Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What a year!

"So what do I wish for my hero in the future – well if wishes were horses then I would want him to score atleast 15,000 runs in test cricket (well that’s only 2227 runs away), complete a century of international centuries (only 14 more to get!), to break Lara’s record of the highest test score of 400* (it’s sad that Sachin hasn’t got a triple ton till date…) and break Saeed Anwar’s record of the highest ODI score of 194 (well Sachin came close in Hyderabad scoring 186* (150b) on 8th Nov 1999 – a game I was priviledged to have watched at the Lal Bahadur Stadium)… but above all else, he must win India the World Cup (his stature demands it!)."

I wrote the down this fantastic wishlist on 20th September 2009 when Sachin completed his two decades in International Cricket - at the time, I did not imagine that in just over a year down the line, playing his 21st season for India, at 37, my hero would achieve almost all of the above.

To say that 2010 has been an incredible year is the understatement of the year!  

In Oct 2010, Sachin who made history  by becoming the first batsman to score 14,000 runs in Test cricket, says his desire to improve remains as intense as it has ever been. Currently he has 14500+ runs closing in on my first wish of 15000 test runs! Here's the Master getting past 14000:

Instead of struggling for form with advancing age, SRT has had the most prolific year of his Test career in 2010  - He has made 1,532 runs in thirteen Tests this year (with one more match of the three-Test series in South Africa scheduled for this year, Tendulkar has opportunity to surpass Mohammad Yousuf's record of 1,768 runs in a calendar year set in 2006 - hey he needs just 257 runs) at an amazing average of over 85 runs per innings with 7 centuries including the 50th of his Test career last Sunday (19th December 2010 - Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar became the first batsman to score a monumental 50 centuries in the 133-year history of Test cricket. No other batsman has scored more than 39 Test centuries) - and he insists rather than considering retirement he has many more goals to fulfill...that's good news for me then because with 46 ODI tons and 50 Test tons, he is now just 4 away from my second wish of 100 International Tons (even Curtley Ambrose thinks so!)

Sachin's 50th Test Century

Now on to my 4th wish - in February 2010, a few days before his 37th Birthday (and one day after my 29th!), Sachin scored the first double century in ODIs thus eclipsing Saeed Anwar's record! What a birthday gift!

Tendulkar's record-breaking ODI double century has found a place in the Time magazine's top 10 sports moments of the year. "Certain sports milestones seem simply unreachable: In cricket, it's the one-day double-hundred: no man had ever produced 200 runs for his team during a one-day international match," 'The Time' said. "In February, however, India's Sachin Tendulkar, the greatest run scorer of all-time, hit the magic milestone against a powerful South African squad.

Sachin's ODI 200

"Tendulkar smacked three 'sixes' - the cricket equivalent of a home run - during his epic performance, and the build up to 200 was exhilarating.When he reached 199, the home crowd in Gwalior waved Indian flags, and roared, knowing they were about to witness history. The diminutive Tendulkar, dubbed "The Little Master," slapped a single past the South African fielders. The world's 1.5 billion cricket fans had a moment they'd never forget," it said.

So with 50 Test tons, 46 ODI tons and over 32,000 runs in the bag, here's what his record currently looks like:

(Also, check out this link for his CV!)

With all this and more, is it any surprise that Sachin won the ICC Cricketer of the year?!

Sachin @ the ICC Cricket Awards

And in February 2011, the entire country (including his coach, Achrekar Sir) will be willing him to lead India to World Cup victory.

Well at least Lara's 400 is safe for now - I'll settle for a triple ton or two. If wishes were horses...

Sachin 50th century: India hails Tendulkar

India on Monday celebrated the record-breaking feats of Sachin Tendulkar after the champion batsman scored an unprecedented 50th Test century.
"... shut your eyes, blank out the noise and whisper gently, '50 Test centuries'. Enjoy the way it slips off your tongue and ask yourself if you had ever considered it possible. I hadn't. A decade ago I wrote, 'Would I be considered a madman if I forced the word "fifty" from my lips!'" - Commentator and television presenter Harsha Bhogle savours the moment

President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh led the glowing tributes even as India lost the first cricket Test against South Africa at Centurion. Tendulkar remained unbeaten on 111,

But Indians back home appeared little concerned by the team's precarious position in the Test, confirming the widely held belief that defeat did not matter as long as Tendulkar scored a century.(Click here to watch the video)

The 37-year-old is the most prolific batsman in history with a record 46 one-day hundreds to go with his 50 Test centuries since he entered the international arena back in 1989.

"It is an amazing achievement to play for the country for over two decades and still continue to be the team's anchor," Prime Minister Singh said. "Sachin makes all of us so very proud."

The 50-ton feat was flashed on the front pages of leading newspapers and television channels rounded up past and present cricketers to speak on the batsman they compared to the legendary Don Bradman of Australia.

"Don of a new era" screamed the front page of the Times of India, which devoted three pages to the master's achievements under catchy headlines like "Batman Forever" and "Sachincredible".

"Legend, 50 times over” a newspaper wrote on its front page, while another headlined its story "Sachin cricket enters 51st century".

Tendulkar's consistency over a 21-year period earned high praise with former captain Sourav Ganguly calling him the "best batsman ever" ahead of the late Bradman, who retired in 1948 with a Test batting average of 99.94.


