The hand-speed of a boxer
The upper cut, Bloemfontein, 2001
Sharda Ugra: It's not thought of as a Sachin Tendulkar classic but needs to be: competitive temperament shaking hands with a deeply understood technique. It came not from 10,000 hours of practice but ten-plus years in the game. Many have played it since, but it first turned up on our TVs from Bloemfontein in 2001.
It was pulled out of his pocket, out of his imagination. Not a silk handkerchief of wristy Asian clichés, but a red rag from a batsman with the footwork and hand-speed of a boxer. The brute statement of the square cut given some air and trajectory, the distance covered with the kind assist of pace and bounce. No half-measure "uppish", this had to be called "upper", because it came from that kind of drawer.
Above the shoulder, above the eye-line, bat glinting like fencing foil, wrist flicked, above the slip cordon, into the fence. A horizontal bat shot created by a batsman born in a land of vertical, sinuous strokeplay. Then it vanished for 18 months. His brain, his eyes and his bat waited. Until Centurion, the World Cup and Shoaib Akhtar. Go ahead, make my day.
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo
The flick, Mumbai, 1996
George Binoy: India are chasing 258 against Australia at the Wankhede in the 1996 World Cup. The run-rate is a little over one an over, two wickets have fallen, and Glenn McGrath is into his fourth over without conceding a run. His length is good on off and middle stump once again, but this time Tendulkar moves late and slightly across to flick between two fielders through midwicket for three runs.
Tendulkar's flick does not make jaws drop, unlike Mark Waugh's or VVS Laxman's did. The beauty is in the economy and lateness of his movements as well as remarkable hand-eye coordination. And depending on the line and length he can flick it anywhere between fine leg and wide long-on with a neat tuck off the pads. No fuss.
They'd try and get him on the shot, with catchers at square leg and midwicket, and deliveries aiming to trap him lbw. Sometimes they'd succeed, but when Tendulkar was in his prime, that heavy bat would come down in the nick of time, making the bowlers think they had more of a chance than they actually did.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
The pull, Durban, 2003
Mohammad Isam: As Andy Caddick's sideways glare, on the point of his jump, focused on Sachin Tendulkar, he must have wondered how he had telegraphed his intentions so soon. Almost on cue, he pitched it short, short enough for Tendulkar, already back in his crease and ready to pounce, to smash it.
It was a roundhouse punch of a pull shot, taken from outside off stump, hoisted over square leg and deposited out of Kingsmead. It cleared everything inside the ground. It was superb anticipation, pure technique and violence, all mixed into one swivel of his feet, then hips and then the arm coming over. If you like Tendulkar's shots to have movement, there aren't many that can beat this one off Caddick.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent
The lofted straight drive, Nairobi, 2000
Nitin Sundar: Tendulkar's lofted straight drive is a thing of beauty. No batsman has matched the poise with which a well-set Tendulkar puts an over-pitched offering from a fast bowler into the stands behind him - think Sharjah 1998.
But on this day, in October 2000, he was far from well-set, and there were no over-pitched deliveries forthcoming. These were uneasy times: India were playing their first big game after the Cronje revelations had blown a hole through their middle order. Glenn McGrath was settling into a rhythm: back of a length outside off, extended follow-through, chatter. In McGrath's third over, Tendulkar pranced out of his crease to a typically respectable ball and blazed it on the up over the bowler's head and into the stands, even as he followed the ball's trajectory with his trademark squint and a quick nod of the head.
This was a lofted straight drive like none he had ever played before. He had gone out of his comfort zone to disorient McGrath and it paid off - Australia were stunned and Yuvraj Singh powered India to a famous win. In the match that signalled the dawn of a new era in Indian cricket, this shot was just the statement of intent the times demanded.
