Thirty years to this day, a 16-year-old kid from Mumbai stepped out to play his first international match for India. Sachin Tendulkar had promise, talent, and attention of a million back home. Hardly did he and many of the Indian cricket watchers know that the batting prodigy would go on to become a batting genius, and a cricketing God for a cricket-mad nation. What followed was 200 Test matches and 15,921 Test runs, 463 ODIs and 18,426 runs. In a game obsessed with numbers, who thought the statistics would fall short to narrate the legend of Tendulkar?
India's most celebrated cricketer ever took field for his country today, 30 years ago, against Pakistan in Karachi. Firstpost picks Tendulkar's 30 memorable knocks to celebrate years of his international debut.
Editor's Note: This is not a rating. The list is subjective and innings are arranged in chronological order of their occurance.
59 vs Pakistan, Faisalabad, 1989
Up until Shafali Verma this past week, the record for youngest Indian to score a half-century in international cricket belonged to Tendulkar. That record was set in 1989 in what was Sachin's maiden Test series when he was all of 16 years and 214 days old. “I was nervous and didn’t know what was going on around me. I thought it was a school game going on and I batted as if it was one. I can never forget that moment as I felt that was the first and the last Test match of my career," Tendulkar told ESPN on what he felt at the time.
After an unsavoury opening Test, Tendulkar and the rest of the party moved to Faisalabad for the second match and were put in to bat. Wasim Akram took three wickets and Saleem Jaffer got rid of Ravi Shastri to reduce India to 101/4. This brought out Tendulkar to the middle to partner fellow Mumbai batsman Sanjay Manjrekar.
They kept the Pakistan bowling attack at bay for the remainder of the day's place to see Manjrekar walk back on 58, Tendulkar on 35 and India 200/4.
Next day, Tendulkar and Manjrekar picked up from where they left off. They played sensibly and with patience to keep Pakistan bowlers toiling until Tendulkar was dismissed leg before by Imran Khan on 59 from 172 balls with four boundaries. The stand was thus broken at 143 runs.
The inning is important for multiple reasons. Tendulkar had batted against his usual technique of going into attack but was patient in how he got his runs. At all of 16, Sachin had shown tremendous maturity to face a legendary Pakistan bowling attack, in Pakistan, and made them work for his wicket. But most pivotal was that the shackles were off for what was to come in the future.
119* vs England, Manchester, 1990
Right when he started playing school cricket in Mumbai, the general consensus was that the kid is special. After making his debut as a 16-year-old against Pakistan and then scoring two half-centuries against a tough bowling attack in the series, Tendulkar gave a glimpse of his talent, grit and determination that would later define his cricketing career.
But back in 1990, the jury was still out whether he could be consistent with his scores. He was yet to score an international hundred, and the tour of England was seen as a perfect test for the teenager. It was the second Test at Manchester. India were batting second and Tendulkar played a good knock – 68– in the first innings. But it was in the final innings of the match, when India were batting to save the Test that we saw Tendulkar answering all the questions his critics posed to him. A match-saving 119-run knock followed. Those glorious cover-drives on the back-foot, the rising toes and the punch to the ball. Tendulkar showed he didn't just belong to international cricket, he was meant to thrive in it.
114 vs Australia, Perth, 1992
Throughout Tendulkar’s illustrious 24-year career, plenty of times it appeared as if he was batting on a completely different surface than his teammates and at times even his opponents. However, no better innings to vindicate the recital than the magnificent 114 on the parched Perth pitch in 1992.
Heading into the last Test of what had been an arduous tour Down Under, with India trailing the five-match series 0-3, there couldn’t have been a more daunting task for the jaded tourists, but only for the fastest surface in the world to be laid out. The famed WACA cracks, symbolising the chasm between the two sides, had started to widen with pacemen Craig McDermott, Merv Hughes, Paul Reiffel and Mike Whitney all gung ho to blow India away. They were largely successful but for an 18-year-old man-child to play a once-in-a-lifetime innings. Many who saw it believe that it was Tendulkar’s finest.