"For him, a Test match begins two days earlier, preparing for it. He wants to face the maximum number of balls at the nets. You will not see him play a loose shot at the nets." - Gary Kirsten, India's coach, praises Tendulkar's work ethic
"The only challenge he has is to beat himself every time he walks out there because he has done almost everything." - There's little left for Tendulkar to achieve, says Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara

"There wouldn't be one side in the world that wouldn't want Sachin as their first wicket, pointing their ship toward victory." - Former Australia opener Matthew Hayden presents the opposition's point of view

"I try to watch the matches in which he is playing because I have not seen anyone gifted with such natural technical batting excellence, which he has combined with his hard work and commitment. He is indeed a phenomena and a role model for every young batsman." - Hanif Mohammad, the former Pakistan batsman, admires Tendulkar's perseverance
"I've never imagined that someone can go this level and play for more than 20 years. It's an incredible feat." - Graeme Pollock is impressed by Tendulkar's longevity
"I'd like to ask him just how he has managed to work so hard to stay at the top for so long and what advice he'd give other sportsmen." - The fastest man on earth, Usain Bolt, is a fan

"If I'm a cricketer, it's because of Sachin Tendulkar. Else, I would have never picked up a bat. He's the reason behind me playing cricket." - Virender Sehwag gives us another reason to be thankful for Tendulkar

Twitter reactions to Sachin Tendulkar becoming the first batsman to make 50 Test centuries
Sanjay Manjrekar: "He has got it finally! and judging from his reaction..meant a lot to him...the 50th test ton..this is one record that is there to stay."
Harsha Bhogle: "All great players redefine their profession.50 Test hundreds was considered unthinkable. Sachin has done it."
Yuvraj Singh: "Greatest achievement by a bats man ever! His name is sachinnnnnnn tendulkarrrrrrrrrr!! Wooohooooooooo."
Iain O'Brien: "Congrats you little massive legend!"


Centurion: The mind went back to the 1999 World Cup in England.Sachin Tendulkar had to rush back to India after losing his father midway through the event.Tendulkar stayed in Mumbai for two days,then returned to England to do duty for the country and promptly score a century,against Kenya.Upon reaching three figures,Tendulkar looked heavenwards,stood still for a moment before acknowledging the cheers from the fans.He later said that he was looking upwards,hoping his father would have seen him do well and would be proud of his son.

On Sunday,as India celebrated his 50th Test century,Tendulkar again remembered his father.Yesterday (Saturday) was my fathers birthday.I dedicate this century to him.The first thing I thought of after reaching the hundred was my father.

Tendulkar,who thanked his fans for their fabulous support over the years.said he was happy that the landmark is done with.Was he under any pressure because of the huge expectation You guys only created it, Tendulkar said pointing at the media,at the post-match PC.You built the foundation on which I constructed my innings today.

Tendulkar was not sure how he should react when asked about his feelings.Cant say how Im feeling.Im happy... Cant really express how Im feeling.

But when a local journalist asked him if records meant a lot to him,Tendulkar reacted sharply.I play for the love of the game.I have often requested for time out from cricket so that I can come back refreshed and fit.The Board has given me the rest.If I was after records,I wont ask for rest. 

While reiterating that the toss played a crucial role in the Test,Tendulkar said that it could not be an excuse for the team.The conditions were different on different days but weve to take that. He stressed that a good showing in the second innings was essential for India.We needed to send a strong message that were here to fight and I think we've done that.

What about his prolific batting in 2010 in which he has seven centuries in 13 Tests Tendulkars simple explanation was,Ive been playing well,been enjoying my batting.And in the last couple of years,Ive been moving well. Tendulkar also spoke to his fans back home in Hindi and Marathi before letting the TV cameras swarm all over him.Tough job,this man has.On the field,and off it.

Tendulkar focussed amid the frenzy

He was in a foreign land. At least a land that has stayed the most foreign to India even after their resurgence away from home. They started chanting "Sachin, Sachin" from the time he guided one past short third man to move to 88. There were whites, there were blacks, there were browns at the grass banks of SuperSport Park, and all they wanted was for Sachin Tendulkar's 50th Test hundred to come in front of them.
It was difficult to not let that affect you, but Tendulkar was in a different sphere. He was trying to save a game, trying to kill time, trying to run through the deficit. He took his time to get to 89, and South Africa tried to cut out boundary-scoring areas. A forward short leg came in, Morne Morkel bowled bouncers - around the helmet area, and into the ribs. Tendulkar kept ducking, the lower ones he kept keeping out; if he was nervous, he wasn't showing it. Against Paul Harris, who has somehow managed to be India's nemesis, he hit a straight six to send the crowd into frenzy again.
The chants started again. When at 97, he faced another flurry of bouncers. One of them went for five wides. Ten deliveries he spent on 97. Then came Dale Steyn. He got an inside-edge past midwicket to move to 99. Then he squirted one between cover and extra cover, celebrating as he ran the 100th run. Not extravagantly. The helmet came off, the back arched a bit, and he looked up to the skies.
Tendulkar later spoke of the moment when he reached the milestone. "The first thing obviously I thought of was my father because I wanted to do it for him," he said. "Yesterday was his birthday, and I would like to dedicate this to him."
Tendulkar didn't know what to make of the landmark. Perhaps the match situation - India are on the verge of a defeat despite his and MS Dhoni's effort - had something to do with it. Perhaps it is taking time to sink in. "I don't know. I am okay. It's just another number for me. It's nice. Obviously I can't say I am not happy, I am happy. But I don't know how to express this. It's good that it has come. Hopefully it doesn't stop, it continues."
Tendulkar remembered his first Test that was played against an attack that comprised three greats. He was quick to remind the reporters of Abdul Qadir's presence too, to go with Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Imran Khan. "It was challenging," he said. "I thoroughly enjoyed it. I learned a lot on that tour and whenever I have played them. It's been a fantastic contest." 
Tendulkar has had a bumper 2010, this being his seventh Test century to go with the only double-century in the history of ODIs. Of his remarkable form, he said: "Just been batting and enjoying. Sometime you are striking the ball really well and that is when you need to cash in as much as possible. I only try to do that. I felt that the last couple of years I have been moving well. Also the frame of mind. It's a habit, and once you build that habit, it's a good habit to carry on tours and back home in India as well."
Tendulkar also reiterated that records have just happened to come his way while he has been doing what he loves the most. "I am playing for the love of it," he said. "If I was chasing records, I wouldn't have missed those one-day matches in between. I have had to pace myself. I thought I was not in top physical condition, and I needed some break and requested the board for the rest so I stay fresh. If I were chasing records, I wouldn't have done that. Its about producing quality cricket, and that's what I want to do."

