Like any other kid, Cricket was my favorite game in my childhood. It was around the 1987 Reliance World Cup, I started following Cricket Seriously. The victory over Pakistan in the Benson & Hedges Cup, 1985 and the whole team celebrating driving an Audi on the ground, was the only other moment I remember that made me love Cricket more.
My association with Sachin started from the very beginning when he made his Debut in 1989. I was preparing for my 11th, He was playing for India.
When Sachin traveled to Pakistan to face one of the finest bowling attacks ever assembled in cricket, Michael Schumacher was yet to race an F1 car, Lance Armstrong had never been to the Tour de France, Pete Sampras had never won a Grand Slam.
When Tendulkar embarked on a glorious career taming Imran and company, Roger Federer was a name unheard of; Lionel Messi was in his nappies, Usain Bolt was an unknown kid in the Jamaican backwaters.
It seems time excused one man and stands frozen in front of Sachin Tendulkar. We have had champions, we have had legends, but we have never had another Sachin Tendulkar and we never will.
“Beneath the helmet, under that unruly curly hair, inside the cranium, there is something we don’t know, something beyond scientific measure. Something that allows him to soar, to roam a territory of sport that, forget us, even those who are gifted enough to play alongside him cannot even fathom. When he goes out to bat, people switch on their television sets and switch off their lives.” – BBC Sports
Have you ever sat and wondered what the Sachin Tendulkar experience was? The quintessential, wholesome Tendulkar experience! Was it visual? Was it vicarious? The Tendulkar experience may not be of a singular nature, but it did exist as a collective summation, having completely distinct of its own in the Indian cricket lover’s consciousness. We breathed together when he batted, we shook our head together in despair when he was dismissed.
December 16, 1989, was probably the first time that Sachin became the man who brought the nation to a standstill as he walked out to bat. After he had struck the young Qadir protege Mushtaq Ahmed for a couple of sixes, the older leggie had told him, “Bachche ko kya maar rahe ho? Dum hai to mujhe maarke dikhao.” (No big deal hitting a kid, if you have it in you try hitting me.) A young 16-year-old Sachin Tendulkar, announced himself to the world, took on the seasoned Abdul Qadir, hitting him for 28 runs in an over. 6,0,4,6,6,6. You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHtoVnHogME
Picking favorite innings of Sachin is like asking favorite Kishore Kumar number or best Amitabh Bachchan performance; almost close to blasphemy. Where were you when Desert Storm happened? I will still try. Here are my favorite top five test innings of Sachin, the order is chronological only.
1. 57 – Pakistan v India, 1989
There was no greater test of a young Sachin’s credentials than against Pakistan and their much-vaunted seam attack of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Imran Khan. On his debut tour, the 16-year-old Tendulkar showed his promise with two half-centuries at Faisalabad and Sialkot – the second of which was particularly impressive.
2. 119 not out, England v India, Old Trafford, 1990
Playing his ninth Test at the age of just 17, Tendulkar displayed not only his natural talent but also his mental strength as he scored a sublime maiden Test century in the fourth innings at Old Trafford. Set 408 runs to win, India looked certain to lose the match having collapsed to 183 for six, but Tendulkar guided his side to safety with an imperious 119 not out from 189 balls.
“In the last session, Tendulkar hit a reverse sweep, an orthodox sweep and a lofted cover drive. They were all exquisite cricket shots. To play those shots deliberately in such quick succession, off almost similar deliveries, was genius. That was a little jewel, just those 3-4 minutes. “It reminds you how very few people are special. It was a case of great thinking and good technique.” – David Gower
“Technically, you can’t fault Sachin. Seam or spin, fast or slow nothing is a problem.” – Geoffrey Boycott
3. 114, Australia v India, Perth, 1992
Arguably Tendulkar’s finest ever test innings, the Little Master gained the respect of everyone in Australia with this dogged innings. On one of the quickest wickets in the world Tendulkar refused to bow down to Craig McDermott and Merv Hughes as wickets tumbled around him. The ninth wicket to fall, Tendulkar had faced 161 balls for his 114, in a team total that saw only three other batsmen score above 11.