111 vs South Africa, Johannesburg, 1992
At times, it can be easy to forget just how prodigious a talent Sachin Tendulkar was. Aged 19, he already had three Test centuries to his name heading into a 1992 series against South Africa on foreign soil. The first match of that series was drawn, with Tendulkar having scored just 11 runs, and the second began with South Africa scoring 292 runs.
Tendulkar came in to bat at 27/2 in India’s first innings, after the opening pair of Ravi Shastri and Ajay Jadeja had departed for scores of 7 and 14 respectively. The bowling attack he was up against at the time was spearheaded by Allan Donald, whose blistering pace earned him the moniker of ‘White Lightning,’ and rounded out by Brian McMillan and Craig Matthews, who were no slouches themselves.
While the rest of his teammates buckled under pressure, Tendulkar took the match in his own hands, scoring a measured 111 in 270 balls. The next highest run-getter in that innings was Kapil Dev, who scored just 25 runs. The match eventually ended in a draw, but had Tendulkar not shown such poise and composure, it would almost certainly have resulted in defeat.
104 vs Sri Lanka, Colombo, 1993
After 1986 Test series win in England and the retirement of Sunil Gavaskar in the subsequent year, India went through a lull in terms of winning an overseas Test. Tendulkar’s schoolmate Vinod Kambli scored a century in the first innings which helped India post a competitive 366.
Navjot Singh Sidhu and Tendulkar notched fabulous hundreds to set Lanka an improbable 472 runs to win at the Singhalese Sports Club. Tendulkar drove, cut and hooked with elan and brute, compiling a memorable ton that saw India record their first Test win on foreign soil in seven years and gave them their maiden triumph against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka.
165 vs England, Chennai 1993
A young Sachin Tendulkar walked in to bat at No 4 for India in the first innings of the second Test as his first 150-plus score in Tests awaited him in Chennai against England. Tendulkar enjoyed batting against England and at Chepauk as well, where he went on to score five Test tons. He, particularly, relished the English spin trio of Phil Tufnell, Ian Salisbury, and Graeme Hick, driving, cutting, pulling them for runs. His innings included 24 fours and 1 six, scoring 102 runs just in boundaries. Navjot Singh Sidhu stroked a brilliant century as well, and India declared innings at 560/6. It was enough to make England bat twice and yet they fell short by 22 runs. India registered an innings victory and went on to clean sweep the three-match series.
82 vs New Zealand, Auckland, 1994
The innings that marked the anointment of Sachin Tendulkar as ODI cricket’s opener extraordinaire. Replacing an injured Navjot Singh Sidhu, Tendulkar bossed his way to 82 runs off just 49 balls (reminding for impact: the year was 1994) and made the position his own.
The knock was a display of unadulterated, unabashed strokeplay which at times flirted with incredulity. The home side struggled their way to 142 in the first innings at Eden Park, suggesting it was a difficult surface to bat on, but only for Tendulkar to come out and bust the myth in no time. The 21-year-old threw caution to the wind to carve out one of the greatest — and defining — individual performances in 50-over cricket.
90 vs Australia, Mumbai, 1996
If there is any sub-100 innings that could rival Tendulkar’s bludgeoning 98 against Pakistan, it is the combative 90 he doled out against Australia during the 1996 World Cup.
India were 6 for 2 after seven overs, but before the end of 11th over, India’s scoreboard read 50, with Tendulkar unbeaten on 41 off 35 balls. To dislodge McGrath off his rhythm was important before the metronomic pacer could dictate terms. His first three overs were maidens, and next five produced 48 runs, including a 14-run over that comprised an outworldly pick-up shot that went over wide long on, almost cow corner, as the champion batsman launched a thunderous counter-attack.
118 vs Pakistan, Sharjah 1996
Sachin Tendulkar was hungry for runs in this match after having scored just 1 and 2 in the first two games of Sharjah Cup against Pakistan and South Africa. India desperately wanted their talisman back in form to stay alive in the tournament.