He’s made a habit of making the impossible seem possible | Harsha Bhogle

 Like with all timeless works of art it is time to shut all the other senses and focus on the purity and indeed, the enormity, of what Sachin Tendulkar has achieved. So shut your eyes, blank out the noise and whisper gently, “50 Test centuries”. Enjoy the way it slips off your tongue and ask yourself if you had ever considered it possible. I hadn’t. A decade ago I wrote “would I be considered a madman if I forced the word ‘fifty’ from my lips!”

Fifty Test match centuries tests your perspective. Sometimes you look at the present and imagine the future, economists do that for a living and dreamers for a pastime, and only sometimes does it come true.
When 300 wickets were taken people thought they had seen history and were blessed, when the 34th hundred was scored, we thought this might stay for posterity.

Then Muralitharan took 800, now Tendulkar hits a 50th....will the sensex hit 50,000? Will they run a mile in under three minutes? Tendulkar is a bit like that. You think you have seen all he has to offer over 21 years and he plants his flag on another peak.

Well into his 38th year, he is playing as well as ever before and earlier this year he told an interviewer he was looking at ways to take his game to another level.

Unless our sense of perspective is sorely tested, he will be very lonely there.
His 50th has come in a land where,
historically, India haven’t done too well and he himself hasn’t quite matched his feats elsewhere. It is unlikely he will tour South Africa for a Test series again (though we said that in Australia in 2007-8 when they gave him a standing ovation at every centre!!) and it is just like him to produce the big landmark there.

Briefly, in a phase when the UDRS might just have got him once, he played with everyone’s insecurity when he started prodding against Paul Harris, a good steady spinner to whom he seemed to assign a Warne-like status. Around this time his supporters were hoping he played the quicks instead; even Steyn for Harris might have been welcome. Then, he embraced the Tendulkar of his youth by charging Harris and storming into the 90s. It was a defining shot.

Then in the 90s, he sent Dhoni back and the captain ran more than two halves of the pitch. He was showing he wanted it desperately; even great hearts miss a beat!

The South Africans slowed things down, Steyn was recalled and his bootlaces took an awfully long time to do. But Tendulkar would have preferred pace on the ball and dutifully the 50th arrived.

But it could not obscure the fact that India blew it in the first innings; that only the weather can save them from defeat. For all the records it bestows on individuals, cricket remains at heart a team sport. A series win would still be a greater result.

Four are now needed for a hundred hundreds. It used to be the rarest of rare career landmarks. Tendulkar will do that in international cricket alone.

The mind will continue to boggle. We will have seen him a million times and yet we will look at him differently. Like we do today.

Fab@50: Sachin Creates History, At A Place Aptly Called Centurion

Sunday 19th December 2010

Centurion (South Africa):  In a year when adjectives like ‘biggest’ and ‘unprecedented’ were mostly used to describe scams, it was left to India’s sportspersons to provide cheer to the nation with their stirring feats. It is fitting, therefore, for 2010 to draw to a close with a stupendous achievement by a hero who has epitomized sporting perfection for over two decades and given millions of Indians countless moments of pride and joy.

Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar went where no cricketer ever had before — and no else may ever venture — when he scored his 50th Test ton on Sunday. It’s a staggering achievement that reopens the debate about whether he’s the greatest batsman ever, surpassing even the legendary Sir Don Bradman, who was famously reminded of himself while watching the Indian genius in action. It was a fitting moment in many ways. After three disappointing home Tests against New Zealand when the master failed to reach the three-figure mark, it came on a bigger stage — against South Africa in South Africa, as Team India battled to avoid an innings defeat in a match-up between the world’s two top Test teams. 

It was a century that the entire nation was eagerly awaiting from Sachin Tendulkar and he ensured that Indians had a 'Super Sunday' as he completed a historic 50th Test century against South Africa at the Centurion.

The moment Sachin found a gap through the extra cover region to push a Dale Steyn delivery for a single, the entire stadium stood up to salute one of the true legends of the game. 

It is Sachin's 175th Test match --- most by any player in the history of the game. It took him four Test matches to reach the milestone after having scored his 49th against Australia in October this year. (Click here to watch the video)

He played 197 deliveries and 258 minutes to reach the milestone. He hit 12 boundaries and a big six over long-off with left-arm spinner Paul Harris being the sufferer. This is his seventh century in the year 2010.
If some of the Indian players like Sreesanth were seen saluting Sachin on his achievement, South African players like skipper Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla congratulated the maestro.
M S Dhoni, the man who was at the other end when Sachin became the first batsman to hit 200 in an ODI, was again at the non-striker’s end on Sunday. In both cases, the landmark was achieved off a speed merchant who’s probably the most lethal in the business right now — Dale Steyn. They would have been special moments even if they’d come against lesser bowlers, but it was appropriate that they should come against another champion.
A gentle push to cover, a few quick steps towards the non-striker’s end and history was made at the SuperSport Park, at a venue aptly called Centurion. Almost from the day he made his debut some 21 years ago, Sachin had seemed destined to get 50 Test centuries. Still, when the moment arrived, it prompted goosebumps, tears and loud cheering across the world. 

As Sachin took off his helmet and looked skywards before throwing his arms up in his now trademark gesture, the stadium stood up as one to clap. Suddenly, tricolours were proudly fluttering in different parts of the ground. 

It was another great knock in a year that has seen Tendulkar harvest over 1,500 runs with seven centuries and an average in excess of 85 from 13 Tests.
For the man himself, the century was but a brief stop in a long journey as he strove to pull off a miracle for India — a most unlikely draw in the first Test against South Africa. Or, at least, some honour in defeat. While India are more or less finished, 30 runs behind with two wickets standing at 454/8 as a snap shower ended the day's play, Tendulkar was still not done. He is there, unconquered on 107 (226 balls, 13 fours, 1 six).
For a major part of the day, Tendulkar had to wage a lonely battle as a humiliating defeat loomed. India, shot out for 136 runs in the first innings, began the day at 190/2. When Tendulkar came to the middle after nightwatchman Ishant Sharma’s dismissal about 45 minutes into play, India still needed 270 to avoid a loss by an innings. The little master battled on even though Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Suresh Raina left without any substantial contribution.
Finally, skipper M S Dhoni stepped up and lent the support Sachin was looking for.With Dhoni looking assured at the other end,a relaxed Tendulkar worked his way towards the landmark. Anticipation at the stadium grew more intense with every run he scored. And it was an uneasy tea break when Tendulkar went in at 80. 

