The sports media is abuzz with the news about Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement from Test Cricket. In a related article, published on these pages last week, this author narrated about media and other issues on Sachin’s retirement. Well the good news is that the maestro did not succumb to that undue build-up. He might have been evaluating himself for a while and if he has taken the vital decision now, it must have been based on his own personal conviction. For instance, Sachin could have assessed his own batting performance in some T-20 games that he played a few days back. Though, T-20 format cannot be compared to test-match situations, Sachin never deviated from the game techniques, even when he played some innovative shots. In Mumbai Indians’ last league match against Perth Scorchers, Sachin fell without scoring and in the semifinal with Trinidad & Tobago, he was caught behind. But his worst dismissal came in the final, when he moved a trifle too late to an express Shane Watson delivery that sent his off stump flying. All his life, Sachin has faced and mastered such balls, but the realization of slow reflexes could be coming only now. No one knows better than Sachin, about getting in right position quickly. Those milliseconds are precious. It seems Sachin has finally reconciled to the reality that reflexes wane with age.
The man achieved so much in his 24-year cricket career, which others can only dream. At age 14, Sachin was already an accomplished cricketer. In the hope of becoming a fast bowler, he went to Dennis Lillee’s MRF Pace Foundation, but Lillee advised Sachin to focus on his batting, instead. In 1988, he along with school-mate, Vinod Kambli, compiled an unbroken first wicket 664-run partnership in school competitions. To his credit, Sachin has debut hundreds in Ranji Trophy, Deodhar Trophy and Duleep Trophy matches.
After one first-class season, 17-year old Sachin was included in the Indian team, which toured Pakistan in late 1989. In his debut test at Karachi, Sachin scored just 15 runs. This series was followed by one against New Zealand. However, Sachin’s first test century, 119 not out, came against England in 1990. On the Australian tour before 1992 world cup, Sachin scored an unbeaten 148 at SCG and 114 at Perth, facing bowlers like; Merv Hughes, Bruce Reid and Craig Mcdermott.
Ironically, it took 79 matches before Sachin could score an ODI century. But he notched up two centuries in the 1996 world cup and never looked back. The 1998 home series against Australia was known for Sachin scoring three consecutive centuries and choosing Shane Warne for special punishment. He followed this with two more in ODI matches at Sharjah. In the final, India beat Australia, where Sachin performed as a bowler, taking 5 wickets to finish the lower middle order and the tail. In ICC 1998 quarterfinal, Sachin took four Australian wickets after scoring 141 runs in just 128 balls.
Sachin produced an exemplary performance in 2003 Cricket world cup, where he scored 673 runs in 11 matches and not only helped India reach the finals but earned the Man-of-the-tournament award as well. He continued to score heavily in ODIs that year, with two hundreds in the tri-series involving New Zealand and Australia.
Sachin scored his 35th test century in December 2005 and 39th and 40th ODI hundreds during 2006. Though India had a dismal World Cup in 2007, the period afterwards was good for Sachin. He was man-of-the-tournament in the series against Bangladesh and performed creditably in the Future cup against South Africa. In the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2007-08, Sachin excelled by scoring 493 in four tests, including 153 at Adelaide.
He went on scaling new heights with his batting for next two years; scored his 45th ODI hundred; completed 17000 ODI runs and notched up an unbeaten 200 to become the world’s first batsman to score a double century in ODIs. In 2011 world cup, Sachin aggregated 482, including two centuries, at an average of 53.55. India won the world cup for the second time after 1983.
His much awaited 100th international hundred came in March 2012, against Bangladesh but he announced his retirement from ODIs in December 2012, after poor performance in the series against England.
Sachin also announced his retirement from IPL, after Mumbai Indians won the IPL 2013. But the team revolved around him for his great camaraderie and impeccable mannerisms. In IPL 2010, Sachin made 618 runs in 14 innings and was declared the player-of-the-tournament.
Sachin is widely regarded as the most complete batsman, cricket has ever produced. His body balance, while batting was remarkable; devoid of unnecessary movements and needless flourishes. He displayed remarkable adaptability on every type of pitch, all over the world. His trademark stroke was the perfectly executed straight drive. No less a person than the legendary Sunny Gavaskar says that he cannot think of any other player in cricket’s history, capable of combining classical technique with raw aggression.