“Whenever I see Sachin play I am reminded of the Graeme Pollock quote of Cricket being a ‘see the ball, hit the ball game.’ He hits the ball as if it’s there to be hit.” – Ian Chappell
4. 169, South Africa v India, Cape Town, 1997
Going in to bat after South Africa had racked up a huge first innings total of 529 for seven, India quickly found themselves in deep trouble at 58 for five. Again it fell to Tendulkar to rescue the situation, which he did by combining with Mohammad Azharuddin in a stand of 202 to haul India past the follow-on mark. It was always going to need something special to get rid of him, and Adam Bacher duly obliged with a quite unbelievable catch in the deep.
“In my several years of international cricket, Tendulkar remains the best batsman I have ever bowled to. It’s been a pleasure to bowl at the master batsman. During our team meetings, we often speak about the importance of the first 12 balls to Tendulkar. If you get him then you can thank your stars, otherwise it could mean that tough times lie ahead.” – Allan Donald
5. 241 not out, Australia v India, Sydney, 2004
Tendulkar’s highest Test score was 248 not out against Bangladesh but the finest of his six double centuries came against Australia in 2004. Batting first, Tendulkar’s innings straddled the opening three days before the tourists finally declared on 705 for seven. Despite his innings, and a quickfire second innings 60 not out to set the Aussies a victory target, India had to settle for the draw.
“He is a perfectly balanced batsman and knows perfectly well when to attack and when to play defensive cricket. He has developed the ability to treat bowlers all over the world with contempt and can destroy any attack with utmost ease.” – Greg Chappell
“I have seen GOD , he bats at No. 4 for India in Tests.” – Mathew Hayden
My favorite top five One Day innings of Sachin, again the order is only chronological.
1. 84 in the year 1994, India vs. New Zealand:
In this match, Sachin was the opening batsman for the first time in his 26 years long ODI cricket career. Navjot Singh Sidhu wasn’t fit and therefore, Sachin was asked to open. In retrospect, Sidhu would almost certainly feel happy and content for this fortunate accident. Eden Park Auckland became witness to Little Master’s memorable 82 off just 43 balls! It included 15 fours and 2 splendid sixes. When asked to comment on his inning at Eden Park later, Sachin termed it a ‘dream’ and an inning that can perhaps happen just once in a person’s lifetime!
“There are two kinds of batsmen in the world. One Sachin Tendulkar. Two all the others.” – Andy Flower
2. 143 and 134 vs Australia, Sharjah, 22 and 24th April 1998.
It was that time, when Indian team was teased for- “Sharjah me haarja” (Go Sharjah and come back loosing). Sachin changed that forever. Though India lost the match after Sachin got out, he had done enough for the team to go into the finals of that cup. Just 2 days after his ‘Sand-storm’ innings, he produced another divine innings. This time, he made sure that India wins the match and the Sharjah cup. The two back-to-back centuries against Australia in Sharjah will remain the peak of his batting prowess.
Frustrated Kasprowicz went to Dennis Lillee and asked, “Mate, do you see any weaknesses?” Lillee replied, “No Michael, you have to decide for yourself whether you’re bowling well or not. He’s going to hit you for fours and sixes anyway. As long as you walk off with your pride that’s all you can do.”
“I saw him playing on television and was struck by his technique, so I asked my wife to come look at him. Now I never saw myself play, but I feel that this player is playing much the same as I used to play, and she looked at him on Television and said yes, there is a similarity between the two…hi compactness, technique, stroke production… it all seemed to gel!” – Sir Don Bradman
“I’ll be going to bed having nightmares of Sachin just running down the wicket and belting me back over the head for six. He was unstoppable. I don’t think anyone, apart from Don Bradman, is in the same class as Tendulkar. He is just an amazing player.” – Shane Warne
“There is no shame losing to such a great player (Sachin).” – Steve Waugh
“He has everything a top batsman needs. Tendulkar is a classic example of a player being so good that his age is an irrelevance”- Alistair Campbell after losing to India in the Coca-Cola Cup final.
3. 140* vs Kenya, Bristol, 23 May 1999
World cup, Sachin’s father passed away, the team needed Sachin the most. He played, made a century looked in the sky with a tear in the eye.