But the maestro soothed nerves when play resumed with two crisp fours to move to 88. At 89, he launched Paul Harris into the stands. A couple of nudges here and there got him to 99. History was made off the next ball...

The Centurion
  1. Most 100s against an opponent: 11 v Australia.
  2. Most 100s in a calendar year: 7 in 2010.
  3. Most 100s on a ground: 5 at Chepauk (Chennai).
  4. Most 100s in a country: 22 in India (the most he has scored outside India is 6 in Australia).
  5. Most 100s on a particular position: 43 at number 4 (he has hit 5 at No. 5 and 2 at No. 6).
  6. Most 100s under a captain: 15 under Mohammad Azharuddin (in 47 matches).
  7. Result-wise summary of 100s: 20 in matches won, 19 in matches drawn and 10 in matches lost.
  8. Break-up of 100s at home and abroad : 22 at home, 28 abroad.
  9. Innings-wise break-up of Tendulkar’s 100s: 20 in first innings of match, 17 in second innings of match, 10 in third innings of match and 3 in fourth innings of match.
The A-Z of Sachin Tendulkar's 50 Test centuries around the globe. Some venues are distinct favourites...
Start Date
Adelaide Oval
January 24, 2008
Sardar Patel Stadium, Ahmedabad
New Zealand
October 29, 1999
Sardar Patel Stadium, Ahmedabad
December 11, 2001
Sardar Patel Stadium, Ahmedabad
Sri Lanka
November 16, 2009
M.Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore
October 9, 2010
M.Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore
March 25, 1998
Edgbaston, Birmingham
June 6, 1996
OUTsurance Oval, Bloemfontein
South Africa
November 3, 2001
Newlands, Cape Town
South Africa
January 2, 1997
107 (batting)
SuperSport Park, Centurion
South Africa
December 19, 2010
MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai
February 11, 1993
MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai
March 6, 1998
MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai
January 28, 1999
MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai
March 18, 2001
MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai
December 11, 2008
Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Chittagong
January 17, 2010
Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Chittagong
May 18, 2007
R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo
Sri Lanka
August 2, 1997
Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo
Sri Lanka
July 26, 2010
Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo
Sri Lanka
August 9, 1997
Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo
Sri Lanka
February 24, 1999
Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo
Sri Lanka
July 27, 1993
Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi
November 18, 2000
Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi
Sri Lanka
December 10, 2005
Bangabandhu National Stadium, Dhaka
December 10, 2004
Bangabandhu National Stadium, Dhaka
January 24, 2010
Bangabandhu National Stadium, Dhaka
May 25, 2007
Seddon Park, Hamilton
New Zealand
March 18, 2009
The Wanderers, Johannesburg
South Africa
November 26, 1992
Eden Gardens, Kolkata
West Indies
October 30, 2002
Eden Gardens, Kolkata
South Africa
February 14, 2010
Headingley, Leeds
August 22, 2002
K.D.Singh 'Babu' Stadium, Lucknow
Sri Lanka
January 18, 1994
Old Trafford, Manchester
August 9, 1990
Melbourne Cricket Ground
December 26, 1999
Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali
New Zealand
October 10, 1999
Multan Cricket Stadium
March 28, 2004
Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
Sri Lanka
December 3, 1997
Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground, Nagpur
November 25, 2000
Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground, Nagpur
West Indies
December 1, 1994
Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground, Nagpur
February 21, 2002
Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground, Nagpur
November 6, 2008
Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground, Nagpur
South Africa
February 6, 2010
Trent Bridge, Nottingham
July 4, 1996
W.A.C.A. Ground, Perth
February 1, 1992
Queen's Park Oval, Port of Spain
West Indies
April 19, 2002
Sydney Cricket Ground
January 2, 2004
Sydney Cricket Ground
January 2, 2008
Sydney Cricket Ground
January 2, 1992
Basin Reserve, Wellington
New Zealand
December 26, 1998

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Group Captain Sachin Tendulkar

New Delhi: The Air Force has conferred the honorary rank of Indan Air Force Group Captain on Sachin in recognition of his achievements as an Indian and a cricketer.

Accepting the Air Force's honour, Sachin described it as "the greatest honour being bestowed on me...we all want to at some stage touch the sky. "

He also said he liked wearing aviator glasses after watching Tom Cruise in Top Gun.

"As a teenager, I was fond of fighter planes, super bikes. But I had the privilege of getting into a fighter plane in 1996 in South Africa...I have never revealed this before but I was really scared."

In June, a formal statement from Rashtrapati Bhawan said "as the supreme commander of the armed forces of India", President Pratibha Patil had decided to include Sachin "under the provision of grant of honorary rank by armed forces to eminent personalities acknowledging their contribution towards the nation."

Tendulkar will function like a brand ambassador, and is expected to inspire many young men and women to join the air force.

The big scores || Gulu Ezekiel - 3

Exclusive pre-publication extracts

Researching and writing on the life of the "greatest living Indian" has been a long and wondrous journey. I am delighted that my publishers, Penguin India have been with me all the way. Sachin Tendulkar is not only the world's greatest batsman. He is also a very special person.

To be so high profile in a sport which comes under such intense scrutiny in India and yet remain a role model is perhaps his greatest achievement.

I am delighted that htcricket.com, India's leading cricket portal is carrying exclusive excerpts from my book. I hope you, the reader enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Select chapters from the book will appear till May 20. So keep tuned in. The book published by Penguin India is scheduled to be on the stands by June 15.

