Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sachin's 200

Last night, I got to watch (mismo read along with the commentary) as Sachin Tendulkar scored the first ever double century in an ODI match, when he made 200* against South Africa in Gwalior.

It was an incredible feat, breaking the previous records of 194 and 194*, but even more so because of the fact that Tendulkar is almost 37 years old and has had a fantastic past year in both ODI and Test cricket. In the past 12 months he's collected 6 Test hundreds and 4 ODI hundreds. With last night's 200 not out, he is just seven shy of completing a century of international centuries (from Tests and ODIs combined).

I watched a match a few weeks ago where Chris Coventry a Zimbabwe player challenged to surpass Saeed Anwar's record initial record of 194, but only ended up tying it. Witnessing Tendulkar's feat last night, and this coming when he has been on an incredible streak lately was very exciting to watch.

I'm pasting some pictures and articles about this below.

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Sachin Tendulkar immortal at 200
Partha Bhaduri & Vikas Singh
The Times of India
Feb 25, 2010

Even before he took guard at Gwalior, Sachin Tendulkar's place in the pantheon of cricketing gods was assured. He had already amassed both the highest number of runs and the maximum tons in Tests and one-dayers alike.

If devout worshippers had any reason to quibble, it was that there was no one record-shattering innings - Brian Lara has the highest Test score of 400 and Saeed Anwar and the little-known Charles Coventry shared the ODI record of 194.

Just 147 balls later, Tendulkar set the record straight in emphatic fashion. A staggering 2,961 matches and almost 39 years after the first ODI was played - and remember, many ODIs in the early years featured innings of 60 overs each, which gave batsmen more scoring opportunities - the Little Legend finally became the first cricketer to score 200 in a one-dayer, propelled by a record 25 fours in one knock.

The landmark 200 came in the final over of the innings, though Sachin crossed the previous record of 194 in the 46th over; in the interim, several lustily-hit fours and sixes by M S Dhoni were accompanied by groans from millions of spectators desperate to see Sachin on strike.

The big moment, though, finally arrived, crowning what is fast turning into one of Sachin's most productive periods with the bat. The last 12 months have seen him score 10 international hundreds: six in Tests - including four centuries in his last four Tests - and four in ODIs.

Three of those 4 ODI tons - Wednesday's 200, the unforgettable 175 against Australia last November and the brilliant 163 in New Zealand last March - are among his four highest ODI scores. Only his previous highest score of 186, against the Kiwis, falls outside this golden patch.

Some years ago, as Sachin struggled with injury and a dip in form, some commentators had the temerity to suggest that Ricky Ponting would eventually overhaul his records.

Over the past 12 months, though, Sachin has once again opened up a yawning gap between himself and all his contemporaries, and ensured that if at all any comparisons have to be made, they should be with another Australian - Don Bradman, who was famously reminded of himself when watching Sachin bat.

True, no one comes close to the Don's amazing average of 99.94, or his phenomenal 29 centuries from just 52 Tests. But the fact that Sachin is breaking records barely two months shy of his 37th birthday testifies both to remarkable longevity and an insatiable appetite.

Indeed, there are no speed limits on Sachin Tendulkar's road to excellence. After two decades of basking in the glory of his sporting pre-eminence on the world stage, India is now privileged to witness the second coming of the most complete and prolific batsman of this age. Even the back-breaking expectations of a billion unrealistic fans, it seems, are a pittance compared to the soaring aspirations of the man himself.

Over the last year, Sachin has taken his skills to a whole new level of consistency. The body, close to breakdown in the mid-2000s, has been chiselled to accessorize this new-found garb of perfection. Back in 1998, he had scored 12 international tons, 9 in ODIs and 3 in Tests. This purple patch has turned back the clock.

In the last 12 months, he has been the only player to score six hundreds in 10 Tests, at an average of 78.3. In 20 ODIs, a format in which his records are set in stone, he has notched up 1158 runs at 72.37, with 4 hundreds.

How about a Test triple, Sachin?

In Gwalior, Tendulkar strutted on his stage like a man possessed, ran between the wickets like a 20-year-old and reaffirmed his relevance in modern cricket's rapidly-changing dynamics.

When it finally came to pass, the unbeaten double ton almost seemed a scary inevitability. There were no cramps, no nerves, just steely intent to go on with a ruthlessly dominating display. Where have all the years gone?