Nitin Sundar is a social media manager at ESPNcricinfo
The celebrated one, Perth, 1992
S Rajesh: It was the stroke with which he brought up his century in Perth, a knock that remains his most feted one - the on-the-toes straight-drive on the front foot off a fast bowler (Craig McDermott, in this case), on a bouncy pitch, off a good-length ball. Most batsmen, especially those from the subcontinent, would be happy to defend those balls with a limp bat, but Tendulkar's genius lay in his ability to see run-scoring opportunities where most wouldn't. On that bouncy WACA strip where other Indian batsmen struggled, Tendulkar calmly moved to 96. Then, when McDermott bowled a good-length delivery on off and middle, Tendulkar took a small stride forward, rode the bounce beautifully, and with head over the ball, back lift ramrod straight and balance just perfect, he punched the ball to the right of the bowler to bring up a classy century. Over the next couple of decades, that shot would be a trademark, especially in bouncy conditions overseas, indicating that all was well with the world of Indian cricket.
S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo
The punch to cover, Lord's, 2011
Devashish Fuloria: The perspective presented by TV cameras or a seat deep in the stands doesn't quite reveal the height difference between a tall fast bowler and Tendulkar, so I was a bit intrigued when I got a seat in one of the front rows, almost at the ground level, in the Edrich Stand at Lord's in 2011. Chris Tremlett, bowling from the Nursery End, seemed like a giant. Tendulkar, on the other hand, with the grand old pavilion and the enormous hype of the 2000th Test in the backdrop, appeared smaller than ever.
A stray thought involuntarily popped up in the mind: "How in the world does he generate any force behind his shots? He is so small."
Moments later, I got my response as Tendulkar stood up on his toes, upright and perfectly balanced, to punch a waist-high rising delivery and send it screaming to the cover boundary. The shot didn't have the grace of a Lara cover drive, or the recoil of a Ponting pull, but it's perhaps the improbability of it, of the unexplainable physics behind it, that suggests why fanatics see him as a god.
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
The tapped drive, Centurion, 2003
Vishal Dikshit: 0, 1 and 1 are not the kind of scores you would want before a World Cup. But that's what he had before the 2003 edition, and as a fan I feared he would be skittled for similar scores in the big tournament, that Shoaib Akhtar would sneak a ball at 160kph through his defences, that he'd edge the ball to slips off Glenn McGrath, or Wasim Akram would aim a reverse-swinging yorker at his toes.
My heart was in my mouth when he faced McGrath. Sometime after the fifth over, McGrath bowled a good-length outswinger outside off. Tendulkar took a couple of steps towards the off stump and sent the ball racing past mid-off, as if the ball had been bowled for just that reason, as if he had been reeling off hundreds before the World Cup. It was not a muscular drive, just a gentle push. It seemed like instead of punching the ball down the ground, he requested it to roll away from him with a tender tap on its shoulder.
Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
On his toes
Gokul Chakravarthy: To most, his straight drive was as good as it got. To me, what stood out were the strokes where the diminutive giant lifted himself on to his toes. The back-foot cover drive, Perth, circa 1992; the lofted square cut, Centurion, circa 2003; the monstrous pull, Durban, circa 2003. The elegant audacity behind these strokes made the voyeur in me tiptoe out of the closet. His spine more erect, his forearms swifter, his flow more balanced than most: that was Sachin Tendulkar at his balletic best. Alas, that ballet left town some time ago.
Gokul Chakravarthy is a senior video producer at ESPNcricinfo
The punch down the ground, Centurion, 2003
Rohan Sharma: While most associate Tendulkar's assault on Pakistan during the 2003 World Cup match in Centurion with the audacious upper cut that sent a Shoaib Akhtar bouncer into the stands, it would be his response off the final ball of the over which encapsulates his talent. Shoaib pitched one on a length that Tendulkar met with the full face of the bat. His timing was so sublime that it beat a beleaguered Waqar Younis, stationed at mid-on, all the way to the long-on fence. It was simply a testament to batting in its purest form.
Rohan Sharma is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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