“He is 99.5% Perfect. I’ll pay to watch him play. I think he is marvelous. I think he will fit in whatever category of Cricket that has been played or will be played, from the first ball that has ever been bowled to the last ball that’s going to be. He can play in any era and at any level.” – Viv Richards
4. 98 vs Pakistan, Centurion, 1 Mar 2003
Termed as the best innings of his life, by Sachin himself, this is the another divine innings. India- Pakistan a world cup match. Sachin fires and fires so fiercely that made very Indian proud! The 2003 World Cup Was one of my Most Favorite cricket Tournaments ever. Watched Every India Match. India Lost, with a consolation. Sachin Won the Man of the Tournament award.
“Today, he showed the world why he is considered the best batsman around. Some of the shots he played were simply amazing. I don’t know what to bowl at him. Once I bowled an in-swinger and he drove me through covers of the front foot. Then I bowled an out-swinger and he again punched through covers of the back-foot. He should live long and score lots of runs, but not against Pakistan(smiling) “- Wasim Akram
5. 200 not out, India v South Africa, Gwalior, 2010
Sachin made 200*. It was fitting that Tendulkar became the first man on the planet to score a double-century in an ODI innings. Opening the batting in a day-night match, Tendulkar took 90 balls for his first century before smashing his second off just 57. A single with four deliveries remaining saw Tendulkar pass the double-hundred milestone was a feast to watch. This, coming against a formidable side of South Africa having legendary bowlers like Dale Steyn made it value in gold!
“Sachin is a genius , I am a mere mortal!” – Brian Lara
2011 World Cup: Words are not enough to speak about that tournament! I was happy India won. We won. More so to see Sachin won the World Cup. Dhoni Finishing with a six, Sachin comes running to the field hugging Yuvi, Happy tears all over the world. The Moment When Sachin was carried on his Shoulders was really a Goosebumps moment.
The 100th Century was just another moment of a deep breath, that we used to take after each century of his.
As his centuries gave everyone joy, his dismissal gave many heartbreaks. I also had my moments of joy and despair with Sachin. While rushing back to home not to miss his batting, the first thing one would ask entering home; “Abhi Khel Raha hai na? (Hope he is still batting)”.
His dismissal in two matches left me numb, one was in the semi-final of 1996 World Cup against Sri Lanka and second in the Test match against Pakistan in Chennai. In both these matches, India dramatically collapsed after Sachin’s departure.
In life, we all are left sad and shattered and cry when our own kin scoffs at us. We feel down. It takes a lot from us to come out of these everyday situations and move on.
This is especially for those people who would have made fun of Sachin, every time India lost. I have not seen Sachin cry. He does not cry. Just keeps his head down and leaves the field. We are too immature to even imagine what goes on in that mind and heart of his.
“He has single-handedly lifted to moods of this entire nation umpteen number of times. We struggle in keeping our monotonous lives straight, lives which affect a limited number of people. Imagine what would be the magnitude of the inner struggle for him, pain both mental and physical, that see expectations from a billion people. And he just converts those expectations into reality. We watch in awe, feel privileged. Words fail here…..” – Harsha Bhogle
I am not a keen IPL follower. But when it started, my loyalty for Sachin automatically made me a Mumbai Indian sympathizer. Mumbai Indians was scheduled to play in Wankhede the very next day I reached India. I managed 2 tickets for me and my cousin online. I had seen him bat few times in the Cricket stadium. This was my last I was going to see him bat in a cricket stadium. My bad, he did not play the game, but was present in the ground and roaming around.
After watching him play for so many years, the ‘Sachin mania’ had subsided in me, but not for those who had come to watch him. Whenever Sachin turned back in our direction, where I was seated, people jumped from their seats shouting, ‘Sachinnnn…Sachinn’. This exercise of the crowd kept me smiling even after I left the stadium. However, on my way back I kept thinking, how a mere look from a man could induce such excitement? Such was the aura of Sachin.
A year before his retirement, I was critical of him and wanted him to retire, but on October 10, 2013, Sachin Tendulkar took the decision of quitting cricket after playing his 200th Test.
Finally, the man, on November 16, bowed out of the game by leaving the cricket world teary-eyed. I see his retirement, as the complete emergence of the elder statesman. I could be wrong here, and I hope to God that I am, but I think it’s time to finally grow up.
I’m sure every other Indian growing up at that time would have a Sachin story to tell. My Sachin Tendulkar experience was the experience of my growing up. It is therefore naturally different from the others and immensely special. For Me Cricket will never be the Same without Sachin Tendulkar. I will watch India matches but not with the same excitement, I will not get up early in the morning, won’t rush home to watch a cricket match.