Arguably the game's most complete and rounded batsman, the most worshipped cricketer in the world, 95 international centuries under his belt, one short of completing 50 Test hundreds. The records just keep on rolling for Tendulkar. Having completed 49 Test hundreds, his 50th is certainly bound to be special no matter where he scores or how much he scores. It was a tough task to pick five of his gems from the 49 but Ganesh Venkat of CW has picked his favorite five - here is the list in chronological order.
114 vs. Australia at Perth in 1991-92.
Tendulkar had earlier scored an unbeaten 148*(NotOut) at Sydney on a favorable batting wicket, and he arrived at Perth barely 19 years of age, and the wicket was one of the lethal tracks with pace and bounce that India encountered in that particular series. In fact it would not be an exaggeration to state that it was one of the most wicked tracks they ever encountered down under.
Australia scored 346 in their first Innings and during India's reply Tendulkar walked in at 69/2 being the ninth man out at 240 after scoring a brilliant 114 from 161 balls in 228 minutes, peppered with 16 hits to the fence. The highlight was his counter attacking style when wickets were tumbling and his penchant to play the square cut on that vicious track with Craig McDermott, Merv Hughes, Paul Reiffel and Mike Whitney breathing fire.
During the course of the innings he put on an 81 run partnership with Kiran More and cut loose on the third morning to score his second 50 of just 55 balls. When Tendulkar walked off the WACA the crowd gave him a standing ovation and he has been a favorite in Australia ever since. He could not repeat his heroics of the first innings being dismissed for just five in the second dig and India promptly lost the Test by the whopping margin of 300 Runs.
169 vs. South Africa at Cape town 1996-97
The middle and the late 90's was a period when the opposition thought that if they could get Tendulkar out, the game was as good as over, and it was indeed true on more than one occasion. India came in to the second Test of the series against the South Africans after a drubbing received at Kingsmead, Durban. They had been blown away by Allan Donald and Co. for a paltry 66 in the second innings.
South Africa piled on 529 runs ripping the Indian top-order to shreds to leave them tottering at 25/3.When V.V.S Laxman was caught behind with the score at 58, the big question was whether India would avoid the follow-on. However Tendulkar had other ideas. Having walked in at 25/3 he was the last man out at 359,. India had not only avoided the follow-on but had counter-attacked in a style that left the South Africans bemused.
Tendulkar started cautiously and was joined by Mohammed Azharuddin at 58/5. Azhar played with gay abandon and tore in to Lance Klusener with Tendulkar just as severe on Donald who had been his tormentor in the previous Test. It was an epic partnership in grand counter-attacking style for the next 222 runs. Azhar and Tendulkar put on a supreme batting display that has rarely been surpassed ever since.
Azhar was the enforcer in the partnership and when he was dismissed Tendulkar took over. It was a treat to watch Tendulkar take on Donald, Pollock, McMillan and Klusener to score 79 runs with the tail. He never looked like getting out but for a superlative one-handed catch from Adam Bacher, who intercepted a ball that was bound for the grass banks, and cruelly cut short Tendulkar's masterpiece.
All in all he batted for 329 minutes and scored 169 runs from 254 balls with 26 hits to the fence. Yet again it was a shame that he had to end up on the losing side when India were eventually dismissed for 144 in the second innings.
155* vs. Australia at Chennai 1998-99
In my book this was his best innings of all time for India in a winning cause. Australia were touring India for a full Test series after a gap of almost 12 years, and they were slowly but surely becoming a formidable unit. Shane Warne was at the peak of his powers and the series was hyped up as a Tendulkar vs Warne ring fight. True to the hype Tendulkar had taken Warne apart in a Tour game for Mumbai.
However when the Test match started Tendulkar lasted just two balls from Shane Warne in the first innings, a boundary and then being smartly caught by Mark Taylor in the slips. Shane Warne had won the battle but the war was still on.
Australia had taken a valuable 71 run lead and the match was on a knife edge when Tendulkar walked in at 115/2 during India's second innings, with India leading by just 44 runs.
