Tendulkar's irresistible second coming
The last 34 months have been quite extraordinary for Sachin Tendulkar. In the couple of years preceding them, there had been serious questions asked about his form, his reflexes, and his appetite for the game. There was the acknowledgement, with more than a tinge of sadness, that Tendulkar's mind and body were inevitably giving in to years of constant wear and tear, and that the kind of innings we witnessed during his glory days would only rarely, if ever, be repeated.
How wrong we were. Quite magically Tendulkar has turned back the clock, displaying the intensity and hunger many thought had been lost forever. The result has been a stunning sequence of scores: 10 centuries in the last 12 months in international cricket, including three of his four highest ODI hundreds, and the first double-century in 2962 one-day internationals. His last eight innings in all international cricket read as follows: 105*, 16, 143, 7, 100, 106, 4, 200*. Among other things, it shows his all-consuming desire to convert his starts - every time he has topped 20, he has gone on to a century.
The table below shows just how incredible his revival has been. In 14 Tests from the beginning of 2005 to the end of 2006, he scored one hundred from 22 innings, and the average had dropped to less than 34. His ODI form was equally disappointing during this period: an average similar to his Test number, and a strike rate of less than 80.
Since the 2007 World Cup, though, the numbers present a far more cheerful picture: in 58 ODIs the average has zoomed past 50, with the strike rate touching 90. His Test form has been equally delightful - an average of almost 60, with 12 centuries from 34 matches.
|Period||Matches||Runs||Average||Strike rate||100s/ 50s|
|Tests - Jan 2005 to Dec 2006||14||711||33.85||47.14||1/ 4|
|Tests - May 2007 onwards||31||2779||59.12||56.76||12/ 11|
|ODIs - Jan 2005 to Dec 2006||32||1040||35.86||77.15||3/ 5|
|ODIs - May 2007 onwards||58||2751||51.90||89.20||5/ 16|
Since the end of the 2007 World Cup, Tendulkar is one of only three batsmen to average more than 50 in ODIs; MS Dhoni and Michael Hussey are the others. Combining the average with a strike rate of 89.20, Tendulkar's ODI batting index (average multiplied by runs per ball) is 46.29, with only Virender Sehwag and Dhoni having a better index.
|Batsman||ODIs||Runs||Average||Strike rate||Ave x SR/100||100/ 50s|
|Virender Sehwag||51||2094||42.73||124.71||53.29||4/ 11|
|MS Dhoni||92||3424||57.06||85.45||48.76||5/ 23|
|Sachin Tendulkar||58||2751||51.90||89.20||46.29||5/ 16|
|Chris Gayle||42||1560||45.88||97.07||44.54||4/ 9|
|Suresh Raina||53||1553||45.67||97.18||44.38||3/ 12|
|Michael Hussey||63||2112||50.28||86.13||43.31||0/ 18|
|AB de Villiers||54||1941||46.21||88.63||40.96||4/ 12|
|Shane Watson||38||1571||46.20||86.93||40.16||4/ 7|
Tendulkar's Test average puts him in sixth place in a list dominated by Sri Lankans and Indians. Three Indian batsmen have a higher average than his, which indicates how good the going has been for India during this period. And while plenty has been written about Gambhir, Sehwag and Tendulkar, the performances of VVS Laxman have gone relatively unnoticed, even though he averages a touch higher than Tendulkar.
|Mahela Jayawardene||25||2831||72.58||11/ 6|
|Kumar Sangakkara||24||2485||67.16||9/ 10|
|Gautam Gambhir||18||2114||66.06||8/ 8|
|Virender Sehwag||24||2536||61.85||7/ 9|
|VVS Laxman||30||2258||59.42||5/ 16|
|Sachin Tendulkar||31||2779||59.12||12/ 11|
|Hashim Amla||30||2645||58.77||9/ 12|
|Michael Clarke||31||2604||56.60||9/ 12|
Even more than the averages, what's been stunning is the rate at which Tendulkar has been adding to his century tally. Not so long ago, Ricky Ponting was closing in on Tendulkar's mark, especially in Tests. However, Tendulkar has opened up a handy lead once again, scoring six Test centuries in the last year even as Ponting's form has dipped. The gap between their Test hundreds is now eight, while the overall difference is an unbridgeable 25.
Since that 2007 World Cup, Tendulkar has scored a century every 6.53 innings (combining all international cricket). Only Thilan Samaraweera, with six Test centuries in 32 innings and two ODI hundreds in 15, has a better rate. Tendulkar's Test rate of 4.50 innings per hundred has been bettered by just three batsmen during this period (among those with at least six Test hundreds): Mahela Jayawardene (3.82; 11 hundreds in 42 innings), Gambhir (4.25; eight in 34) and Kumar Sangakkara (4.44; nine in 40).
|Batsman||Innings||Hundreds||Inngs per 100||Tests - Inngs per 100||ODIs - Inngs per 100|
So impressive has Tendulkar's run been recently that it's been suggested this is his best streak ever. It isn't, but it's very close to his best. In both ODIs and Tests he has had at least a couple of such passages when he was unstoppable. Between January 1998 and December 1999, he averaged more than 55 at a strike rate of nearly 100; that was the period when he scored those two incredible centuries against Australia in Sharjah, which remain among his best ODI innings. Again, between 2001 and 2003, he had similar stats. Both these passages included the World Cup, in England in 1999 and in South Africa in 2003.
In Tests, the whole period from the beginning of 1997 to the end of 2002 was exceptional. Breaking it up into two passages, so that the number of matches is similar to the current period, it's clear that the 1997 to 1999 phase was his best, with 12 centuries in 27 Tests, bookended by outstanding hundreds in Cape Town and Melbourne. The three years immediately after that were pretty good too, with an average of almost 60, including nine centuries in 32 Tests.
|Period||Matches||Runs||Average||Strike rate||100s/ 50s|
|ODIs - Jan 1998 to Dec 1999||56||2737||55.85||97.57||12/ 8|
|ODIs - Jan 2001 to Dec 2003||58||2786||59.27||88.64||9/ 14|
|Tests - Jan 1997 to Dec 1999||27||2735||68.37||57.51||12/ 8|
|Tests - Jan 2000 to Dec 2002||32||2970||59.40||56.28||9/ 12|
Tendulkar's revival isn't dissimilar to Brian Lara's stunning run in his last four years in international cricket. (Though this isn't to suggest Tendulkar will quit international cricket anytime soon.) After 2003, Lara averaged 60 in 41 Tests, with 16 centuries, including hundreds in two of his last three Tests. Clive Lloyd's last 32 Tests were equally productive, fetching him 2342 runs at 61.63, well above his career average of 46.67. Steve Waugh and Graham Thorpe went out with a bang too, but these players have been exceptions. If Tendulkar continues in similar vein over the next few years, he'll join that select group as well. More than that, it'll mean we'll be in for several more special innings of the kind that he has conjured up over the last three years.
|Brian Lara (2003 onwards)||41||4381||60.01||16/ 11|
|Steve Waugh (Oct 2002 onwards)||20||1327||60.31||5/ 6|
|Clive Lloyd (1981 onwards)||32||2342||61.63||6/ 16|
|Graham Thorpe (2004 onwards)||17||1192||62.73||4/ 6|
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo