Home > Cricket > Some things just get better with age

Some things just get better with age

There is no general consensus in the cricketing world with regards to who is the best batsman in the history of the sport. However, there is a core group of names that are continually mentioned: Brian Lara, Viv Richards, Don Bradman, Sunil Gavaskar and, of course, Sachin Tendulkar.

In a career spanning 21 years, the man known as the Little Master has rewritten the record books. He has scored a record 14,240 runs in test cricket at a very impressive average of 56.96 and has amassed more test centuries than any other batsman in cricket history with 49 (and counting).  Tendulkar is not, however, just a test specialist. He also holds the record for the most runs scored in One Day Internationals (ODI) having accumulated a huge 17,694 at an average of 45.12, including 46 centuries and 93 half-centuries. As if this were not enough proof of his effectiveness in the one-day game, he was also voted player of the tournament in the 2003 World Cup as India finished runners-up.

Whilst such statistics reinforce the view that the Indian is one of the greatest batsmen of all-time, they do not sufficiently illustrate just how good he is and how good he has been for such a long time. Perhaps the greatest bowler in the sport’s history, Shane Warne, described Tendulkar in a recent tweet as “the best batsman or cricketer I played against in 20 years.” He went on to answer the question of whether Lara or Tendulkar is the better batsman by stating: “Sachin wins in my opinion day in day out against pace or spin, awesome against both. He conducts himself on and off field class.” Warne’s former Australian teammate Matthew Hayden went so far as to claim: I have seen God. He bats at no. 4 in India in Tests.” Such glowing praise from his contemporaries is deserved and reveal how revered he is in the cricket world.

Sachin Tendulkar: The best batsman ever? (This image is the property of Cricinfo.com)

One criticism levelled at the likes of Muttiah Muralidaran is their poor (relatively) record against the big sides and the fact that their statistics are padded by performances against the likes of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.  This does not apply to Tendulkar. Sure, he does average 136.66 against Bangladesh, but he also averages 60.59 against Australia, a team against which he has scored 11 centuries and which has dominated cricket for much of Tendulkar’s career. Moreover he has scored runs all over the world and to prove he is more than a subcontinent flat-track bully, he has scored more centuries away from India (27) than he has at home (22).

“I have seen God. He bats at no. 4 in India in Tests.” 

Matthew Hayden on Sachin Tendulkar.

What really sets Tendulkar apart from the likes of Lara and Richards is his longevity. He made his test debut in Karachi against Pakistan aged just 16 back in 1989. He was bowled in his first innings for just 15 by one of the greatest fast bowlers and exponents of swing in cricket history, Waqar Younis, but was praised for the way he dealt with a series of body blows. The following year, in his second tour, he scored his maiden test century, making 119 not out at Old Trafford. Wisden described the innings as: “a disciplined display of immense maturity.” Since then Tendulkar has not looked back and was named one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the year in 1997. He is deified in India to the extent that he is unable to live a ‘normal’ life, yet he remains humble and affable. Every cricket fan will have seen him drive the ball through the covers in textbook fashion more times than they care to remember and play picture sweeps for four, but in 2005/2006, there was a theory that the Little Master’s best days were behind him. Having struggled with a longstanding elbow problem and having failed to make a century in 2006, Tendulkar did seem to be in decline. His career hit an all-time low in 2006 as he averaged a poor 24.27 and made a solitary half-century in eight tests. The Indian team management however recognised that class is permanent and stuck with their talisman. It was a decision that paid great dividends.

His form gradually improved before 2010 became what has arguably been the best year of the great man’s career. In short Sachin Tendulkar is maturing like a fine wine. He recently beat off stiff competition from Virender Sehwag, Graeme Swann and Hashim Amla to be named ICC Cricketer of the Year and also won the inaugural People’s Choice award at the same ceremony. During the voting period, he played in 10 Test matches, hitting 1064 runs, including six centuries, at an average of 81.84. He also played 17 ODIs, scoring 914 runs at an average 65.28 including his record-breaking double-century against South Africa in Gwalior. Not bad for a 37 year old.

The one question mark next to Tendulkar’s name has been whether he is effective in 20-20 cricket. This was a reasonable doubt, until this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL), in which he broke Shaun Marsh’s single season record for runs scored by putting up 618 runs in 14 innings, thus proving his ability in all forms of the game.

The question now is not one of whether Tendulkar is on the slide, but rather when he will start to slide. At the moment there is absolutely no sign of it happening anytime soon and if his last test match performance is anything to go by, a double century against Australia in Bangalore, we may get to see the Little Master pile on plenty more runs yet.

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Categories: Cricket
  1. Nim Harindra
    October 27, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    It was 241 not out Harp!

    Love the article Nick (as anyone who knows me would know i would)! Im glad you commented on the way he handles himself off the field, which I genuinely feel is one of the most notable aspects of his career, given the intense pressure he is under everytime he walks to the wicket. Stadiums will literally fill up when he walks to the crease and empty when he gets out. Even when those have criticised him like John Buchanan, he never rises to the bait and just says everyone is entitled to their opinion.

    I think the key to his success over the last few years is his defence, which is arguably even better than Dravid’s was at his peak. He just didnt look like getting out in the recent series against Australia. He doesn’t get on top of a bowling attack like he used to, which is why I wouldn’t say that he is better than he was say in the mid-late 90s, but he still has all the strokes and his decision making is superior to anyone. His mental strength too is unparalleled. It is telling that the Australians, who are famous for their ‘mental disintegration’ as they call it, stopped sledging him as they felt they were wasting their breath and if anything it just fired him up.

    One of the criticisms is that he doesn’t score as many second innings hundreds or match winning innings as say a Lara, but that ignores all the wins he has set up for India over his career, and he has begun to put this criticism to bed over the last couple of years (particularly with the match winning hundred not out against England a couple of years back).

    I love the quotes too. Lara himself said ‘Sachin is a genius. Im a mere mortal’, and the best story is probably Don Bradman calling his wife in to the room when he saw Sachin as he felt he batted exactly like him. A true sporting legend.

  2. Harpie
    October 26, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Just read your comment Nick, which reminded me of an innings he played against Australia recently in which he stopped playing his beloved cover drive because he had consistently been edging them to the slip cordon. I think this innings was described by several pundits as being one of the outstanding innings recently. I think he ended up with about 141 or thereabouts.

  3. Harpie
    October 26, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    I think another factor which shows Sach’s importance to the cricket teams he plays in (India, Mumbai Indians, etc) is the influence he has on his teammates. If you look at the teams results when he is in the team and when he is not in the team, I seem to remember that even when he does not score heavily, the team as a whole performs much better when he is present.

    I also think that Sach has been out on 99 the most times of any batsman. From memory, it’s something like 8 times.

    His longevity is unbelievable.

    • October 26, 2010 at 11:02 pm

      Spot on. Although it is interesting that he wasn’t overly successful as captain.

      I did think about the 99 thing but I don’t know the exact number of times he has been out on 99. He has also been out in the 90s a lot.

      His longevity is unbelievable and is down to his technique and mental strength. It will be a long time before we see another of his ilk.

  4. Nick
    October 26, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Couldn’t agree more. The most telling aspect of his 2010 IPL record was the fact that he topped the batting charts while hitting just 3 sixes – timing and placement. His mental strength is evident both in his recovery post-2006 and his ability to put away the hook shot almost permanently after calculating that it wasn’t worth the risk in test matches.

    • October 26, 2010 at 9:55 pm

      Hi Nick. First of all, thanks for the comments. They are always appreciated. The lack of sixes was something I failed to pick up on so thanks for pointing that out. It is impressive that he was so effective in the IPL playing that way, i.e. proper cricket shots. Too much emphasis is put on smashing it out of the ground nowadays and although it is exciting to watch, every big score made by the likes of Kieron Pollard is usually followed by 4 or 5 poor scores.

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