The choice of Sachin Tendulkar to retire after playing his 200th Test was an unfortunate one; it reinforced his recent obsession with the statistical side of the game. Nevertheless, Tendulkar’s fascination with milestones, which appeared to be the driving force in the latter part of his cricket life should only be a minor distraction from what he achieved in the bulk of his illustrious career.
Tendulkar burst on the scene as a breath of fresh air; supposedly a boy among men but in reality a master lording it over those who were hoping to teach him a lesson. He played with a swashbuckling freedom that only the young who fear nothing can produce. Where others saw danger, Tendulkar only sensed a scoring opportunity and I suspect it was this desire to dominate the bowling that attracted Sir Donald Bradman’s attention.
Bradman’s affection for Tendulkar’s batting was not surprising; a young, short batsman dominating muscular fast bowlers was enough to make anyone sit up and take notice. When Tendulkar achieved this feat on a temperate SCG pitch as a nineteen year-old it was exceptional but when repeated the performance on the lethal WACA ground surface it was other worldly.
It was one thing for Tendulkar to dominate on his own surfaces but to achieve this euphoric state on pitches that were completely foreign to him and that had flummoxed players as good as Sunil Gavaskar on first meeting, was enough to convince the cricket world that here was a special talent.
Over the years, Tendulkar dished out much punishment to Australian attacks. In addition to that exceptional Perth innings my favourites were his Test century in Chennai in 1998 and two exquisite One Day hundreds in the Sharjah heat later that same year.
The Chennai century was admirable because of the preparation he put in to face Shane Warne and the way he then applied the lessons to beat the opposition’s champion when the match was in the balance. This clash was Test cricket in all it’s glory; two champions meeting head-on with the one who prevailed guaranteeing his side victory.
The two desert hundreds were admirable for their dominance and the fact that they were achieved when not only the game was on the line but also India’s future in the tournament. The first century steered India into the final and the second delivered the trophy.
Tendulkar’s influence on the game has come from his on-field deeds, which have delighted his legion of fans. However, his greatest legacy has been the way he’s inspired the current generation of Indians to bat with a flair that’s generally absent in the play of the other country’s willow wielders.