"I have seen God; he bats at No. 4 for India," were the exact words used by Australian legend Matthew Hayden to describe the prowess of one Sachin Tendulkar. Fondly called the ‘Master Blaster’ - just like West Indies’ legend Viv Richards - Tendulkar has the special distinction of single-handedly scoring a century of centuries over his illustrious 24-year-long career. Over this period, he has represented India in exactly 200 Test matches and scored well over 30,000 runs in international cricket.
The Master Blaster has also broken many records – he was the first male cricketer who scored a double century (200*) in an ODI against South Africa in 2010, among other records. He was part of the dream team that led India to the Men’s World Cup trophy in 2011, while also winning the 2007 T20 World Cup and many other individual and team accolades for India.
With over 15,000 Test runs to his name and 51 centuries in Test cricket, here’s a list of five such innings that cemented Sachin Tendulkar’s place among the Gods of cricket:
119* vs England - Old Trafford (August 1990)
The first of Sachin Tendulkar’s best innings came just a year after he made his debut in international cricket. It came at the ripe age of 17 against one of the best teams of the time, eclipsing the five other centuries scored in the second Test during India’s tour of England in 1990.
Sachin Tendulkar single-handedly saved the Indian cricket team from a potential loss. The Master Blaster was dropped early on in his innings by spinner Eddie Hemmings and went on to build a strong partnership with Indian all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar while chasing a second innings record score of 408 to win the game.
Tendulkar faced off against the pace of Devon Malcolm, Angus Fraser and Chris Lewis, keeping the English bowlers at bay for almost two hours. His unbeaten 119 led India to an unlikely draw and turned out to be the first of a hundred centuries. He is also the youngest Indian to hit a Test century in the history of the game.
169 vs South Africa - Cape Town (January 1997)
Coming into the second Test of the series, India were in seemingly poor form; they were dismissed for 100 and 66 in their two innings at the previous Test in Durban. However, their form was as bad as before after their bowling collapsed in the first innings itself.
Chasing South Africa’s total of 530, India looked set for another loss after the batting lineup was left at 58/5. That’s when Sachin Tendulkar stepped out on the pitch. He set up a strong 222-run partnership with Mohammed Azharuddin, playing a complete captain’s innings.
He rallied after Azharuddin lost his wicket for 115, and was eventually dismissed after a brilliant catch by Adam Bacher, with Sachin Tendulkar leading the team to a respectable total of 359. Unable to replicate a similar performance in the second innings, India eventually lost the match by 282 runs.
155 vs Australia - Chennai (March 1998)
Prior to playing the Coca-Cola Cup in Sharjah 1998, where Tendulkar scored a brilliant century in the final to end Australia’s unbeaten run, India hosted one of the top Test teams in the world at that time. The reins were taken over by Azharuddin by then, but Sachin Tendulkar showed them who is boss.
Playing on India’s spin-friendly conditions promised a fierce battle against Shane Warne and Sachin Tendulkar. The former got the better of the Master Blaster in the first innings of the Test after the leg spinner dismissed him for four when Tendulkar tried to play a fancy shot.
India ended the first innings yielding a 71-run lead but then came Sachin Tendulkar’s best innings, where the Little Master did not put a foot wrong, launching India’s comeback with aplomb. Tendulkar had the final say against Shane Warne, ending the innings at 155 runs, with a strike-rate of 81. Later it was revealed that former Indian leggie Laxman Sivaramakrishnan was made to bowl on Sachin’s pads to help him beat the tactics of Warne.
136 vs Pakistan - Chennai (January 1999)
Over the years, with fast bowlers Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis leading the attack, Pakistan had established themselves as formidable rivals for the Indian cricket team across all formats. While India have gotten the better of Pakistan on most occasions, this Test match was not one of those, as India eventually lost the match by 12 runs. However, Sachin Tendulkar’s best innings in this match remains one to remember.
Pakistan were playing in India for the first time in 12 years. The Test itself was a topsy-turvy affair; India were on top on the first day but Pakistan evened the deficit by the end of Day 2. However, having lost his wicket for a duck, it was not Sachin Tendulkar’s best innings by a long shot.
With India needing 271 runs to win the game by the fourth day, they were struggling at 6/2 by the time Sachin walked onto the field. Wickets fell around the Master Blaster and with the score reading 82/5, Nayan Mongia and Tendulkar led India’s comeback, putting up a partnership of 136 runs till the dismissal of Mongia.
Tendulkar was eventually dismissed for 136, with 17 runs left to win the game. The tailenders were unable to add the finishing touches as India went on to lose the game against their rivals.
241 vs Australia - Sydney (January 2004)
Sachin Tendulkar’s India tour of Australia had started off on a very poor note; in six innings, he was out for a duck twice, scored in single digits once and by the time India faced off against the World Champions at Sydney, he had only amassed 82 runs in total. With the series at stake, the pressure was on Tendulkar to bail his team out.
The series was equally poised at 1-1, with the final Test played at the Sydney Cricket Ground set to be the series-decider. Sachin Tendulkar worked on the kinks in his armour from his previous matches, and his score of 241 in this Test has the distinction of not having a single cover-drive till he crossed 200. Scoring at a rate of 55.27, Sachin hit 33 boundaries, with India declaring the score at 705 runs.
Australia responded strongly but were unable to replicate India’s mammoth first-innings score. India declared their second innings at 211 and set 443 for Australia to win the game. However, some strong defensive batting from the Aussies ensured that India could only settle for drawing the series at 1-1.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / William West