Monday, December 24, 2012

The Seven Phases of Sachin Tendulkar's ODI Career | Srinivas Bhogle - Castrol Cricket

The Master Blaster’s super career has our expert giving you an analysis of the legend’s journey to the pinnacle of world cricket.

There will never be a better ODI batsman than Sachin Tendulkar: 453 matches, 48 centuries including ODI cricket’s only double century, 95 fifties, 18111 runs, 20980 balls faced, average of 45.16, strike rate of 86.33 … no one can scale those peaks!

But while it is easy to agree that Tendulkar is the best, a more interesting question would be: when was Tendulkar himself at his best?

We’re going to argue here that there have so far been seven phases in Tendulkar’s ODI career.

The first phase (Dec 1989 - Mar 1994) was characterized by uncertainty – almost as if the team didn’t know what to do with this young bundle of talent. In 66 innings, he got 12 fifties, 13 sixes, but not a single century! His batting average was 30.8 and strike rate was 74.4. While that might have been better than Sanjay Manjrekar’s strike rate, it still wasn’t good enough.

The second phase (Mar 1994 - Dec 1997) – a phase of discovery – began with Tendulkar offering to open the innings against New Zealand at Auckland after Sidhu was injured. Taking advantage of field restrictions, and short square boundaries, Tendulkar scored a blistering 82 in 49 balls – and left everyone wondering why he hadn’t been asked to open before. He also began lofting the ball freely, averaging 0.44 sixes per match. In this break free phase, Tendulkar’s average jumped to 43.4 in 101 innings and his strike rate climbed to an impressive 86.6. He also started scoring centuries – in fact 12 of them.

The third phase (Jan 1998 – Dec 1999) was explosive. Tendulkar was batting with the sort of aggression and authority never seen before in ODI cricket. In just 24 months, he scored 2737 runs in just 2805 balls. A strike rate of a run-a-ball was considered beyond the reach of mere mortals those days. In 55 innings, Tendulkar averaged 55.9, hit 54 sixes, and slammed 12 more centuries, including those two magical hundreds against Australia in the Sharjah desert storm.

Tendulkar was masterly during the fourth phase (Jan 2000 – Dec 2003) but always stayed a notch below his Mount Everest. He still averaged 50.8 over 90 innings, he again scored 12 centuries, he could still briefly climb the top peak – as he did when he scored 98 against Pakistan in that World Cup game – but the smallest of dips in form was now apparent. His strike rate dropped to 86.3 – unarguably excellent, but no longer superlative. And his number of sixes dropped from 1 per innings to about 1 in 3 innings.

The fifth phase (Jan 2004 – Dec 2006) was the most trying in Tendulkar’s ODI career. As injuries hit him in quick succession, the great player was driven by doubt and ravaged by pain. For a small – and mercifully brief – period, Tendulkar batted like a mere mortal: he scored 1852 runs in 53 innings to average 37.8 with a strike rate of just 78.4 and with just 4 centuries. It was painful to watch – and when Ian Chappell suggested that the master’s time was up, we felt the aching grief that accompanies the impending departure of someone truly beloved.

The sixth phase (Jan 2007 – Dec 2008) was one of rejuvenation. Almost everyone wrote him off (remember Times of India’s ‘Endulkar?’ headline), but Tendulkar himself didn’t. Showing the sort of grit and determination that no cricketing great has demonstrated (even Sir Viv Richards faded embarrassingly in his last years), Tendulkar clawed his way back to the top. He scored 1885 runs in 44 innings; his batting average rose to 46, the strike rate too went up to 85. But Tendulkar was still batting with circumspection: with an average of just 0.27 sixes per match and just 2 centuries during this phase (he missed 6 centuries).

Cricket pundits declared that Tendulkar had changed his batting style by cutting down attacking stroke-play. Tendulkar didn’t seem to agree and often reiterated that his batting style hadn’t changed. As if to prove his point, Tendulkar entered the seventh phase (Jan 2009 – Apr 11) of his ODI cricket career that can only be called magical. In 33 innings, Tendulkar has scored 1689 runs, including a 200 against South Africa, at an average of 56.30. His strike rate during this phase is almost 100, he has six hundreds and again averages a high 0.75 sixes per innings.

To put it simply: Tendulkar is back to his very best. 13 years after climbing the lofty peak of 1998, the great man has recreated his halcyon days all over again. To top it all he has also achieved his dream of lifting the World Cup. I don’t think there can be a better cricketing fairy tale.

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