Tendulkar began slowly after the loss of his opening partner Vikram Rathour but soon came into his own, smashing Waqar Younis and Aaqib Javed at will. He dealt with pacers with authority and kept on scoring on the leg side, in particular, with flicks and cross-batted strokes going for maximums and boundaries to deep mid-wicket and long on. Coupled with Navjot Singh Sidhu's ton, Tendulkar's 118 took India to 305/5 at the end of 50 overs, their first 300-plus total in one-day cricket. India went on to win the match by 28 runs.
169 vs South Africa, Cape Town, 1997
A knock that came during Sachin Tendulkar’s ill-fated spell as India captain, this 169 is often mentioned whilst discussing the Indian batsman’s greatest innings. India had begun this series as they began many series in that troubled spell, which was with a heavy defeat. The second Test looked likely to add insult to injury, when South Africa batted first and scored a whopping 529/7 before declaring.
Tendulkar’s century came at a time when his side were desperately in need of rescue, with three wickets having fallen for a paltry total of 25 runs during their first innings.
After Tendulkar’s introduction, two more wickets would fall before the establishment of a secure partnership with the arrival of Mohammad Azharuddin. The pair put together 222 runs, a valiant effort that would ultimately go in vain as India crumbled in the second innings, losing the match by 282 runs.
That series was a low point of Tendulkar’s captaincy, but despite his perceived failures as a leader, it did serve to highlight what has always been his greatest strength: Scoring runs with effortless grace.
155* vs Australia, Chennai, 1998
Another ton against Australia, another epic in Chennai. The series was billed as a Sachin Tendulkar vs Shane Warne showdown — this was the ace leg-spinner’s first Test tour to India. Tendulkar fired the warning shots with a brutal unbeaten 192-ball 204 as then Ranji champions Mumbai sank Australia in the practice match. Days later, he tore into Warne in Chennai heat.
In the first innings, Tendulkar walked in at a comfortable 126/2, but Warne sent him back for just four runs. In the next essay, with Australia leading by 71 runs, the Little Master went into a shot-making overdrive. He completed his fifty before lunch, and when Warne came round the wicket post-lunch, Tendulkar was ready.
The story of Tendulkar summoning former India leg-spinner Laxman Sivaramakrishnan in Mumbai nets to bowl him around the wicket and into the custom-made rough near the leg stump is now a part of cricketing lore. Tendulkar took guard outside the leg stump, and welcomed Warne with a slog sweep – from the rough. The floodgates fell through.
Warne kept pitching the ball in the rough, hoping for one mistimed shot or a top-edge, and Tendulkar kept sweeping him against the turn and from the rough. He peppered the region between long on and deep square leg with an incredible array of slog sweeps, and the carnage ended only with Mohammed Azharuddin’s declaration. India’s run rate read 3.9, and Tendulkar’s unbeaten masterclass had come at a strike rate of 81.15.
On a pitch where 28 of the 34 wickets went to spinners, Tendulkar’s nimble footwork and brute strength stood out for posterity.
143 vs Australia, Sharjah, 1998
When annus mirabilis witnessed a classic pièce de résistance. Seldom before and rarely after did Tendulkar appear as dominant and as hell-bent on stamping his excellence. Chasing Australia’s 284/7 – and 237 in 46 overs to qualify for the final – Tendulkar took it upon himself to single-handedly decimate an Aussie attack featuring Damien Fleming, Michael Kasprowicz, and Shane Warne. The match was played in stifling April heat of Sharjah, and years later, Tendulkar remembered heat seeping through his shoes in extreme playing conditions.
On the crease though, it hardly seemed to matter. He started staidly, but broke into an insane mayhem when match started after a desert storm. There were no celebrations when he crossed his 50, or reached his ton; he had entered the rarified space athletes refer to as ‘zone.’ Some of the straight sixes hit off the Aussie pacers would become stuff of legends, going on to inspire a certain Virat Kohli. India ultimately failed to win that match, but qualified for the final and win it a day later, backed by another Tendulkar ton. Arguably Tendulkar’s finest international ton that year – and he scored 12 of those in 12 months.
