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February 25, 2010

Samir Chopra

The unsurprising double-centurion

Samir Chopra


Truth be told, it seemed like there was only person who could pull it off: Tendulkar © Getty Images
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I tend to be a bit obsessed about cricket statistics. And given my vintage, it's entirely understandable that Test statistics tend to reign supreme. Indeed, to this day, one of the reasons that I don't get so hung up on the results of one-day internationals is that I started off thinking of them as unofficial games. But official they are, and their statistics are recorded faithfully. And there was one one-day statistic that I did spend some time thinking about: would a batsman ever make a double-ton in a one-day game?

I first entertained this thought not because of Viv Richards' 189 against England in 1984 but because of a glorious innings that preceded it: David Gower's 158 off 118 balls against New Zealand at Brisbane during the 1982-83 WSC triangular. For the time, Gower's innings was a true paradigm subverter; that rate of scoring was unprecedented, his domination complete. Indeed, that innings stood out even more than Richards' did, because, well, Viv was Viv, and you expected him to do that sort of thing. But Gower amping it up at a strike rate of 133, hitting four sixes, and all of the rest made me think that perhaps someday, someone could pull it off. (For the record, Viv's strike rate was 111 so Gower had one over the great Viv in that regard!)

When the modern era of one-day internationals got underway, the 200 became a real possibility. Of the ten 180-plus scores in one-day internationals, there are only two from the 1980s. And yes, both of them are by the great Viv. All hail the King! Folks like Anwar, Hayden, Jayasuriya, Kirsten, Ganguly, Dhoni, Tendulkar, and, er, Charles Coventry, racked up the rest. I did think for a while that the 200 would come in a World Cup game against one of the minnows.

And Sehwag's feats seemed to make him the logical choice to put your money on when it came to the business of going past the 200 barrier. But Sehwag doesn't make big scores in ODIs. His name features nowhere in the list of big-scorers in that variety of the game for whatever reason. I've given up trying to understand that particular genius.

It seemed to me that if 200 was to be made, it would be made by an opener, someone who would score quickly in the first 15, settle down in the mid-section, and then have enough nous and stamina to play through the inevitable acceleration to the end. And truth be told, it seemed like there was only person who could pull it off: Tendulkar.

For if there is one thing that seems to come easily to Tendulkar, it is the kind of innings I've just described. They are a dime-a-dozen for this man. He does it effortlessly, shifting gears when he wants, racking up runs, not letting his strike-rate drop. It always seemed like a matter of time before he would not lose his wicket in the final acceleration and simply go on to the logical next destination of the double-ton. 200 runs off 150 balls (a strike rate of 133.33) always seemed eminently doable for this master of the limited-overs game. No one else seemed to have the full package.

And on February 24th, he did it. Indeed, he seemed to have calculated it perfectly: 200 off 147 balls. The initial acceleration, the quick, expert farming of well-run singles and doubles, the final acceleration. It was a masterpiece of attack and accumulation (and the brilliance of shots was something to behold). And he did it against South Africa on an appropriate stage, a ground at home, in front of thousands of his ever-adoring fans.

The genius of this man is that such a singular feat should always have seemed so well within his reach, that his final breach of the barrier should come as no surprise.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Posted by Anonymous on (March 15, 2010, 19:35 GMT)

@waterbuffalo: sorry mate.....cant agree with u......u know wht is meant by the modern cricket?? its something like every player is supposed to be analyzed by their faults......all the players are analyzed with the help of video footage in such a way tht the batsman is like a open book to the opponents......and its said with the loudest of the voice that tendulkar is the most analyzed batsman in the world ...both in a manual discussion or by computer analysis. and above all SA are the pioneer of this type of modern cricket and how can u call if SA are failed to take more than 3 wickets because of serious prob in the pitch while they were all out below 250 on a pitch made of concrete as u mentioned earlier. listen bro....sachin is best...not because he scored 200 ........but he is best because the way he made this 200. this is something like a book of learning cricket...and his 98 agains pakistan in 2003 wc....the best quality bowling attack also in a quality pitch of centurion.

Posted by waterbuffalo on (March 11, 2010, 9:24 GMT)

@ Mallick, 200 runs on a flat pitch means nothing look at how many 90's the aussies got against Pakistan even though they deserverdly won the Test series 3-0, Pakistan could not chase 170, all I am saying is that SA is a very good team and the fact that they can get only three wickets is ridiculous. You said yourself,'no batsman in the modern era can last 30 overs on a seaming wicket" and I will give you three names, sunny gavaskar, geoff boycott and allan border. Now that is batting, not this one sided nonsense.

