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With the Little Master reaching an unprecedented 50 centuries, we asked his team-mates to pick the best of the lot
Interviews by Nagraj Gollapudi
December 19, 2010
Dileep Premachandran : A decade of covering Sachin
Features : Tendulkar focussed amid the frenzy
Features : The best of the lot
I Was There : When Sachin cracked the Perth Test
Audio/Video: Sachin on being Sachin
Players/Officials: Sachin Tendulkar
Gallery: Tendulkar's 51 Test centuries
Rahul Dravid: 116 in Melbourne, 1999
To me this was a special hundred because he was captain of the team and we were struggling as a unit in that series and not playing particularly good cricket. And here was Tendulkar, facing up to a good bowling attack comprising Glenn McGrath, Damien Fleming, Brett Lee and Shane Warne, and standing tall when nobody else was scoring runs. He was in total control.
For a long part of his career, he had some other experienced batsmen around him, but that was a time when a lot of us were young and none of us were playing well. He had to carry the team on his own, and he did it beautifully. In some ways it was a Lara-esque innings because [Brian] Lara for a long time had to carry the side on his own. And the pressure is never easy. It was definitely not the toughest wicket he batted on but the atmosphere at the MCG and batting without any support was just brilliant. As a leader he was under tremendous pressure and to come in and make a terrific century was really a standout innings.
How do you choose a favourite from one of fifty? There are actually two that I find most memorable, both versus Australia, one in 1998 and the other in 2004. To me they were about the essence of Sachin's greatness as a batsman which is more than about how many runs he scores - his greatness is in how quickly he adjusts to conditions, wickets, bowling, and his understanding in what he needs to do to score those runs.
Before the Sydney innings, he was getting out outside the off stump in the series and he decided that won't happen again. He didn't score a boundary on the off side, didn't hit a cover drive. He waited for the ball to come to him, picked it off and clipped it to midwicket all the way not just to three figures, but a double hundred. In Chennai, he practiced playing the ball from the rough because he knew Shane Warne was coming, and was supposed to be Australia's biggest threat. When the game began, he was ready.
In the Centurion first innings, it was a damp wicket, but he was the best of the batsmen, he looked comfortable till he got out. That's greatness. You can often tell as soon as he begins that he's going to get a big one. You can make that out. I watched his 50th Test century from when he was about 40 and I knew this was going to be the day. He looked determined, focussed.
It's hard to pick a favourite from his 50 Test hundreds, each have their own story about this kind of preparation and adjustment and thought.
VVS Laxman: 114 in Perth, 1992
I was young and watched that innings on TV and it became very, very special immediately and it still remains so. For somebody on his first tour of Australia, especially when the team is not doing well, and to score a century on a fiery track like Perth at a tender age said a lot about Tendulkar's talent. Some of the shots he played showed glimpses of a great batsman at work, particularly the ones he played off Merv Hughes. For a short guy, on a bouncy track, against a quick bowler and to play on the up, you have to have a lot of talent to do that. He displayed that in abundance during that century. He remained positive even as the wickets fell around him and play naturally. He dominated the Australian bowlers easily. Even to a youngster then it became clear how special Sachin was.
Javagal Srinath: 114 in Perth, 1992
It was a wicket where there were a lot of cracks. It was quick and really fast, as the WACA was famous for in those days. There was no player who could really face the Australian attack. Tendulkar was just 18 or something and he was not only able to stand up to the bowling but bat aggressively. The ball was deviating left, right and centre from the cracks. No-one really knew how the ball would travel after pitching. But Tendulkar encountered it with such aplomb that it became the highlight of that series in many ways, even though we lost the Test.
My other favourite Tendulkar century was against South Africa in Johannesburg against Allan Donald and Brian McMillan at their fastest on a very pacy Wanderers' pitch. Another top-pick is the terrific century against Pakistan in Chennai in 1999. It was a case of mind over matter, and handling the pressure every ball.