186 vs New Zealand, Hyderabad, 1999
On one of the instances when the 200-run barrier was nearly breached back in the 1990s, the Master Blaster hunted the Kiwis down at Hyderabad’s Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium in the second one-dayer to help India level the five-match series after the first ODI was lost by 43 runs.
New Zealand had a sniff after Sourav Ganguly was run-out for just 4, but the 337-run partnership between Tendulkar and Dravid — the highest partnership for any wicket in ODI cricket until 2015 — virtually ended their hopes of going 2-0 up in the series.
Tendulkar dazzled the spectators with a 150-ball 186 — his highest ODI score for the next 11 years — that contained 20 fours and three sixes. It was a decimation of a scale that was rarely seen in an era in which runs still came at a premium, and Tendulkar, who had been enjoying a brilliant run with the bat that year, gave fans another display of the incredible talent that made him the icon he was.
136 vs Pakistan, Chennai, 1999
The stakes were high as this was India vs Pakistan in whites and India needed a tricky total to chase on Day 4 and 5 of the Chennai Test. The hallmark of this innings was Sachin Tendulkar's back foot play, especially against Saqlain Mushtaq. Whenever Saqlain pitched short, Tendulkar went back and across to hit him over mid-wicket for runs. Whenever Saqlain went fuller, he was swept.
On 90, Tendulkar got a reprieve from wicketkeeper Moin Khan who made a mess of a stumping chance. Tendulkar reached his 100 soon but back spasms returned to haunt him. He soldiered on, but the pain was to show its effect soon.
On 136, Tendulkar tried to hit Saqlain over long on but got a leading edge and was caught. The then India head coach Anshuman Gaekwad later said that Tendulkar buried his head in a towel and wept inconsolably as the tail folded without any fight. India fell short by 12 runs, making the innings a piece of tragic mastery.
140* vs Kenya, Bristol, 1999
A century that came during the "most difficult stage" of Tendulkar's life. And that is what makes it difficult to summarise it in a few words. India needed a win to stay alive in 1999 World Cup but Tendulkar's participation was not even guaranteed as his father had passed away a few days back.
Tendulkar had returned to India after the sad news and joined the team only on her mother's insistence. The loved son gave a perfect tribute to his late father and a helping hand to his struggling team. He slammed 140* off 101 balls, in an innings that was studded with glorious shots driven with passion and resolve, as India went on to register a 94-run victory. He was also adjudged the Man of the Match. But the most memorable moment from that innings was his nod towards the heaven, seemingly at his late father, after reaching the century mark. It made a million hearts heavy and proud!
38 vs Australia, Nairobi, 2000
In a career that has seen multiple iconic knocks and big figures, also stands out an inning of just 38 runs. But this Tendulkar knock would be remembered for the even battle between bat and ball — a rarity these days — where Australia's Glenn McGrath faced up to Tendulkar in Nairobi during the ICC KnockOut, as the Champions Trophy was called back then.
Bar a lucky edge which flew over the third man fielder, Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly had made a cagey start — in part due to the perfect line bowled by seam duo of McGrath and Brett Lee. The shackles came off in the fourth over when Tendulkar came down the track and thumped McGrath for a massive six over his head. Next ball, the process was the same but the result was a boundary. On the follow-through, Tendulkar nodded back to McGrath as if to suggest he was there for the challenge and wasn't going to buckle down.
The Aussie seamer’s frustration only grew on the next delivery when a misfield turned a dot ball into a double. The over closed out with Tendulkar letting the ball pass outside his off stump.
What followed, however, was the rarity in Tendulkar's glittering career. Not one to sledge opponents, or at least not blatantly, Tendulkar mouthed a fair share of F-words to McGrath as the Aussie legend cupped his ears.
In a short inning — 38 from 37 balls — arguably the best shot arrived in the seventh over. A short ball by McGrath was bowled on the leg stump and it gave Tendulkar the leverge to hook it over the long leg boundary for a six — his third of the innings.
The tussle between Tendulkar and McGrath saw multiple unorthodox shots from the willow of the Master Blaster, but in the 11th over, there was the trademark drive on the up to send the ball running to the boundary rope. His stay in the middle was brought to an end by Lee when Tendulkar's slash only found Damien Martyn in the slips.
It may not have been the most important innings Tendulkar would have played but it was definitely one of the most entertaining ones — in part due to the rivalry he shared with Australia and McGrath.
155 vs South Africa, Bloemfontein, 2001
India have always found it tough cracking the South African pace attack in their backyard, both due to their difficulty to adapt to the seam-friendly surfaces there as well as the Proteas pace factory producing match-winners on a consistent basis. No wonder, winning a Test series in South Africa is still something of a ‘Final Frontier’ for Team India.
India had earlier been outplayed by South Africa in the ODI tri-series final, and the visiting side were hoping to put up a better show in the Tests. Pollock and Co. elected to field and seized control early on the game by reducing the tourists to 68/4. Had it not been for the rescue effort mounted by Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, who made his Test debut in that match, the Test might have finished well within three days.
Instead, the two diminutive batsmen took on the five-pronged seam-attack.
Sachin began counter-attacking towards the end of the turbulent first session, and eventually got the better of the opposition for the remainder of the day, until he finally got dismissed off Makhaya Ntini’s bowling for 155. He did however, become only the second Indian batsman to cross 7,000 Test runs. India put up a challenging first innings total of 379, which eventually got overshadowed by South Africa’s brilliance as they went 1-0 up in the series with a nine-wicket win.
117 vs West Indies, Port of Spain, 2002
Indian cricket witnessed a steady growth after Sourav Ganguly was appointed the new captain in the wake of the match-fixing scandal, and the team under the ‘Prince of Calcutta’ was beginning to turn things around, especially when it came to overseas tours.
Their victory in the second Test at Port-of-Spain in their 2002 tour of the West Indies gave Ganguly and Co the series lead and real hope of winning their first Test series in the Caribbean in over three decades. Except none of that might have happened had Tendulkar, not without solid support at the other end, not stood between the West Indian bowling and a first innings collapse.
India lost their openers early after being put in to bat by the hosts — whose four-prong seam attack kept the visitors under check early on. Tendulkar survived a few early jitters, and began grinding the Windies attack, building a 124-run stand for the third wicket with Rahul Dravid (67) to bring India back on track.
The visitors posted 339, collected a 94-run first innings lead which eventually led to a 37-run victory despite some fightback from the hosts in the latter half of the Test.
193 vs England, Leeds, 2002
The Headingley Test in 2002 was one where India looked in complete control right from the word go. History was scripted as India beat England in their own backyard after a hiatus of 16 years.
Apart from the side, in general, if there was an individual who made sure that the Test was a memorable one, it was Sachin Tendulkar.
The ‘Master Blaster’ had a tryst with the record books as he overtook the legendary Donald Bradman with his 30th Test century.
Although Tendulkar had good support at the other end from Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly (both of whom also scored tons), he made batting look ridiculously easy. That too, on a greenish pitch with overcast conditions, just the way the English seamers would have liked.
Tendulkar, who was also India’s top run-scorer in the Test, looked at his vintage best. Be it the cover drive, straight drive, sweep, short arm pull or even the meaty blows that sailed over the rope – the genius gave a glimpse of all the possible shots in his armoury.
While he was unlucky to have missed out on a double ton, his 193 ensured that India batted the hosts out of the match.
Ultimately, the visitors put up a massive total of 628/8 declared. This was followed by a clinical performance from the bowlers, who took 20 wickets and handed England a defeat by an innings and 46 runs.
