This day six years ago the biggest enigma of Indian Cricket called time on his career. When talking about Sachin Tendulkar in Tests, we generally discuss his career as a whole, his success in England and Australia or select years before 2005, maybe 2007. But the relatively newer generation, including me are a lot more familiar with his last five seasons. Of course, it’s not possible to mention a lot of things when someone’s played consistently over such a long period. That’s why we take a look at his career in the last half a decade.
Doing It All
The period 2008-2013 can be considered as the most prolific in terms of matches for Sachin Tendulkar. It goes without saying that he was a regular in Tests and ODIs for India, but this is also the exact duration of his IPL career. This also included matches in the now dissolved Champions League. We are only concentrating on Tests here, but we use these tournaments to make the point about the magnitude of what he did in the purest format.
Firstly, Sachin was a 36-year old playing at the highest level for 19 years by 2008. Secondly, he played 78 IPL matches & more than 90 T20s from then till 2013. Not to forget, he also faced the pressure of reaching quite a few milestones. Despite all this, he still managed to average 51.17 during the final phase in Test cricket. Let that sink in!
The glory run of 2010
When you try to think about exceptional years of batting from Sachin Tendulkar, you may go straight to 1998, when he dominated Warne and averaged 80, striking at 75%. You may think about the Bradmanesque 2004 exploits, where he scored 915 runs in 15 innings at 91.5 including his highest Test score of 248 not out. But for me, someone following him since 2008, the season of 2010 was the best of the Master Blaster. This can also include the match in South Africa in January 2011 but for numbers sake let’s keep it to 2010.
He scored an astonishing 1562 runs in 23 innings at an impeccable average of 78.10. Getting fourteen 50+ scores including seven 100s and two double hundreds, he was rampant. Sachin was filled with intent in this season, running like a 25 year-old and skipping down the track to the spinners. For me it was the highest order of pleasure. Of course after such an incredible haul there was always the probability of a slump.
The lean and mean patch
The historic year of 2011 in One Day cricket for India didn’t quite translate into Tests. The big losses in England and the next year in Australia quickly brought the fans to the ground. But this wasn’t a bad year for Sachin’s batting, as he managed to average around 47. The only concerning fact was that he got six 50-plus scores but went on to get a century only once. But the next two years, 2012 & 2013, were nothing short of disappointing, rather surprising.
He scored 633 runs in 24 innings at a meager average of 27.52. The pressure of milestones from the fans was something that really was a big obstacle for him. Even for somebody who lived (still lives) under the stress of being an icon, a God in India, this was a lot to take. The final two Tests against the Aussies was the starting point of the slump. Whatever it maybe though, he did conjure up a lot of memorable innings in the 2008-2013 phase of his career.
Few mesmerizing innings run across my eyes instantly when thinking about this phase. One that everybody cherishes would definitely be the Chennai win against England in the winter of 2008. As much as it’s remembered for Sehwag’s onslaught and Yuvraj’s calm finishing, it will hold a special place for Sachin’s winning boundary which got him to a century as well. The record breaking chase of 387 came as a soothing balm for the country shell shocked by the Mumbai terror attacks.
His double hundred which paved way for an Indian win in the Border Gavaskar 2010 series was another such innings. Australia had scored 478 batting first and India was in trouble at 38/2 when he walked in. The highest international run-getter went on to stabilise the innings and piled on runs with Murali Vijay. Once the latter got out Sachin Tendulkar turned it on, smashing the Aussies to all parts, especially debutant Peter George. India scored 495 runs, taking a 17 run lead with the master scoring 43.23% of the runs.
A couple of other innings came in New Zealand and South Africa. The former came in 2009, contributing to India’s Test series win in the country. Tendulkar’s 160 helped India to 520 in response to NZ’s 279 and it was enough for them to win by 10 wickets. They went on to win the 3-match series 1-0 with the next two matches ending in draws. The knock in South Africa helped India reduce the margin of the series defeat. Already 1-0 down India were in a spot of bother at 28-2 but his 146 helped them avoid a deficit chasing SA’s 362. Although the Proteas scored 341 second time around, India managed to bat the remaining overs out.
There were many other crucial contributions to the team for sure, but one beautiful knock for him and the fans has to take the cake. The final innings of Sachin Tendulkar’s career was one of the most sparkling, magical knocks for us to experience. The 74 run show he put on, so free flowing despite the overflowing emotions, will be one I will remember for eternity. It was only fair that an absolute blinder of a catch saw him walk back.