era when ODI cricket was much more rampant and game even more competitive. Sachin tackled bowlers of the stature of Shane Warne, Glen Mcgrath, Wasim Akram, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Alan Donald who in sum total may have been a more lethal combination than that of any bowlers ever.Tendulkar, unlike Gavaskar, did not face the fiery Carribean pace quartet, or batted without a helmet, but still played in arguably more testing and diverse conditions.Gavaskar never played in South Africa with the most testing conditions, where Tendulkar eclipsed every batting star.

Statistics

Notable that Tendulkar averaged over 55 against Australia over 54 in England and 53 in Australia, the best team of his time, and close to best ever. His average of over 46 on bouncy South African wickets is also praiseworthy. Tendulkar averaged almost 55 away, with 29 centuries, which is also commendable, more than around 52 at home.
Overall he scored 18,426 runs at an average of 44.83 in 463 matches. In test cricket Tendulkar scored 15, 921 runs at an average of 53.78 with 51 centuries.
Notable that although coming within touching distance greats like Ricky Ponting , Brian Lara or Jacuqes Kallis could not scale Tendulkar’s heights, in terms of runs or centuries.

Place of Tendulkar amongst the greatest

Where would Tendulkar rank in the pantheon of cricketing greats as batsmen and cricketer? This is a highly debatable question which has an inconclusive answer, with no mathematical calculations deriving a correct verdict. Statistically no batsmen equalled Tendulkars’ combined test and ODI figures or consistency in International cricket overall.
Amongst Indian cricketers I vote Tendulkar as the best ever, even though Kapil Dev won more matches.Gavaskar is a whisker below Sachin , as he lacked his flair in turning matches, although he tackled genuine pace marginally better than Tendulkar.Dravid was more consistent in a crisis bid not as skilled when facing top pace or spin , or as effective in changing the course of match. Virat Kohli is on par with Sachin in ODI’s but has not matched his consistency in test cricket.
Former South African pace bowler Alan Donald ranks Tendulkar as the best batsmen he ever bowled to as well as Shane Warne, the greatest spinner of all time. Pakistani bowlers like Wasim Akram rated Lara higher by a whisker and even Inzama Ul Haq.Still Waqar younus selected Sachin in his all-time XI, and so did stalwarts like Hanif Muhammad and Mushtaq Muhammad.
Notable that Don Bradman chose Tendulkar in his all-time team and stated that no one played more like him than Sachin.Tendulkar won 42 votes by cricketers for selection in the all-time test XI. Likes of Richard Hadlee, Martin Crowe, Zaheer Abbas, Hanif Mohammad, chose Tendulkar. Others like Barry Richards, Graeme Pollock or Mike Procter reserved selection to players of their own eras, so excluded Sachin.
It is inconclusive whether Tendulkar is a certainty in the all-time XI, and some prefer Lara and Viv. It is also debatable whether Tendulkar is the best batsmen ever , ahead of even Bradman, let alone Jack Hobbs, and Viv Richards. Tendulkar reached a milestone of 100 International centuries in a more competitive era than Bradman in more diverse conditions, which made late Hanif Mohammad and Richard Hadlee rate Sachin, the best ever batsmen. On the other hand a Lara and Viv may be more effective in an all-time team than Tendulkar, with greater ability to turn complexion.
David Gower rated Tendulkar as the 4th best cricketer ever in his 50 greatest, while Cristopher Martin Jenkins and Geoff Armstrong placed him at 7th and 8th place. Armstrong and Jenkins ranked him behind Bradman, Grace, Sobers, Warne and Hobbs while Gower rated him even ahead of WG Grace and Jack Hobbs.
In pure test cricket as batsmen I would place Tendulkar at 4th place, behind only Don Bradman and Jack Hobbs and perhaps a whisker behind Brian Lara. In ODI cricket I rank Sachin behind only Viv Richards as batsmen and in 3rd place behind Viv and Wasim Akram as a cricketer. However combining all forms of the game in International cricket, I would vote for Tendulkar at the very top, edging Viv Richards by a whisker. In my all-time test XI I would select Sachin as an opening batsmen, promoting him from no 4.He would open my all-time ODI XI
In the pantheon of the greatest cricketers overall, I would place Tendulkar at 5th position behind WG Grace, Gary Sobers Jack Hobbs, and Bradman, weighing all factors , be it impact or influence, technical skill or records. Sachin would eclipse the likes of Shane Warne, Viv Richards and Imran Khan by a whisker. All were better match-winners but didn’t equal Tendulkar’s longevity. Still, I admit it is subjective, and there is no accurate mathematical system. Particularly so when comparing Tendulkar with giants before he War like Jack Hobbs, George Headley , Walter Hammond or Len Hutton.
I would recommend for all readers Khalid Ansari’s book ‘Born to bat’, ’Sach Genius Unplugged ‘edited by Suresh Menon , Vibhav Purandare’s definitive autobiography, and Heny Blofeld’s essay in his book ‘Greatest entertainers.”

Tendulkar as a person

I appreciated his grace and sporting spirit when showing adulation for compatriots like Viv Richards or Lara or earlier Gavaskar, or complementing players like David Boon and Courtney Walsh. Tendulkar also gave a strong helping hand to fellow players like Dravid, Laxman or Kumble. Sachin often had a kind word for his team mates, and played the role of a great prop in boosting the morale of his fellow players.
When summing his personality one must mention Tendulkar championed or patronised cricket as a multibillion dollar business, or industry. Some of his actions like ball tampering in South Africa were regretful, and robbed the game of it’s gentlemanly spirit. The manner he procured a sports car in his heyday also acted against spirit of sport, manifesting spirit of consumerism .Sachin converted himself into brand with endorsements and commercials. Sachin did not continue the tradition or legacy of a Frank Worrell, Gary Sobers, or Gundappa Vishwanath, in giving the game it’s grace, often behaving like a politician and promoting attitude of selfishness. Never did he raise his voice against social injustices and his actions outside the cricket field, blessed or manifested globalisation.
---
Harsh Thakor is freelance journalist who has done extensive research ion Cricket

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