98 vs Pakistan, Centurion, 2003
It had to be there, isn’t it? 98 off 75. India vs Pakistan. World Cup. True, India had won each of their encounters against Pakistan at the World Cups (the record stands at 7-0 in 50-over World Cups, as of now), but sport seldom rests on statistics alone. In pre-IPL days, a chase of 274 runs in 50 overs was still a tall order, more so when the opposition had an assembly line of pace merchants. Pakistan seldom lost when one of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, or Shoiab Akhtar had his day, and more often than not, they did.
India had their assembly line too – of world-class batsmen. Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, and Yuvraj Singh are all legends of the game, but it was always one man who gave hope to a billion-plus nation. The match was billed as Indian batting versus Pakistani bowling, and Tendulkar owned the stage on that sunny afternoon of 1 March, 2003.
He started with a delectable backfoot punch of Akram, and in the next over, tore into Akhtar. In one hop and swing of the blade, Tendulkar exorcised the ghosts of Javed Miandad’s last-ball six of 1986. A generation rejoiced, a generation hoped. An incredible flick was followed by a divine straight drive, the ball leaving Tendulkar’s blade in a blaze of white speck. Tendulkar feasted on the Pakistani attack, cutting, driving, and sweeping with ruthless authority until a bout of cramps pegged him back. Akhtar’s brutal bouncer stopped him two short of what would have been the best of his 100 international hundreds, but, what the hell! An innings to savour.
241* vs Australia, Sydney, 2004
Tendulkar had not crossed 44 in his five previous innings, and in two of those attempts, he was dismissed without scoring. The Tendulkar-Australia love affair had gone sour, or was it? Sourav Ganguly’s best chance to win a Test series in Australia hinged on the outcome of the fourth Test in Sydney, and Tendulkar chose his moment to rise.
Bit by bit, the rust of Brisbane, Adelaide, and Melbourne was scrapped off, but even more startling was the bloody-mindedness to not play a single cover drive. A knock without a single cover drive, and still good enough to accumulate 241 chanceless runs must be something. It was. He remained unbeaten after a 433-ball epic, and added another undefeated 60 in the second innings to finish the Test with 301 runs. The win, though, eluded India as Steve Waugh typically dug his heels in what was his last Test.
141 vs Pakistan, Rawalpindi, 2004
On one of those days when most of the Indian batsmen failed to convert starts into a big innings, Sachin Tendulkar towered above everyone and carved a ton that is remembered to the day. And despite ending on the losing side, crossing the 13,000-run-mark in ODIs was a personal achievement for him.
Chasing Pakistan's 329/6, Tendulkar composed a fearless knock and was hardly troubled in his 135-ball stay.
He hardly made any errors during the knock, correctly picking the line and length of the likes of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami. Tendulkar was dismissed with India's score reading 245/4. The rest of the batting crumbled after his departure, and the visitors lost six wickets for 72 runs, being bundled out for 317 and losing the match by 12 runs.
55 vs Australia, Mumbai, 2004
It wasn't a double century or a century and that's probably the reason it's not talked about much. But that knock of 55 in the second innings of the Wankhede Test against Australia remains one of Tendulkar's most underrated knocks. It came during at a time when he was going through probably the toughest phase of his life. The form had dipped and the tennis elbow would not let him sleep. After being out for two and a half months, Tendulkar made a comeback in the Nagpur Test during the 2004 series against Australia
Having lost the series 2-0, India were bowled out for 104 in the first innings and Australia took a 99-run lead. India lost Gambhir and Sehwag in the first six overs. Tendulkar then joined Laxman at the crease, and on a minefield, unfurled a series of flicks, cuts and lofts.
Jason Gillespie was hit for four fours, including three in an over. He also hit Nathan Hauritz for two fours and a six. That six was special, as it was his first in Test cricket in two years. On 55, Sachin top-edged a slog sweep off Hauritz and he walked off to a standing ovation. This was the vibrant and vintage Tendulkar that the cricketing world knew.