What followed was simply scintillating,. Tendulkar took Warne to the cleaners,. The defining moment of the game was when Warne went round the wicket to exploit the rough,. Tendulkar was equal to the task and had practiced just that against L. Sivaramakrishnan in the nets. He slog swept Warne for a couple of sixes and a couple of fours and needless to say Warne was rattled and gave up that tactic. Tendulkar was severe on anything around leg stump and Warne returned figures of 1/122 runs in 30 overs with seven maidens.
Tendulkar finished unbeaten on 155 from 191 balls with 14 fours and 4 sixes in just under two sessions, and had effectively tilted the match on its head. With a target of 347 runs on the fifth day, Kumble, Chauhan and Raju mopped up the Aussies and from a relatively unsafe position of 115/2 India went on to win the Test match by a huge margin of 179 runs. The knock set the tone for the remainder of the series and some unbelievable innings that followed in Sharjah that literally must have given Warne the nightmares. In short Warne won the first battle but Tendulkar won the War.
136 vs Pakistan at Chennai 1999-00
Perhaps the greatest innings played by Tendulkar, perhaps the greatest innings ever played in a losing cause and perhaps one of the best Test innings of all time. It was indeed a pity that this did not find a place in Wisden's best knocks. This one has a special place in my heart for this was the first time I saw Tendulkar in the flesh in the cauldron that was MAC Stadium, Chepauk Chennai against arch-rivals Pakistan, who boasted one of the best attacks of that time.
India were playing Pakistan in a Test match for the first time in 10 years. This was a low scoring thriller with Pakistan batting first and scoring 238 runs and India taking a slender 16 run lead. Tendulkar's contribution to India's total was a duck in three balls when he failed to pick up Saqlain Mushtaq's doosra and was caught by Salim Malik at short-third man. Pakistan were threatening to run away with the match on the back of an Afridi century, however Prasad bowled a superb spell to trigger a dramatic collapse that saw Pakistan lose their last six wickets for just 11 runs, and the stage was set when India were set a target of 271 runs.
At the end of the Third day India were 40/2 and the match could have gone either way. At the start of the fourth day India slipped further to 82/5 around lunch time and the crowd was beginning to walk away. Tendulkar then produced a master class that was one of the very best .In the company of Nayan Mongia he played so superbly that the Pakistanis had no answer to the genius. In one single over off Saqlain he hit him for four boundaries, one was slog swept to deep midwicket, one was a delicate late cut, one was a majestic square cut and the other was a straight drive down the ground.
The Pakistanis were growing increasingly impatient and when the new ball was taken India required around 70 runs to win,. Wasim and Waqar were greeted with scintillating straight drives. Nevertheless it was evident that he was severely suffering from back spasms,. I was at the ground and for every over he was growing increasingly uncomfortable. Nonetheless Tendulkar kept going until at 254/6, he tried to hit Saqlain out of the ground and was caught by Wasim Akram. The entire ground erupted in unison to salute a great knock. Sadly his team-mates did not get with the program and India inexplicably was dismissed for 258, just adding four more runs after his dismissal. He was declared the man of the match for his century and this match, along with India's collapse at Barbados in 1997-98 still rankle with him.
103* vs England at Chennai 2008/2009
This knock silenced his most vocal critics who always harped on that Tendulkar had not played a match winning innings for India in the fourth innings. Tendulkar scored an aggressive 37 in the first innings, however India fell way behind in the game and were set an unlikely 387 to win the match. England's attack, with Harmison, Flintoff and Swann, had already caused India much trouble in the first innings and no one expected India to even come close.
Virendar Shewag had set the tone on the fourth evening with an aggressive 83 of 68 balls. Tendulkar walked in at 141/2 with India still 246 runs adrift. He watched Gambhir and Laxman get dismissed and when a jittery Yuvraj walked in at 224/4, England was odds on favorite to take the game. Tendulkar went about blunting the English attack in the company of Yuvraj who came of age. They put on a maginifiant 163 runs with Tendulkar, who was not the aggressor. however he was stodgy, refused to give his wicket away and held one end together
When Tendulkar guided Swann around the corner ever so emphatically, India had clinched a superb run chase by six wickets. In the end it was a marathon effort by Tendulkar who remained unbeaten on 103 from 196 balls in almost six hours with nine hits to the fence. Although this was not in the same league as Lara's 153* it silenced his critics who were calling Tendulkar out for non-production of a match winning effort in the fourth innings.