Posted by Abhyuday Mallick on (March 10, 2010, 16:37 GMT)

@Waterbuffalo, So what if it was a flat pitch. One day cricket all over the world is played on flat pitches. What about the pitch at Wanderers where SA chased the record score? Was it bouncing and seaming around when the "GOD" Ricky Ponting scored 160 and Gibbs scored 175? No batsman in the modern era is good enough to last 30 overs on a seaming wicket, let alone scoring 200. Just look at Monty's comments and try to understand the spirit of the article.

Posted by waterbuffalo on (March 7, 2010, 6:32 GMT)

50 overs --400 runs--3 wickets lost--8 runs an over. If that does not scream flat pitch I don't know what does. I suppose if Sachin scores 300 on concrete you would be doing cartwheels about that too. The lack of perspective by you and your readers is simply astounding. If SA cannot get more than 3 wickets in 50 overs then there is something seriously wrong with the pitch AND the game of cricket.

Posted by Monty on (March 6, 2010, 4:58 GMT)

As an Australian I have to say it is always a delight watching Tendulkar perform and he is by far the greatest batsman of the modern era.

Comparisons to Bradman, however, are always going to leave room for debate as the two batted in completely different eras and it would be unfair to both parties to put either one above the other.

In terms of greatest ODI innings... that is not what this article is about. It is about the 200-run frontier being passed in one-day cricket by the great man Sachin, and congratulations to him for that!

Truly a run machine!

Posted by Doug Newsam on (March 3, 2010, 14:44 GMT)

@ Tanmay Shukla - Please do not use the words "Gayle" and "great" together. Chris Gayle is scarcely a real batsman, just a strong slogger with good eyesight. Sachin is true genius. There have been few before him, scarcely any like him. His composure and dignity set him apart. Only Sir Garfield Sobers, that I am aware of, has borne the weight of true greatness with the humility that Sachin displays. To watch him is a privilege. Long may he continue to provide us with glimpses of his mastery.

Posted by Zeeshan Ahmed Siddiqui on (March 2, 2010, 19:39 GMT)

Dear Saqib Mufti, It is not the way to comments. Almost 3000 one day matches are there and then there is 200 from first batsman. Tendulkar records are comprehensive and he creates 70 records in both forms, which is not a joke. I think we should respect him. For those who think that he scored mostly against weak teams, please note he is the only one with 10 tons against Australia in which six at their home-ground since last two decade.

He has comparison with all in all formats like we can compare him with Sir. Don as his batting average is 99.94 is one fact against one team with others just entered into cricket in ten grounds. His almost 80% innings against them. Fast bowlers are Allen, Larwood, Kerry Fox, Constantine and Griffith.

There is no leading leg spinner. For leading 70 wicket takers in test, he faced only two Bedser and Laker in THREE MATCHES, came after world war II. Due to average he is legend but when comes overall then we should see all aspects.

Posted by vikram kaul on (February 28, 2010, 23:18 GMT)

- If ODIs survive another 10-15 years (and are not taken over by T20 cricket), it is almost certain that other batsmen will reach that milestone - It is befitting that one of the last remaining frontiers in world cricket was crossed by Sachin - When I see Sachin's (one of my all time heroes) resurgence over the past couple of years, I always wonder what would have happened if he had played for australia - would he ever have gotten the chance to come back or would he have gone the Ganguly path?

Posted by Bharat on (February 28, 2010, 22:10 GMT)

There can be only one Don and one Sachine. Just like other team sports, there can be no one "Greatest Player". Best there can be is Sachin/Don. I am sure Don would have no qualms about it. n't mind have to be mentioned togather. Don played in 52 test in 20 years, Sachins has played 3 times more test and counteless ODIs. No modern player is expected to last 20 years with the amount of cricket being played this days.

Posted by Sikandar on (February 28, 2010, 6:01 GMT)

I would rate Sachin far higher than Bradman due to certain considerations that need to be given.

Bradman played in an era when a leisurely gentlemanly audience, came out with their ladies to watch a match just for biding their time,played just ONE type of cricket - Test Match - against almost only ONE opponent (England) - the rest all were not serious cricket players then, and played just 3-4 months in a year, against the same opposition, and scored those runs at that average.

Sachin has been playing three forms of cricket, throughout the year, against 15 oppositions of which almost half of them have excellent bowling attacks, and in all countries on diff pitches, carrying the pressure of the expectations and demands of a billion fans for 20 long years, and still scoring runs.

Maybe a Viv Richards equals a Sachin in ODIs and a Sunny in Tests, but Sachin is Sachin, and it is time we make him as the point of comparison in lieu of Bradman.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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