109 vs Sri Lanka, New Delhi, 2005
On 10 December, 2005, Sachin Tendulkar scripted history at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla as he surpassed Sunil Gavaskar’s tally of record 34 hundreds in Tests. This landmark also served to establish him as arguably the finest Test batsmen of his generation.
India were 56 for two with openers Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid back in the pavilion. Just when the chips were down, both VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly played resilient knocks of 69 and 40 respectively and stitched a partnership with Sachin Tendulkar – the lone centurion from both sides during the Test.
Studded with 14 fours and a six, Tendulkar’s knock of 109 was multi-faceted. In the first half of his century, the ‘Master Blaster’ had survived one lbw appeal each of Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas and understandably, looked circumspect. However, he went to his second fifty in a flash and made the Sri Lankan bowlers pay. The highlight of his innings was when he smacked veteran off-spinner Muralitharan for three consecutive fours.
Tendulkar was ultimately dismissed by Muralitharan on the second day of the Test. But his hand proved pivotal as India took a valuable lead of 60 runs in the first innings and later, went on to win the match by 188 runs.
117 vs Australia, Sydney, 2008
Bossing the likes of Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson in their own backyard in an era in which Australia were still the world’s best team deserve every bit of credit.
What’s more, Tendulkar did all of the above in the first of the best-of-three finals of the 2008 Commonwealth Bank triangular ODI series. India had come close to winning the then-annual ODI tri-series in Australia in the past, but never got their hands on the silverware.
Sydney had long been one of Sachin’s most successful venues in terms of runs, having notched up his highest Test score four years ago and slammed a magnificent 154 in the infamous ‘Monkeygate’ Test earlier in the 2007-08 tour, and the batting icon continued his love affair with the historic venue that evening.
India had been set 240 to win in the first final at the SCG, a modest target made competitive by the Aussie attack. Tendulkar was lucky to survive an inside edge early on in the chase, but there was no stopping him once he got into his groove with a well-timed crunch through point off Nathan Bracken. While Australia managed to get rid of his batting partners cheaply, barring Rohit Sharma who chipped in with an 87-ball 66, there was no stopping the ‘Master Blaster’ as he almost single-handedly took India 1-0 up in the finals.
103* vs England, Chennai, 2008
An innings that put a smile on the face of the nation. Also, a special innings for various reasons. It came in the backdrop of the horrendous 26/11 attacks and for a Mumbai boy like Tendulkar, his 103 against England in a winning cause after the dastardly attack should definitely hold a special place.
England's tour was brought to an abrupt end by the terrorist attack but they returned in December for a two-match Test series, the first of which was played in Chennai. A star-studded England made a strong start to the match with India suffering a 75-run first-innings deficit. Eventually, they were set an imposing target of 387 in the fourth innings.
Openers gave India a good start but a mini collapse tipped the balance in visitors' favour. It was here that Tendulkar took control of the chase. With Yuvraj Singh providing support from the other end, Tendulkar guided India to a memorable win. And guess what, it was also is his first fourth-innings hundred in an Indian win. In 1999, Tendulkar had failed to complete a job at the same venue against Pakistan; in 2008, he exorcised that ghost.
163 vs New Zealand, Christchurch, 2009
Coming on the back of an innings of 61 in the abandoned series-opener in Wellington, Sachin Tendulkar, who had not registered a century on Kiwi soil before, showcased grit and accuracy in his knock of 163 off just 133 deliveries. Had it not been for his struggles with the abdominal muscles, he could have become the first international cricketer to slam a double ton in ODI cricket (although he did achieve the feat against South Africa a year later).
India, batting first, lost Virender Sehwag early. Tendulkar took his time to settle down, but once he had the measure the pitch and conditions, he began reading the bowlers with ease. It was a complete masterclass from the ‘Master Blaster’, finding the gaps, timing and placing the ball so precisely that everyone would just stay glued to the action on the ground.