''I always wanted this double very badly"

By October 1999 Sachin Tendulkar was back in the team after his enforced break. His first Test series was at home against New Zealand, a relatively soft start to his second innings as captain-or should one say, follow on? Tendulkar was joined in his first Test back in charge by a new coach, Kapil Dev who had taken over from Anshuman Gaekwad.

Kapil Dev had been with Tendulkar in his debut series, in Pakistan in 1989 and the two were known to be pretty close. It was hoped this would open a new chapter in Indian cricket and that the dynamic Kapil could transfer his magic as a player into his new role as coach.

Their first day in office was a shocker however. On a slightly damp pitch at Mohali, Stephen Fleming won the toss, put India into bat and they were shot out for a shocking 83 in a mere 27 overs. Tendulkar (18) was one of only three batsmen to reach double figures. New Zealand's lead was 132 and that was wiped off by new openers Devang Gandhi and S. Ramesh in the second innings.

This time the top five all crossed 50 and two reached double figures, Rahul Dravid and the captain himself. At times it appeared he was batting from memory. Indeed, the very first ball from Nathan Astle he survived a huge appeal for lbw that was turned down by Sri Lankan umpire Peter Manuel.

Eventually India declared at 505 for three wickets-the first time in Tests that a side dismissed for under 100 in their first innings had crossed 500 in the second. His 20th century was a sketchy one, understandable perhaps due to his lack of batting practice. He hung around for than six and a half hours and got the benefit of numerous lbw appeals.

It took a stubborn 73 by captain Stephen Fleming in the second innings to stave off defeat as the visitors struggled to 251 for seven.

The Indian victory was duly delivered by her spin bowlers in the next Test at Kanpur. India coasted to victory by eight wickets with the captain himself rattling off 44 not out from 39 balls in the second innings of 83 for two. The third and final Test at Ahmedabad should have been a triumph for both Tendulkar and the team. Instead, after scoring his first Test double century in a decade, Tendulkar confounded one and all and courted controversy by his refusal to enforce the follow-on after leading by 275 runs.

The match petered out into a draw and India took the series 1-0. The question of why the follow-on was not enforced was later taken up by the CBI in their investigation into match-fixing and corruption in Indian cricket (see Chapter 29).

The coach and captain would eventually be exonerated of all wrongdoing late in 2001.

It was not till 1998 that Sachin recorded his first double-century in first-class cricket. That was for Mumbai against the touring Australians. It had taken him five years to score his maiden ODI century and now after 10 years came his first Test double ton. The New Zealand attack may not have been the most potent in international cricket. But after all the pain and trauma resulting from the back injury, this was indeed a sweet way to announce to the world of cricket that he was back at his best.

India were 311 for three on the first day at Ahmedabad with S. Ramesh out for 110 and Tendulkar batting on 104. He had been dropped at short third man by Astle on 93. Fleming said that his team might pay a price for that lapse and that is precisely what happened. The runs continued to pile up with Ganguly joining in the fun with 125. The stand with Tendulkar for the fourth wicket was an Indian record 281 and the total 583 for seven declared.

There had been much talk that Tendulkar neither had the stamina nor the application to convert his bagful of Test tons into double centuries.

Now he answered his critics with his longest innings yet, 494 minutes in all during which he scored 217 from 343 balls. It was another psychological breakthrough, overtaking his previous highest of 179 against the West Indies at Nagpur in 1994. Sunil Gavaskar's Indian record of 236 not out was in sights when he was dismissed by a brilliant catch shortly after tea on the second day. It was a full-blooded pull off left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori which was held inches off the ground at mid-wicket by Nash. The batsman lingered and waited for the umpire's decision as he was not sure the ball had carried to the fielder.

The 200 was reached when he placed Vettori to mid-on for a single. Non-striker Ajay Jadeja raced back to congratulate his captain. Sachin looked heavenwards in thanks. The Motera Stadium was once again witness to a milestone.

This was the same ground where Sunil Gavaskar became the first to reach 10,000 runs and where Kapil Dev broke Sir Richard Hadlee's world Test wicket record. Sachin dedicated the double ton to his brother Ajit. "He has been there for me for the past 10 years of international cricket." He said it was only when he crossed 170 did the thought of the 200 enter his mind. "I always wanted this double very badly."

Sadly, the sheen of his achievement soon wore off. New Zealand were dismissed for 308. But India batted again in the second innings, finally declaring on 148 for five. Set 424 to win in a possible 103 overs, New Zealand had no trouble saving the Test and finished on 252 for two.

So why was the follow-on not enforced? The captain and coach's explanation was the four specialist bowlers wanted a rest after toiling in the blazing heat for nearly 10 hours in New Zealand's first innings. Not everyone was convinced. "No captain of an international team wanting to win a Test convincingly would have wished away such a fine chance" (by not enforcing the follow-on) wrote G. Viswanath in The Hindu (November 2, 1999). Ravi Shastri, one of Tendulkar's close friends and business associate admitted he was "befuddled" by the tactics.

Former New Zealand captain Martin Crowe was more scathing in his column dated November 3, 1999 in Rediff.com. "The last thing Test cricket needs is this approach by the Indian captain Sachin Tendulkar. It was a disgrace that the tactical attitude to dismiss the opposition was not as positive as that of the batting."

The delayed declaration in the second innings was also condemned. "It really shocked me that Tendulkar appeared to have to be cajoled by Kapil Dev before he did finally declare." Inexplicably, one of the bowlers who had apparently demanded a break, Javagal Srinath (who bowled 35 overs in the first innings) came out to bat in the second innings and hung around for nearly half an hour to score 19 not out. Both he and the other not out batsman, Jadeja were constantly looking in the direction of the pavilion for the captain to call them in. He did eventually after the second innings had consumed 32 overs, leaving the Indians with only 13 overs to have a go at their opponents on the fourth evening.

