Tendulkar's longevity a hallmark of his greatness
Oct. 10, 2013
NEW DELHI (AP) — In an era of prolific run scorers, Sachin Tendulkar will be remembered as the most accomplished batsman of his generation.
The "Little Master," as the diminutive 1.65 meter (5-foot-5) Tendulkar is widely known, has plundered runs all over the world and dominated the two formats of cricket prevailing during his time. He's the closest thing cricket has ever seen to the great Sir Donald Bradman, the Australian who famously averaged 99.94 per test innings in the 1930s and 40s and has no peers in the game.
After almost a quarter of a century, and rarely putting a foot wrong in the eyes of millions of Indian fans who revered him in a country where cricket overshadows almost everything else, the 40-year-old Tendulkar has decided he'll retire after an upcoming test series against the West Indies. His 200th test match will be his last.
"All my life, I have had a dream of playing cricket for India," Tendulkar said as he announced his planned retirement. "I have been living this dream every day for the last 24 years. 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."
His compact defense and superb drives helped him dominate during a phase when the game transformed from stately to frantic. Tendulkar came on the scene when limited-overs cricket was overtaking tests in popularity, and leaves when the Twenty20 format is still early in its evolution.
Tendulkar has staggered his retirement, trying to avoid one great shock for generations of Indian fans who can only perceive of cricket through his batting.
He opted out of international Twenty20 cricket after only one game but remained a star player for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League. He retired from one-day international cricket in December last year.
Apart from his classy batting, Tendulkar was also a useful bowler with both seam and swing and a versatile fielder who could outrun players half his age. His success as captain was limited, but he made some vital contributions during the more prosperous reigns of skippers Mohammad Azharuddin, Sourav Ganguly and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
It was Tendulkar's ability to bounce back repeatedly from lapses of form and his ability to adapt to different conditions and situations that helped him finish with most major batting records to his name.
Tendulkar is the most prolific batsman in international cricket history with 15,837 runs in 198 tests and 18,426 runs in 463 one-day internationals. He also holds the record for most centuries in tests (51) and ODIs (49). He's the first to score a double-century in limited-overs internationals and is the only batsman to complete 100 international hundreds.
The batting figures tell a story. But his calm demeanor tells another. Tendulkar was rarely flustered at the crease, and his nerve gave his legions of followers tremendous cause for belief.
Tendulkar learned to carry the weight of expectations early on, after making his international debut during a testing tour in 1989 at the age of 16 against a Pakistan lineup containing the great Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis in its bowling attack.
The feat of scoring centuries on debut in all three of India's top domestic tournaments — the Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy and Irani Cup— could not be repeated in international cricket but Tendulkar quickly slipped into the role of a reliable middle-order batsman in tests and later as a hard-hitting opener in ODIs.
There were early comparisons with contemporaries such as Brian Lara and Inzamam-ul-Haq. Then the ultimate flattery, with Bradman saying that watching Tendulkar was like watching himself bat.
"I asked my wife to have a look at him because ... I never saw myself play but I feel that this fella is playing much the same as I used to play," Bradman was quoted as saying before he died a decade ago. "She had a look at the television and said 'Yes, there is a similarity between the two.'"
Some of Tendulkar's best performances in tests came against Australia, most notably his 114 on a fiery test pitch at Perth in 1991-92 when he was still in his teens. A 241 not out at Sydney in a rare drawn series Down Under in 2003-04 and a 155 not out in the Chennai test of 1997-98 are rated among his better innings.
The calls for Tendulkar's retirement had been growing steadily as he struck a bad patch immediately after achieving a long-time ambition of winning the World Cup in April 2011.
Taking limited part in one-dayers over the preceding few years, Tendulkar returned to the format for the Asia Cup in Bangladesh, where he got his 100th hundred. But the runs were still not flowing in test cricket for Tendulkar, as he fell repeatedly to incoming deliveries from pace bowlers, which many attributed to his slowing reflexes.
Tendulkar finally announced his retirement from one-dayers in December while returning to domestic cricket in preparation for Australia's test tour of India, in the process also equaling his idol Sunil Gavaskar's Indian record of 81 first-class centuries as he played for Mumbai in Ranji Trophy.
Niggling injuries, mainly to the back and elbow a decade ago, were starting to hamper him. But few argued he could never consistently score runs again, as he had in previous comebacks.
He had several failures in 2004 and 2005, when he once went for 17 innings without a single test half-century, but magically produced sparkling knocks in one-dayers to keep himself in the reckoning.
A low point came when he was booed off his home ground of Wankhede Stadium after scoring only one off 21 balls in a test against England in 2006. Another came when his attitude was questioned by coach Greg Chappell ahead of the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.
Former greats such as Imran Khan and Kapil Dev indicated that they'd have been happy had Tendulkar quit after winning the World Cup on home soil in 2011, after several notable performances in his six previous trips to the quadrennial tournament.
In the end, it took a talk with selectors and the realization that he did not figure in their calculations for the 2015 World Cup that prompted his retirement from the ODI squad. With Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman having already retired from tests, it was only a matter of time before Tendulkar decided to retire from the longer version too.