Sachin Tendulkar has been the most complete batsman of his time, the most prolific runmaker of all time, and arguably the biggest cricket icon the game has ever known. His batting was based on the purest principles: perfect balance, economy of movement, precision in stroke-making, and that intangible quality given only to geniuses - anticipation. If he didn't have a signature stroke - the upright, back-foot punch comes close - it's because he was equally proficient at each of the full range of orthodox shots (and plenty of improvised ones as well) and can pull them out at will.
There were no apparent weaknesses in Tendulkar's game. He could score all around the wicket, off both front foot and back, could tune his technique to suit every condition, temper his game to suit every situation, and made runs in all parts of the world in all conditions.
Some of his finest performances came against Australia, the overwhelmingly dominant team of his era. His century as a 19-year-old on a lightning-fast pitch at the WACA is considered one of the best innings ever to have been played in Australia. A few years later he received the ultimate compliment from the ultimate batsman: Don Bradman confided to his wife that Tendulkar reminded him of himself.
Blessed with the keenest of cricket minds, and armed with a loathing for losing, Tendulkar set about doing what it took to become one of the best batsmen in the world. His greatness was established early: he was only 16 when he made his Test debut. He was hit on the mouth by Waqar Younis but continued to bat, in a blood-soaked shirt. His first Test hundred, a match-saving one at Old Trafford, came when he was 17, and he had 16 Test hundreds before he turned 25. In 2000 he became the first batsman to have scored 50 international hundreds, in 2008 he passed Brian Lara as the leading Test run-scorer, and in the years after, he went past 13,000 Test runs 30,000 international runs, and 50 Test hundreds.
He currently holds the record for most hundreds in both Tests and ODIs - remarkable, considering he didn't score his first ODI hundred till his 79th match. Incredibly, he retained a divine enthusiasm for the game till his last match. At 36 years and 306 days he broke a 40-year-old barrier by scoring the first double-century in one-day cricket. In 2012, when just one month short of his 39th birthday, he became the first player to score 100 international centuries, which like Bradman's batting average, could be a mark that lasts for ever. Later that year, though, he announced his retirement from ODIs after a disappointing 18 months in international cricket. And on November 16, 2013, Tendulkar retired from Test cricket after a memorable 200th Test, on his home ground at the Wankhede Stadium against West Indies.
Tendulkar's considerable achievements seem greater still when looked at in the light of the burden of expectations he had to bear from his adoring but somewhat unreasonable followers, who have been prone to regard anything less than a hundred in each innings as a failure. The aura may have dimmed, if only slightly, as the years on the international circuit took their toll on the body, but Tendulkar remains, by a distance, the most worshipped cricketer in the world.
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