Tendulkar justified the tactics in an interview with Vijay Lokapally (The Sportstar, November 20, 1999): " Just spare a thought for the bowlers. They were tired. In the playing XI, we had a couple of players with health problems. There were a couple of others who also carried on despite some health problems. It was extremely hot that day (42 degrees) and they had bowled about 140 overs. Asking them to bowl another 160 at that stage would have meant someone might have had a breakdown. We didn't want that kind of situation and that is why we gave the bowlers a break. They tried their best I would say. Tendulkar finished the series with a 100-plus average and got another chance to gorge himself of the mediocre Kiwi attack in the one-day series that followed. It was a high-scoring series and India were run close. They sealed a 3-2 verdict by winning the final game in New Delhi by seven wickets. It was a pretty mixed bag for the skipper.

In the second match at Hyderabad Tendulkar recorded the highest score by an Indian in ODIs and the fourth highest of all time, 186. But in the other four matches he had scores of 32, 1, 2 and 0. New Zealand had thrashed the Indian bowlers to the tune of a huge 349 for 9 in the first match at Rajkot, the highest ODI total on Indian soil. That record lasted just three days. India's 376 for two was the second highest ODI total of all time and the stand of 331 for the second wicket in 46 overs between Ganguly and Tendulkar the biggest-ever partnership.

Ganguly missed out on the run-riot when bowler Shayne O'Connor deflected Tendulkar's firm push onto the non-striker's stumps with the batsman out of his ground in the second over. Tendulkar carried his bat, in the process erasing Ganguly's previous Indian highest of 183 against Sri Lanka in the 1999 World Cup. There were 20 fours and three sixes from the 150 balls he faced.

He was on 182 when Chris Cairns bowled the last over and there was a huge buzz round the ground. Could he score the 13 needed to surpass Saeed Anwar's world record? It was not to be, though the Indian record was his. The innings was marked by a number of innovative shots behind square leg. He agreed after the innings that his shot selection had changed.

"Your style of batting should not become too predictable and should not be based on some set pattern," he explained. "This change in shot selection has come gradually as far as I am concerned." "The 186 was satisfying not because I set an individual mark. It was satisfying because we won the match. Tomorrow, someone may break the record but people would remember me for the contribution I made in winning the match for India." (The Sportstar, November 20, 1999)

The New Zealanders had acquitted themselves admirably. It was no shame to lose the three-Test series 1-0 and the five-match ODI series 3-2. For Tendulkar and his men the real test was round the corner in Australia where the world Test and ODI champions were lurking.


‘He’s a god in India and people believe luck shines in his hand . . . It is beyond chaos—It is a frantic appeal by a nation to one man.’— Matthew Hayden on Sachin Tendulkar

In the twenty years that he has been in the public eye, Sachin Tendulkar has been explosive on the cricket field and just as reticent off it. He was barely fifteen years old when he first wrote his name into record books with a stupendous 664-run partnership with his childhood friend Vinod Kambli. A few months later, he struck his first century in first-class cricket. At seventeen he became the second youngest man to make a hundred in international cricket, and after that there was no looking back. Today, Sachin is widely regarded as the world’s finest Batsman, with impeccable technique, an incredible array of strokes, and maturity far beyond his years.

In this biography of the hero of Indian cricket, sports writer Gulu Ezekiel mines interviews, press reports and conversations over the last two decades and more to create an accurate and sympathetic account of the man and his first passion: cricket. He tracks Sachin from his childhood when he first caught the bug of cricket, through his early performances in the Ranji Trophy and other domestic tournaments, and follows him on his meteoric rise to international stardom. With unfailing attention to detail, he reconstructs the crucial matches and events that marked Sachin’s career and unravels for us the magic of the charismatic cricketer whom Wisden Cricket Monthly once dubbed ‘bigger than Jesus’.

Tragedy and Tears || Gulu Ezekiel - 2

"It was my mother who prompted me to go and attend the nation's call"

The World Cup returned to England in 1999 after 16 years. It was in 1983 that the Indian team led by Kapil Dev stunned the world by lifting the Prudential World Cup.

The media and the advertising world's hype in India in the run up to world cricket's biggest event was simply mind-boggling. It seemed that every company worth its salt from televisions to soft drinks and everything else in between had spent their annual ad budgets in one massive splurge on cricket. The sum being tossed around was a staggering Rs 250 crores.

Expectations were sky-high and the whole atmosphere surrounding the Indians was one of hysteria and hype that inevitably got the better of reality and logic. This was not a great team and their recent performances at home and at Sharjah were pretty dismal.

The stars of 1983 who had never got the financial rewards which today's players were reaping also had their day in the sun once again. There were re-unions galore and even a match pitting the team of '83 against the team of '99 at Mumbai. Needless to say Sachin Tendulkar was the star with a century. That only confirmed what he said a few years earlier-that he took his batting seriously even in exhibition matches.

Once again Azharuddin lead the team as he had done in 1992 and 1996. There was no doubt in any cricket follower's mind though on whom the team's chances rested.

Tendulkar even made it to the cover of the May 17, 1999 edition of the American news magazine, Time (the Asian edition). Inside the players expected to dominate were profiled.

"The Bombay Bomber's blazing batting performances have earned him comparisons with Diego Maradona-it helps that they are both short, stocky and curly-haired. But unlike the Argentine ace, Tendulkar is a levelheaded, even bland professional who does all his hell-raising at the wicket.

He wields the heaviest bat in the game, both literally and figuratively and is a quick reader of bowlers and wicket conditions. Ask Shane Warne: regarded by most batsmen as unplayable, the leg spinner was brutalized by Tendulkar throughout the 1998 Australian tour of India. Later, Warne said he had nightmares about Tendulkar's flashing blade.

It's difficult to single out a standout Tendulkar performance, as there as so many-and so many to come. He already owns the record for most ODI centuries, and he has at least 10 years ahead of him. Gulp!"

India were in Group A with hosts England, Kenya, South Africa, holders Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.

Group B consisted of Australia, New Zealand, West Indies, Pakistan, Scotland and Bangladesh.

