A giant's peaks
119 not out v England, Old Trafford, 1990
England pile up 519 on a benign pitch, and India reply with 432. England stretch the lead to 407, and though the pitch is still good and the bowling (Devon Malcolm, Angus Fraser, Chris Lewis, Edie Hemmings) not terribly menacing, India find themselves in deep water at 127 for 5 with only one recognised batsman left. And he's only 17 years old. Tendulkar battles for nearly four hours, grimly but never dourly, and ends the day with 119. India lose only one more wicket, finishing with 343. With one more session, they might even have won.
114 v Australia, Perth, 1991-92
The fastest pitch in Australia has been reserved for the last Test. India have been beaten already, only humiliation awaits. Batting first, Australia score 346. Tendulkar enters at a relatively comfortable 100 for 3, but watches the next five wickets go down for 59. Tendulkar is the next man out... at 240. He has scored 118 of the 140 runs added while he is at the crease, and has made them in such an awe-inspiring manner that commentators ask themselves when they last saw an innings as good.
169 v South Africa, Cape Town, 1996-97
Batting first, South Africa make a match-winning 529.
Playing only for honour, India find themselves grovelling before Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Brian McMillan and Lance Klusener. Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin get together at 58 for 5, and start spanking the bowling as if they were playing a club game. They add 222 for the sixth wicket in less than two sessions, and Tendulkar has 26 boundaries in his score of 169. Donald, by his own admission, felt like applauding.
155 not out v Australia, Chennai, 1997-98
Seventy-one runs in arrears, India start the second innings and despite Navjot Singh Sidhu's 64 find themselves only 44 in front when Tendulkar joins Rahul Dravid. The duo has to contend with Shane Warne bowling from round the wicket and into the rough. Tendulkar, who has practised against Laxman Sivaramakrishnan and a few other bowlers on artificially created rough patches before the series, decides to take apart Warne. In a breathtaking assault, with the match hanging in the balance, he deploys his unique slog sweeps against the spin to steer India past Australia and snatch a match-winning 347-run lead.
Twin centuries v Australia, Sharjah, 1997-98
India are chasing Australia's 284, but more importantly they need to score 254 to beat New Zealand on net run-rate and make their way to the final. Single-handedly Tendulkar takes India close to the cut-off when sandstorms disrupt play. Just when India's prospects of making it to the final look bleak, Tendulkar not only takes them beyond the target, but for a brief while lets them entertain hopes of a win.
Twin centuries v Australia, Sharjah, 1997-98
It couldn't have got better. It does. Two days later, at the same venue, chasing a similar total, 273, to win the final, Tendulkar decimates the Australian attack. By the time he is out in the 45th over, he has left India only 25 more to get. Shane Warne is so devastated he confesses Tendulkar hits him for sixes in his nightmares.
141 and 4 for 38 v Australia, Dhaka, 1997-98
Six months after having destroyed the Aussie bowlers' psyches, Tendulkar meets them again in a big-match environment: the semi-final of the ICC Champions Trophy.
And again, single-handedly he puts Australia out of the game with his third century against them in three matches. His 141 comes in 128 balls, and India are 280 in the 46th over when he gets out. To put the matter beyond doubt, Tendulkar kills an interesting contest by dismissing Steve Waugh, Michael Bevan, and Damien Martyn with 4 for 38.
136 v Pakistan, Chennai, 1998-99
Few Indian batting performances have been as heroic, or as tragic. Chasing 271 in the fourth innings of a low-scoring match, India experience a familiar top-order collapse, and are sinking fast at 82 for 5. Tendulkar finds an able ally in Nayan Mongia, and rebuilds the innings in a painstaking, un-Tendulkar-like manner. After helping add 136 for the sixth wicket, Mongia departs to an ungainly pull. Tendulkar, whose back is giving way, shifts up a gear or two and starts dealing in boundaries. But one error of judgment and it's all over. Saqlain Mushtaq defeats the intended lofted on-drive with a magical ball that drifts the other way, catches the outer part of Tendulkar's bat and balloons up to mid-off. The tail disgrace themselves, and India fall short by a gut-wrenching 13 runs.
