How will Maestro Sachin Tendulkar go in his 200th Test?

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by Kersi Meher-Homji

In his final Test in Mumbai against the West Indies in November, Sachin Tendulkar will become the first cricketer to play 200 Tests.

In 198 Tests so far he has scored 15,837 runs at 53.86 in 198 Tests, hitting 51 centuries (highest score 248 not out) and 67 fifties.

He is the only batsman to score over 15,000 runs and the only one to record over 50 centuries. The next highest run scorer is Australia’s Ricky Ponting, 13,378 runs at 51.85 in 168 Tests and the next highest century maker is South Africa’s Jacques Kallis with 44 centuries in 162 Tests.

England’s Colin Cowdrey was the first batsman to play 100 Tests (at Birmingham in 1968 against Australia) and had celebrated the occasion by hitting a century. Will Tendulkar prove his doubters wrong by scoring a double century in his 200th Test?

In his 100th Test, against England at The Oval in September 2002, Tendulkar had scored 54 runs in 114 minutes off 89 balls, hitting 10 fours. As Peter Roebuck later told me, “I remember Sachin’s 100th Test because a century was expected but he was like a cat on a hot tin roof and did not settle. His dismissal was not a surprise. He hates a fuss and dislikes matches being about him.”

Now that no one expects a big score from him in every match, Sachin is hopefully less like a cat on a hot tin roof and more like a mature lion on a run hunt.

Sachin also holds the record in one-day internationals (ODIs) having scored 18,426 runs at 44.83 in 463 matches with 49 centuries including an unbeaten double hundred. Next best in ODIs is Ponting ”“ way behind — with 13,704 runs at 42.03 with 30 centuries (highest score 164) in 375 matches.

Some Indians call Sachin God; cricket experts describe him as the best batsman after Don Bradman. To me he will remain a cricketer with dignity and modesty.

From teenage sensation to mature maestro, Sachin Tendulkar will remain an icon.

Universally recognised as among the world’s greatest batsmen, he has finally decided to retire from all forms of cricket after delighting spectators home and away with his attractive innovative batting and humility.

And what an innings — from his Test debut in November 1989 against Pakistan in Karachi at the age of 16 to his swansong against the West Indies in Mumbai next month aged 40!

His Test debut was a baptism of fire against the pace trio of Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.

What can I write on Sachin which is not already written about? When he completed his 100th international century last year, seven books were written on him. I expect seven more on the eve of and after his final Test appearance.

“All my life, I have had a dream of playing cricket for India. I have been living this dream every day for the last 24 years,” Tendulkar said in a statement. “It’s hard for me to imagine a life without playing cricket because it’s all I have ever done since I was 11 years old. It’s been a huge honour to have represented my country and played all over the world. I look forward to playing my 200th Test match on home soil, as I call it a day.

“I thank the BCCI for everything over the years and for permitting me to move on when my heart feels it’s time. I thank my family for their patience and understanding. Most of all, I thank my fans and well-wishers who through their prayers and wishes have given me the strength to go out and perform at my best.”

Rather than bore you with statistics which Sachin has dominated in the last two decades, I’ll quote what eminent cricket personalities have written about him.

The sign of greatness is when opponents pay you a complement. And when an Australian opponent showers praises on you, you are a legend. Steve Waugh, not known to give an inch to a rival, famously said, “You take Don Bradman away and Tendulkar is the next up, I reckon.”

Tendulkar hit his maiden Test century at Manchester against England in August 1990, aged 17. England’s notable author David Frith headlined his story “Hail the Boy King” and wrote, “How could anyone so young be so good at the highest level?”

Then followed his tour of Australia in 1991-92 where he smashed magnificent centuries in the Sydney and Perth Tests. After his Sydney masterpiece, Australia’s legendary batsman Neil Harvey eulogised, “He is the best player I’ve seen since ages. I love the way he places the ball past fieldsmen and his back foot technique is superb.”

On a bouncing pitch on the WACA in Perth Sachin hit a captivating 114. This made Allan Border rave, “If he can play like this at 19, I shudder to think what he will be at 25.”

What indeed!

Even the great Bradman was moved to exclaim that Tendulkar bats more like him than all other batsmen he had watched.

After Sachin received Man of the Match Award in the 1990 Manchester Test, Richie Benaud commented on TV, “We’ll see a lot more centuries from his bat. I hope I’ll be around to see them.”

Yes Benaud has been around, himself a witness to almost half of Sachin Tendulkar’s 51 Test tons.

Tributes poured in as he continued his journey to immortality. Last November he received the OAM from the then Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard. In an editorial titled ”˜Hail the great Sachin Tendulkar’, The Sydney Morning Herald wrote, “A career like no other has closed. Save for Don Bradman there hasn’t been a phenomenon ”“ in collective experience of the artist ”“ like Sachin Tendulkar. Incredibly, almost supernaturally, the master has fulfilled all but the wildest of predictions.”

I was lucky enough to applaud all his centuries and double centuries in the Sydney Tests. I consider myself blessed. Well played, Sachin, raise your bat.

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