What’s more, he built two century stands in the match — one each with Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni, as the visitors powered themselves to 392/4 in 50 overs.
While Jesse Ryder did threaten with his 80-ball 105, the bowlers, led by Zaheer Khan and Praveen Kumar, put up an all-round effort to see off the hosts for 334 in 45.1 overs, thereby taking an unassailable 2-0 lead. Despite no clean sweep, India would go on to win the series 3-1.
175 vs Australia, Hyderabad, 2009
Ben Hilfenhaus and Doug Bollinger running in from both ends and bowling at 140 clicks with remarkable consistency, considering the pitch was a typical subcontinent dust-bowl that favours batsmen. At the crease, Sachin Tendulkar playing a blinder, not shying away from hitting on the up even as wickets keep falling on the other end. One would probably associate such an innings of abandon with Virender Sehwag. However, on that night in Hyderabad, Tendulkar borrowed from his fellow opener’s template, lacing it with his own calculated aggression.
Australia had set India a target of 351 in the fifth ODI of the seven-match series in 2009. In reply, India started off well with Tendulkar and Sehwag stripping the Australian pace attack of any chances of breaking through early. However, after Sehwag’s fall just before the powerplay, the middle order couldn’t hold out for long. Gambhir, Yuvraj and Dhoni went out in single digits on the worst possible night. All the while, Tendulkar continued pulling searing length deliveries directed at his waist over the in-field.
The Little Master forged a 137-run partnership with Suresh Raina (59), who played a run-a-ball innings while Tendulkar took the role of the aggressor, now advancing down the wicket like a ballet dancer and depositing Nathan Hauritz for six over long-on. Their partnership brought India within touching distance but the lower order's fragility came into focus as Praveen Kumar and Munaf Patel failed to get five runs off three balls. India lost by three runs, eventually.
200* vs South Africa, Gwalior, 2010
The year was 2010. T20 cricket was just starting to flourish. Shots like the scoops, upper cuts, switch hits and the helicopter were becoming more increasingly frequent. The 300-plus chases were not seen as the impossibles ones. Was cricket becoming a batsman's game? In a lot of ways, yes. So somebody finally scoring a double century in ODIs was not surprising. But what is surprising that it did come from a 36-year-old veteran of the game.
India were playing South Africa in Gawlior. It was the second of the three-match series. The Proteas' bowling attack had Dale Steyn, Charl Langeveldt, Wayne Parnell and Jacques Kallis. Not that bad right? But the day ended on a very bad note for them. Tendulkar was at his imperious best, smashing 25 boundaries and three sixes to score first double hundred in men's ODI history. His unbeaten 200 from 147 balls helped India to post 401/3 in 50 overs and they eventually won the match by 153 runs. Many more 200s were scored by players in ODI cricket, but the first one, and the fact that it came from one the biggest sporting icons of the world, made it special.
111 vs South Africa, Nagpur, 2011
Tendulkar slapped a 145kph length delivery from Morne Morkel for four. However, no one was watching the ball as it raced away. It was a boundary, no questions asked. The commentators were more interested in what was happening at the pitch. While Morkel took a tumble in his failed bid to stop the ball from going to the boundary, people ogled at Tendulkar’s follow through on his straight drive.
He remained there for a couple of seconds, admiring the shot he had played, like the artist scrutinising his own canvas. It was vintage Tendulkar, playing a shot that had made many people fall in love with cricket. However, on that day, there was much more on display for the Little Master played all the shots within his arsenal, making it seem like he could go on for another ten years or so.
The pull shot came next as Tendulkar absorbed Dale Steyn’s express pace and hit a six over square leg. While Sehwag had gone berserk on the other end, Tendulkar was rewinding the years as he raced away to his fifty off just 33 balls. Soon enough, he had brought up his 99th international century, off just 92 deliveries. It was a shame though that from 267/2, India slumped to 296 all out owing to a familiar lower-order batting collapse. The result? India had lost its first match of the World Cup, South Africa winning by three wickets.
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