John Wright: 126 vs Australia, Chennai 2001
The hundred I'll always remember is his 126 versus Australia in Chennai in 2001. Counting back, it was his twenty-fifth hundred, at what was to be a halfway stage that we wouldn't have thought about then. It was a big, big game, against the world's champion team, a Test that was going to decide the series, a contest between some greats of the modern game - Warne, McGrath and Sachin. I think he just loved that stage. He had come into that series in good form, and was batting beautifully, even though he had not got a century in the series until Chennai . The word was the Aussies had been thinking about that, that Tendulkar's big knock was due. It was coming.
There was also a lot of talk about how India depended too much on him. For me, though, the outsider who had come into Indian cricket without any baggage, you never picked that up inside the changing room. There was an overall confidence all the way through the team, its batsmen and its bowlers.
|Sachin's greatness as a batsman is more than about how many runs he scores - his greatness is in how quickly he adjusts to conditions, wickets, bowling, and his understanding in what he needs to do to score those runs Anil Kumble|
The Aussies won the toss and put up a big first-innings score and we knew that we had to get close to it to get a foothold in the game. It was our big player who pulled out his big innings, which gave us a chance to win that game. When he came in we were about 180 behind Australia, and when he was out, India were 77 in front. I remember him hitting Colin Miller for a six to reach his hundred. The ball went over long-on into the far end of the ground. We were sitting in our viewing area with spectators on two sides of us, behind us, and on our right, and the celebration was wild. And loud. As much as we may see batsmen hitting sixes to reach centuries now, something like that was rarely done ten years ago. It was wonderful, emphatic, a statement. He was up against McGrath, Warne, Gillespie and the world's best team. It was hot and sweltering, we were sweating buckets sitting out in the viewing area and the crowd was packed in to every inch of the ground. And then, there was Sachin batting for us, batting for them.
Sanjay Manjrekar: 114 in Perth, 1992
This has been the toughest assignment for me as an Indian cricket observer. So, I have tried to simplify the task by giving myself a few important parameters to be guided by.
It's got to be an innings played against a good bowling attack in challenging conditions. Second, it's got to be a performance that rises above all the others in that innings. Third, well, it's got be pretty to look at.
After applying all the above conditions, I have picked the 114 runs that Tendulkar made against Australia at Perth in 1992 as a 18-year-old as my favourite Tendulkar innings. Because I was also playing that game, it was a prime candidate for my selection. Now Perth to Indian batsmen, at the time, was the ultimate Test. For players weaned on pitches where the ball bounced knee-high, the regular chest-high bounce in Perth made life very difficult.
India got 272 in the first innings. Pace and bounce did India in once again on that fateful tour. Tendulkar with just over two years of Test experience, strode out and almost casually got a brilliant hundred. He batted on that pitch as if it was his school, Shardashram's, net pitch. He looked at home on it.
I remember forgetting for a while that I was a player in that team. I came out of our dressing room and watched that innings like any cricket fan would. Tendulkar by that time in his career had showed signs of greatness. That afternoon he confirmed his greatness.
He scored at a strike rate of 70.8, and he was unstoppable. Anything that was short of length around the off stump, which is the basic area of attack at the international level was driven through the covers off the back foot for four. We watched in awe as we saw one of the first Indian batsmen to hit good balls for boundaries on a regular basis. Anything that was pitched up was driven off the front foot by Tendulkar. There were a few 'short-arm pulls' added as a garnish on that innings. The short-arm pull was a shot rarely played by Indian batsmen then.
The bowlers were clearly rattled, so they wisely focused on the batsmen at the other end, who were more obliging. It was clearly a case, in that innings, of a batsman seemingly batting against a different attack on a different pitch from the rest of us.
That innings was played 18 years ago. He has now got 47 hundreds after that. But this is still the one that does it for me.
Navjot Sidhu: 114 in Perth, 1992
The ball was really bouncing around that day. Normally for a short-statured man it is very difficult to face the short ball, but the consummate ease with which Tendulkar played those horizontal cut shots on that pitch was amazing. Even a good length ball was rising over the top of the stumps, but Tendulkar showed his mastery with his wrists - he played the pull shot, cuts and flick using the wrists beautifully on the fastest pitch at the time - in a way proving how great he already was at the age.
With inputs from Sharda Ugra
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at CricinfoFeeds: Nagraj Gollapudi
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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