The top three teams from each group would advance to the Super Six stage under a complex system of points and the top four would then go onto the semifinals.

India's opening match at Hove on May 15 was against South Africa, one of the favourites.

India started well after electing to bat first as Tendulkar and Ganguly (97) put on 67 runs. Tendulkar was caught behind off Lance Klusener for 28 just after striking a delightful cover driven boundary and the final total of 253 for five was a challenging one.

Openers Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs were both claimed by Srinath with the score at 22 before Jacques Kallis took over. When he was run out for 96, South Africa needed 27 from 26 balls. Klusener promptly struck his first three deliveries for four and his team were home by four wickets with 2.4 overs to spare.

This was a disappointing start to the Indian campaign. But then South Africa were undoubtedly one of the strongest teams in the tournament. The next match four days later at Leicester was against Zimbabwe and the Indian camp was confident it would earn its first points.

That was not to be. Not only did the African team stun India in a last over thriller, there was an even more shocking piece of news for the Indians the night before the game.

Sachin's father, Dr. Ramesh Tendulkar had died in Mumbai of a heart attack in his home in Bandra late on May 18 at the age of 66. He had been ailing for some time.

My first thought on hearing the news was an instinctive one that must have crossed the minds of millions of Indian cricket fans-would Sachin continue at the World Cup or return home? I immediately felt a pang of guilt and I am sure I was not alone in that either.

Sachin did indeed return to Mumbai to attend his father's funeral and miss the match against Zimbabwe.

He left in the early hours of May 19 with tears in his eyes. Few in the team were aware of this shattering blow. It was coach Anshuman Gaekwad who took the call from Mumbai at 10.30 p.m. local time and was asked to convey the tragic news to Sachin. But he did not have the heart to do so and requested Anjali to perform the difficult task. Both Anjali and daughter Sara were in London at the time. The three took the first available flight home from London early on the morning of the Zimbabwe match.

Ironically it was at Leicester (which has a large Indian population) where Dr. Tendulkar 10 years before had given a lecture on Marathi literature. He had retired six years earlier from Kirti College where he taught Marathi. He had also taught at Sidharth College.

Brothers Ajit and Nitin had been with the team at Hove. They were in Chicago when they received the news.

Even as the demoralised Indians were self-destructing against Zimbabwe, the talk on the street centred round the tragedy. It was as if the nation was in collective grieving for their favourite son.

The players had woken on the morning of May 19, stunned to hear the news and learn of their teammate's distress and departure.

Understandably, Gaekwad was in no mood to ask Sachin if and when he planned to return. There was no pressure from the Board either.

"I know how close he was to his father. We have to wait for the funeral before we can even think of asking him. I shall keep in touch with him", the coach told the reporters from India.

A minute's silence was observed before the match at the Grace Road ground. S. Ramesh had the unenviable task of being asked to replace Tendulkar at the top of the order and did a pretty competent job as he top scored with 55.

All through the flight from London to Mumbai, Sachin's mind was on the progress of his team. One of the flight pursers kept coming to him with the latest score.

"Through him I came to know that we lost closely. I was sorry I could not do anything under the circumstances."

Chasing Zimbabwe's 252 for 9, India who had been docked four overs for a slow over-rate by their old nemesis, match referee 'Cammie' Smith, lost by three runs with their last three wickets thrown away in the final over bowled by Henry Olongo.

Back in Mumbai, the funeral of Prof. Tendulkar was a family affair with just a few close friends (Vinod Kambli and Amol Muzumdar) and Mumbai cricket officials in attendance. The time had been brought forward to dawn to avoid the media scramble. A sign was put outside the family residence of Sahitya Sahawas requesting people not to pay their condolences.

Eldest son Nitin performed the last rites at the Shivaji Park electric crematorium in Central Mumbai. The mourners were personally thanked by Sachin who stood at the exit along with Ajit.

In a touching tribute under the headline: 'God rewarded Prof. Tendulkar' (The Times of India, May 28, 1999), Sunil Gavaskar wrote: "The late Ramesh Tendulkar did not watch too many of his son, Sachin's innings at a cricket ground. Even at home he used to watch the highlights rather that the live coverage on TV.

Now he would have seen how not only millions and millions of Indians but even the Gods stop everything to watch his son play. He now has a special place to see his youngest son go on to become the greatest batsman the world has ever seen."

Gavaskar recalled how Prof Tendulkar (when he was teaching at Sidharth College in the 60s and 70s) helped the cricketers of Bombay University. "He would take extra classes and tuition to these cricketers (who were playing in the inter-varsity Vizzy Trophy) to ensure that they were able to catch up with their studies and get through and not lose a year. So when young Tendulkar started to bat the way he does, plenty of people who knew about the senior Tendulkar's contribution were sure it was God's way of rewarding him with a son as talented as Sachin."

Prof. Tendulkar had last been seen in public with Sachin and Anjali at a cricket awards function in Mumbai a month before his passing.

A low-profile man, he stayed out of the spotlight even as he watched his son grow up to become a national icon.

Someone who knew Prof. Tendulkar for many decades was Atmaram 'Bapu' Bhende, the doyen of Marathi theatre. Mr. Bhende is married to my father's sister, Dr. Asha Bhende and I asked him to share with me his memories.

(In September 2001 when I met Ajit Tendulkar in Mumbai and told him of the relationship his reaction was: "Bapu? He is a great legend")

Mr. Bhende recalled in a letter sent to me in November, 2001 how he first met Ramesh Tendulkar when he invited him to attend a kavi sammelan (poets' meet) organised by the Indian National Theatre (of which he was Secretary of the Marathi section) in the mid-50s.

"I was charmed by his gentle, soft spoken and cordial manner. A true gentleman, ever ready to extend a helping hand to anyone who needed it. I was particularly impressed by his frank but without malice opinions of the work of other poets. I was particularly interested in bringing together budding poets with the specific intention of bringing them into the limelight. Ramesh Tendulkar was helpful in identifying such poets and contacting them…Those who knew Ramesh Tendulkar intimately, know that Sachin's modesty is a gift from his father."

"I met Ramesh quite accidentally just a few days before his untimely death. We were both invited to a suburban college literary function. The car organised by them first picked up Ramesh and then arrived at my residence. Ramesh rushed into my living room and we met like two long lost friends. Certainly, a moment to cherish. And remember, Ramesh had not changed-the same handsome face, winsome smile, the same warmth, the same genuine friendliness. The long years in between just melted away.

"One seldom comes across such a straightforward and unassuming person, who in reality had so much to boast of! His death was not only a great loss to his family and the Marathi literary world, but also to his large circle of friends, admirers and well wishers."

Since his death, his children have brought out his Marathi poems in book form. The eldest, Nitin's poetry writing was obviously inspired by his father.

The Indian World Cup campaign appeared to be heading for an early and inglorious end after two defeats in the first two matches.

In India there were strident calls for Azharuddin to be axed before the next game against Kenya on May 23. Passions were running high and the phone calls from viewers to the morning television show I was hosting were getting increasingly irate and abusive.

I realised just how ugly things were becoming when a furious fan at a petrol station near the studios accosted me. He was demanding to know why I was calling for the Indian captain to be retained. It was all getting out of control.

Back in Mumbai, Sachin had made the decision to fly back to England. It came as a huge relief no doubt for the team and its followers. For 24 hours after his father's funeral it seemed no one could talk of anything else.

At the Times of India office in the heart of New Delhi, traffic came to a standstill.

'Sachin flying back' was the headline on the giant electronic bulletin board. Buses and cars screeched to a halt, people stood and stared as if they could not believe their eyes. Salvation for the beleaguered Indians was on its way.

"It was my mother who prompted me to go and attend the nation's call. She said even my father would have liked me to go and do my duty," Tendulkar told reporters at Heathrow Airport on his arrival back in England the morning before the crucial game against Kenya. "I realise this match is important and we are keen to make a winning impression. We have to win all three matches and keep the hopes of our supporters high. It's not going to be easy to put behind the tragedy and concentrate on the job at hand."

Tendulkar added: "The entire country wanted me to play. The World Cup is very important to India. I therefore completed all formalities and took the first available flight to be here with the team.

Gaekwad marveled at Sachin's composure and said he had no words to describe his star player's gesture. "We will do everything to keep Sachin's mind occupied. In any case, he is a restless person."

"I thought he might make it for the match against Sri Lanka on May 26. Even in this hour of grief Sachin could not resist coming to the rescue of the team which, as has been proved, cannot do without this man."

Ten days into the World Cup and the first century had been recorded. That it was scored by a man who had attended his father's funeral just a few days earlier was a monumental tribute to the skills, the discipline and the mental strength of the world's best batsman.

India won by 94 runs to breath fresh life into her campaign to reach the next stage. A full house at Bristol (8,508) gave Tendulkar three standing ovations-first when he walked to the crease, then when he reached his 22nd century and finally when he walked off with fellow-centurion Rahul Dravid at the end of India's innings of 329 for two-Tendulkar on 140 and Dravid on 104. The stand of 237 unbroken in 29 overs was the highest ever in the World Cup (till India's next match against Sri Lanka).

This was his first ODI century that had not come as an opener. After his half-century against Zimbabwe it was decided to retain Ramesh as Ganguly's opening partner.

The first 50 came in 54 balls, the second took 30. A look heavenwards in silent tribute to his father marked the completion of the masterly century. "I just looked up. It's very difficult to explain what I felt." The last ball of the innings was flicked disdainfully over mid-wicket for six, just as Viv Richards had done in the 1979 World Cup final.

The century was dedicated to his father. Chocking with emotion at the post-match awards ceremony-even Tony Greig appeared overcome when interviewing him---he said he had been motivated by his mother's words when he reached Mumbai for the funeral.

"The first question my mother asked me was whey did I come back. She said even your father would have wanted you stay on. I had gone home because I was committed to my family. Similarly, I also have commitment towards my country and countrymen."

He admitted it had not been his best hundred. "But under the circumstances it was special."

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee sent a congratulatory fax to the Man of the Match.

"Not only did you not let the deep personal loss caused by your father's sudden demise deter you but you actually used it as an inspiration to scale another summit in cricketing excellence. The whole of India is proud of you."

Less than three years later, another tragedy would cast its shadow across Tendulkar's life.

India duly won their next two matches against Sri Lanka and England to make it to the Super Six.

They were joined by Zimbabwe and South Africa from Group A and Australia, Pakistan and New Zealand from Group B.

Australia simply blew away India in the first of the match in the Super Stage game. The big breakthrough came when Glenn McGrath had Tendulkar caught behind for his fist duck in 22 innings with just one run on the board. His three previous innings against Australia had produced centuries.

Australia had piled up 282 for six. No team had scored 283 to win an ODI in England and now with his first four overs McGrath ensured it would not happen at The Oval either. India were staggering at 17 for four and were all out for 205.

India's chances of qualifying for the semifinals were now all but dead. But their next match against Pakistan took on an extra edge. The conflict in Kargil was still raging back home and the Old Trafford authorities were concerned over a flare-up between rival spectators.

It never happened and India won a tense match by 47 runs. It was the third time India and Pakistan had met in the World Cup and each time India had come out on top. Tendulkar was back in the opener's slot and blazed briefly for 45.

Despite the win, India were playing only for pride in their final match against New Zealand who had to win to reach the last four. That is just what they did.

Australia would go onto win the World Cup for the second time, beating Pakistan in a lop-sided final.

The Indian campaign had started and ended with a whimper. In between there were some wonderful moments, notably Tendulkar's century against Kenya and the victories over England and Pakistan. But overall their cricket was disappointing and lacked consistency, as always. All that pre-tournament hysteria rapidly fizzled out.

Tendulkar's form too was patchy. He had 253 runs at 42.17. But under the circumstances, it was a huge credit to him that he made it back at all after his father's loss.