Commentator Ravi Shastri repeatedly referred to him as a run machine, but that's only a half-Sach. Tendulkar isn't a mundane machine. Instead, he scripts his achievements with soul. This is a man for whom excellence is a habit, who is so devoted to his craft, so enthusiastic still, that with experience he has mastered the art of seamlessly binding talent, discipline and perspicacity, all without compromising on style, for maximum gain in a team cause. The end result is machine-like consistency.

Treasure this new, improved Tendulkar. He is, by far, still India's most valuable player, and will remain so till he decides to call it quits. But that's for later: after Gwalior, and given the form he is in, it's time to ask what's next. Maybe a 100 international hundreds, given that 93 are already in the bag?

* Highest run-getter in ODIs, with 17,598 runs from 442 matches. Jayasuriya (13,428) and Ponting (12,731) follow

* Most centuries in ODIs (46), followed by Ricky Ponting (29) and Sanath Jayasuriya (28)

* Since Feb 24, 2009 has scored 1,158 runs in 20 ODIs, with 4 tons, averaging 72.37. In the preceding 12 months, had scored 352 runs from 9 ODIs at an average of 44

* His double century is the first in 39 years of ODIs, including 60-overs-a-side matches

* Highest scorer in Tests, with 13,447 runs from 166 matches. Next best Lara (retired with 11,953) and Ponting (playing with 11,859)

* Most Test centuries (47), well ahead of Ponting (39) and Kallis (34) among active players, and retd Lara and Gavaskar (34 each)

* In 2010, has already scored 477 runs averaging 95.40. Only Hashim Amla (674) has scored more Test runs this year

* In his last 10 Tests, has scored 1,018 runs at an average of 78.3 and is the only one with 6 tons in the last 12 months. In the previous 10 Tests, he had 647 runs and averaged just 38.08

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Flawless Tendulkar 200 gives India series
The Bulletin by Kanishkaa Balachandran
February 24, 2010

It took nearly 40 years of waiting and it was well worth it. Sachin Tendulkar chose one of the better bowling attacks doing the rounds, to eclipse the record for the highest score, before bringing up the first ever double-hundred in ODI history. The spectators at the Captain Roop Singh Stadium became the envy of Indian cricket fans as they witnessed one of the country's favourite sporting heroes play a breathtaking innings which not only set up a 153-run annihilation but also the series victory. He may have been run-out cheaply in the previous match, but nothing could deny him today - be it bowlers, fielders, mix-ups or cramps. Dinesh Karthik, Yusuf Pathan and MS Dhoni stood by and admired as the master unfurled all the shots in his repertoire.

At 36, Tendulkar hasn't shown signs of ageing, and his sparkling touch in both forms of the game has ruled out all possibilities of him checking out anytime soon. Fatigue, cramps and paucity of time have stood in the way of batsmen going that extra mile to get to the 200-mark. Tendulkar did cramp up after crossing 150, but he didn't opt for a runner. His experience of 20 years at the international level came into play in this historic innings, staying at the crease from the first ball to the last, never once losing focus. There were no chances offered, no dropped catches, making his innings absolutely flawless.

A swirl of emotions must have run through his mind as he approached one record after another but he ensured he was never lost in the moment. His running between the wickets remained just as swift as it had been at the start of the innings. The humidity in Gwalior was bound to test him but he stood above it all and played like he owned the game, toying with the bowling with a mix of nonchalance and brute power.

In the 46th over, with a flick for two past short fine-leg, Tendulkar broke the record for the highest ODI score, going past the 194 made by Zimbabwe's Charles Coventry and Pakistan's Saeed Anwar, and to say that he acknowledged his feat modestly would be an understatement. His muted celebration on going past 194, true to style, made his innings all the more endearing. He didn't raise his bat, merely shook hands with Mark Boucher and simply carried on batting amid the din. Coming from a man who is not known to showing too much emotion with the bat in hand, it wasn't surprising. He reserved his celebrations for the magic figure of 200, which he reached in the final over with a squirt off Charl Langeveldt past backward point. He raised his bat, took off his helmet and looked up at the skies and it was only fitting that one-day cricket's highest run-getter reached the landmark.