233 not out v Tamil Nadu, Mumbai, 1999-2000
It's a Ranji semi-final against a strong Tamil Nadu, and Mumbai are looking down the barrel after their bowlers have given away 485 runs. A first-innings lead is crucial, and Mumbai look down for the count at 127 for 4 when old pal Vinod Kambli joins Tendulkar and they see Mumbai out of trouble. They are not anywhere near home when Kambli falls with the score on 266. Tendulkar then takes charge, and with the lower order, sees Mumbai just past Tamil Nadu's total and into a final Mumbai go on to win. It is just the kind of against-the-odds match-winning knock that has eluded him at international level, which is perhaps why he ranks it among his best in all forms.
155 v South Africa, Bloemfontein, 2001-02
On the first day of an overseas series, India's plight is a familiar one - four down for 68, with all the wickets going just the way the South Africans planned - to rising balls. Tendulkar has a debutant for company, with another to follow. He takes 17 balls to score his first run, but 101 come off the next 97 deliveries. It isn't the prettiest of Tendulkar's Test tons, but it is one of the most savage, characterised by pulls and vicious upper-cuts. The South Africans have a plan for India, and Tendulkar makes a mockery of it. By the time his innings ends, India are reasonably well placed, though they go on to lose the Test.
98 v Pakistan, Centurion, 2003
Tendulkar has been compelled to live this World Cup match against Pakistan for a year in advance. He does not sleep well for 12 nights going into the match. Faced with a target of 274, Tendulkar shows no anxiety whatsoever. Or is it that nervous energy? He finishes his hyped battle against Shoaib Akhtar in the latter's first over with an uppercut for six, and then a flick and a straight block for two boundaries. Every bowler is dealt with with similar disdain. Tendulkar has not looked as pumped up before. And although he misses a century, he leaves the match sealed in the 28th over.
117 not out v Australia, Sydney, 2007-08
Going into the first final of the CB Series, Tendulkar has not achieved many things: an ODI century in Australia, a century in 37 innings, a chase-winning century since 2001, a century in any chase since March 2004. In a 235-minute masterclass, he washes it all away, scoring 117 off 120 balls and leading India to the 240-run target on a difficult wicket just about solo. He dominates in the initial overs, shepherds the tentative middle order, and stays unbeaten to see the side home.
37 and 103 not out v England, Chennai, 2008-09
Tendulkar has to his name every batting record worth having, except one perhaps: a fourth-innings century in an Indian win. Having struggled against the spin of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar in the first innings of the Chennai Test, India are left to chase 387 on a deteriorating pitch. The explosive start is provided by Virender Sehwag, and the final touches by Yuvraj Singh, but in the middle Tendulkar nurtures the chase, hardly ever looking under pressure, scampering through for singles like a teenager, breaking the shackles every now and then with the odd boundary. The last of those fours finishes the chase, and brings up the elusive century. It works a treat that it has come at the venue that was the scene of heartbreak nine years before, against Pakistan, and weeks after one of India's worst terror attacks. With Tendulkar, India smiles again.
175 v Australia, Hyderabad, 2009-10 Australia have amassed a massive 350 on a flat pitch in Hyderabad, and Tendulkar almost chases it down single-handedly. He displays through the innings how he has mastered the art of scoring quick runs without taking any risks. The only support comes from Virender Sehwag (38) and Suresh Raina (59). Tendulkar, who scores 175 off 141 balls, gives hardly a chance through the classic. When he does take risks, it's worth preserving the shots in an album: stepping out to spinners, lofting straight down the ground; the unbelievably late flicks and the even later late cuts. It all ends in heartbreak, though: in Chennai in 1999, Tendulkar, having played an innings just as incredible, left the last three wickets 17 to get; on this night he leaves them 19 off 17. The rest choke like they did in Chennai.