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Friday, 11 November 2011

Freedom Lies Beyond The Final Everest

Sachin Tendulkar has been the “boy” wonder of Cricket since he first donned the Indian cap in 1989 as a 16 year old. Yes, all that has been said and written about him by team mates, opponents, fans and journalists is well deserved and testimony to his supreme talent.

His mental and physical strength get lesser attention especially in the face of all the records that have crumbled in his path over the last decade or so. Keeping a steady head on his shoulders through a long career, never involved in controversy or scandals, this man has been a brilliant ambassador of the sport. His energy and enthusiasm still clearly visible on the field, obviously someone who was born to do this one thing – play cricket and score loads of runs!  
With the territory comes the amazing adulation of his fans, who seek to take personal joy in each of his achievements. He has had his critics and they have been silenced time and again with the very responsive willow he wields. Sometimes these critics have had to change perceptions, thanks to sophisticated statistical analysis of cricket records. It is now almost a rudimentary marketing tactic for a book written about cricket to include in its sales promotion some criticism of Sachin Tendulkar. It does certainly get attention for the book, although not sure if it sells more prints as a consequence.  

Long may he continue! He is still looking in command on the pitch. After a few months rest, he is looking fitter, with reflexes in tune to deal with the 90mph speedsters. However, I submit to you that the Little Master is probably now staring at his final Everest of batting records.
For any ardent follower of the game, this may not be new, yet to summarize some key batting records that Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar of India holds, include:

  • Most International matches featured (Test 182, 300 innings; ODI 453, 442 innings). Underestimated, but an amazing record in itself, of longevity and form. Never once dropped for lack of form in the last 22 years. 
  • Most career runs in Test Matches 15,048 and ODI 18,111, giving a total over 33,000 international runs. This is miles ahead of the next best.
  • Most international centuries with 51 in tests and 48 in ODI, now standing at a total of 99 international centuries. The next best is Ricky Ponting at 69 centuries.
  • Sachin also holds the record for the highest runs in an ODI innings at 200 n.o.
  • Ironically, he also has the highest number of scores in the 90s in internationals. A total of 27, from 18 in ODI and 9 in Tests. Just take a moment to wonder, what if?

But then even for this giant of batting there are a few important records which are now a bridge too far. These belong to other big names and legends of the game. They will remain so, when Sachin does hang up his gloves. Records that come to mind are Brain Lara’s highest knock of 400 n.o., Don Bradman’s career test average of 99.94, as also his 12 career double centuries. There are several other records in this hugely statistical sport of ours, but these are the real big mountains.  
In the recently concluded test match at Delhi, Sachin clearly became conscious of the opportunity and pressed on the pedal. Instead of playing on merit, as he was doing so comfortably, he began to take risks and manufacture shots, clearly in an effort to reach his 100th century before the winning target was breached. In this effort, he even missed a leg bye, to ensure strike for the rest of the Bishoo over, and perished in trying to force the pace.
Unfortunate but true, the Master is feeling the pressure, eager to reach this last Everest. Is he seeking independence from the pressure of this final frontier?  The expectations of his fans have always been his shadow, so it is something from within that woke up the devil on the shoulder at Delhi.   
In the near future Sachin Tendulkar, his family, his team mates and all his fans will celebrate this amazing feat of 100 international centuries. What I am really looking forward to are the matches and series that will follow! The feeling of independence, and the final innings of the Sachin career will begin then, and don’t be surprised if it is more exciting than the last 22 years.

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