Tendulkar's innings featured strokes of the highest quality, but his true genius was exemplified by one particular shot which rendered even the best bowler in the world helpless. In the first over of the batting Powerplay - taken in the 35th over - Dale Steyn fired it in the block-hole for three deliveries outside off to keep him quiet. Tendulkar, feeling the need to improvise, walked right across his stumps and nonchalantly flicked him across the line, hopping in his crease on one leg to bisect the gap at midwicket. A helpless Steyn watched the ball speed away and merely shrugged his shoulders. There was no use searching for excuses or venting frustrations at the temerity of that shot. It was just that kind of afternoon for the bowlers.

It wasn't all just about the cheekiness of his shots. His timing and placement were the hallmarks at the start of his innings. On a road of a pitch which offered no margin of error for the bowlers, he squeezed out full deliveries past the covers and off his pads. With no seam movement on offer, Jacques Kallis took the slips off and placed them in catching positions within the 15-yard circle, hoping to induce a mistake. But Tendulkar outplayed all of them, making room to manoeuver it past a number of green shirts. There were a minimum of two runs on offer each time the ball was placed wide of them and the quick outfield did the rest.

Once he got his eye in, the short boundaries and the flat pitch were too inviting. Virender Sehwag's dismissal for 11, caught at third man, was just an aberration as Karthik, Pathan and Dhoni traded cricket bats for golf clubs. Driving and lofting through the line had never been this easy. Tendulkar could have driven them inside out in his sleep.

The two century stands, with Karthik and then with Dhoni, may well get lost in the scorecard but they were vital building blocks. Karthik rotated the strike well in their stand of 194, struck three clean sixes and helped himself to his career-best performance. That partnership sent out ominous signs to the South Africans that they were in for something massive. Add Dhoni's bludgeoning hits and scoops and you had a score in excess of 400.

Tendulkar reached his fifty off 37 balls and his century off 90. Ironically, he struck his first six - over long-on - when on 111. Pathan bashed it around at the other end, clubbing full tosses and short deliveries in his 23-ball 36, as India amassed 63 runs in the batting Powerplay. The South African seamers made the mistake of trying to bowl too fast and as a result, sent down too many full tosses and full deliveries. The unplayable yorkers remained elusive and Tendulkar, who was seeing it like a beach ball, picked the gaps, made room and improvised.

He reached his 150 by making room to Parnell and chipping him over midwicket with a simple bat twirl at the point of contact. The heartbreak of Hyderabad, when his scintillating 175 all but won India the match against Australia last year, must have lingered in his mind as he approached that score again. A towering six over long-on later, he not only eclipsed Kapil Dev's 175 but also looked set to wipe out his own record. He started clutching his thighs, indicating that cramps had set in, but even that could not stop him today.

He equalled his highest score of 186 by pulling a lollipop of a full toss off Kallis and broke his own and India's record with a single to square leg. Fortunately, he didn't have to do much running and played the spectator's role for a change as Dhoni bulldozed his way to a 35-ball 68, muscling four sixes. The Dhoni bottom-hand is the strongest in the business these days and the exhausted spectators had enough energy left in their vocal chords to cheer him on as well.

The record of 200, however, was yet to be attained and the crowd were desperate for Tendulkar to get the strike. Dhoni tore into Steyn for 17 off the 49th over and retained the strike for the 50th. After hammering the first ball of the 50th for six, he shoveled a full toss to deep midwicket where Hashim Amla made a brilliant save. Tendulkar settled for a single and the crowd were on their feet as they watched him make history. It was all the more fitting for another reason because it was on this very day, back in 1988, that he and Vinod Kambli added a mammoth 664 - then a world record - in a school match.

There was to be no repeat of the 434-chase at the Wanderers, when South Africa took guard, perhaps mentally and physically shaken after the assault, and with a partisan crowd to contend with. AB de Villiers' attacking ton got completely lost in the chase as South Africa merely went through the motions. It was all a question of how quickly India could wrap it up.

Herschelle Gibbs, Hashim Amla, Roelof van der Merwe and Jacques Kallis all got out cheaply within the first 15 overs. de Villiers motored along at more than a run-a-ball, and collected 13 fours and two sixes. South Africa had to rely on the services of nine men to muster 200 - for India one man sufficed.

Tendulkar's knock drew parallels with Brendon McCullum's frenetic 158 in the IPL opener in Bangalore two years ago. The match was all about individual brilliance but not a contest. While such games are good in small doses, for one-day cricket to survive on the whole, it needs more contests between bat and ball.

1 comment:

leevin said...

I got interested in cricket after reading Beyond a Boundary. I even went to a match in London, but found the beer and sunshine just as relaxing (if not moreso) than the game itself.

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