Best of the Best

Updated: Apr 21, 2011, 16:53 PM IST

From all the priceless moments with which Sachin Tendulkar has enriched the landscape of Indian cricket, and the psyche of his ardent followers, selecting just a few as his best is like choosing the best gems from the fabled ‘Alibaba’s’ treasure. However, on the propitious occasion of his 38th birthday, reminisces Sachin’s best knocks over the years.

57 vs Pakistan at Sialkot in 1989: As a sixteen-year-old, Sachin Tendulkar withstood the Pakistan pace-battery comprising Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, and Waqar Younis and the wily leg-spin of Abdul Qadir to dole out a counter-attacking half-century in his debut series. Sachin was hit by a bouncer from Waqar and fell to the ground bleeding. Inexplicably denied medical assistance, Sachin rose to his feet, batted and helped India save the match and the series. More than the runs, it was an innings of substance and one of courage. There hardly has been any looking back since.

114 vs Australia at Perth in 1992: The script was following a familiar tale. Confronted with green tops, Indians were struggling. This was when Sachin Tendulkar decided to announce his arrival on the international arena. With a belligerent 114-run knock even as wickets kept tumbling at the other end, Sachin took the attack to the opposition in manner so awe-inspiring that it won him admirers all-round, including the great Sir Don Bradman himself.

169 vs South Africa at Cape Town in 1997: Again the same old story. Faced with a big first innings total (529) by South Africa, the Indian batting was fumbling (58/5). This is when Sachin Tendulkar, in company of the swashbuckling Mohammad Azharuddin, decided to take the bull by its horns. The utter disdain with which the duo went about spanking the home team’s bowling attack comprising Allan Donald, Brian McMillan and Shaun Pollock, was the stuff only geniuses could deliver. They added 222 runs in less than two sessions. Although India lost the match…and the series, but Sachin’s 169 was the talk of the town.

155* vs Australia at Chennai in 1998: The 1998 Border-Gavaskar series was billed as a Sachin-Warne face-off. While the latter had established his credentials as one of the game’s best batsmen, the latter’s stock as a leg-spinner and a match winner too were at dizzy heights. Having fallen cheaply to Warne in the first innings, Sachin tore into him with such ferociousness that to this day, he enjoys a psychological supremacy over the Aussie. His 155 helped India seal the match and more importantly, ensure that Warne would never again be a threat to India.

134 vs Australia at Sharjah in 1998: Having ensured that India would play the finals of a tri-nation meet with a 143 against Australia in the preliminary stage, Sachin Tendulkar followed it up with another century (134) in the final to clinch the title for India. On what was his 25th birthday, Sachin oozed class. Each stroke was worth its weight in gold, as India chased down a formidable target of 272 runs quite comfortably.

136 vs Pakistan at Chennai in 1999: Many consider this particular knock as Sachin Tendulkar’s best knock ever for the sheer effort and mental strength that went into it. Chasing 271 for victory, India suffered a familiar collapse at the top of their order. To make things tough, the Little Master had a back spasm to contend with. Faced with a daunting task of negotiating crafty Saqlain Mushtaq on a turning Cheapuk track, Sachin panned out master class over the next 6 hours. When Sachin finally fell for 136, India were just 20 runs away from victory with 4 wickets in hand. Tragically, India went down by 12 runs.

140* vs Kenya at Bristol in 1999: This innings against cricketing minnows in the World Cup of 1999, stands out for the circumstances that surrounded it. Bereaved, having lost his father 5 days ago, Sachin Tendulkar went back to India to complete the funeral rites and returned to revive India’s flagging fortunes ahead of this must win game. Not only did he lead India to a victory, he also set a new benchmark in professionalism for sportspersons around the world. Not given to emotional outbursts, even Sachin could not hide sentiments as he dedicated his century to his father.

98 vs Pakistan at Centurion: India were playing Pakistan after a long gap…and that too in a World Cup game. The build up was huge. Tensions were palpable. Saeed Anwar scored a ton to set the tone, as Pakistan set a challenging score of 271/6. The stage was set for our very own Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar to unleash his fury. Starting with a first ball six off Shoaib Akthar, Sachin pulverised Pakistan bowlers into submission with such brutality that even after he fell just 2 runs short of a ton, Pakistanis were too demoralized to make a match out of it. India won comfortably as Pakistan exited the tournament from group stage itself.

117* vs Australia at Sydney in 2008: For all his greatness, one blot that Sachin Tendulkar’s legacy has had to bear, was that he is not a match-winner! He can set up a victory, critics said, but falters when it comes to forcing the issue. An ODI century in Australia was also missing from his glittering CV.

But all of that changed one Sunday evening at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Chasing a tricky 241-run target against the world champions in the first final of the best of 3 series, Sachin set up an Indian victory with an impeccable unbeaten 117 as India romped home to a rare series win overseas. Marshalling the young and inexperienced batting line-up along, the famous victory helped bring a sweet end to a long and bitter summer Down Under.

103* vs England at Chennai in 2008: Chasing 387 on a fifth day track against a rejuvenated English side, Sachin compiled a brilliant knock shredded with doses of genius as India won comfortably. Having busted the myth of him not being a match-winner earlier that year in ODIs, this mature knock from his blade forced his critics to eat their words in the arena of Test matches as well. While on a personal note, it helped him bury the ghosts of 1999 Test match against Pakistan, it ignited a new wave of self-belief in the Indian team when it came to batting last in a Test.

175 vs Australia at Hyderabad in 2009: Tendulkar made 14, 4, 32 and 40 in the first four games of the seven-match ODI series against Australia in October. In the fifth match, with the series tied at 2–2, Australia amassed 350/4 in 50 overs. In reply, Tendulkar made a 175 off 141 balls, his 45th ODI hundred. Just when it seemed that he would steer India to the large victory target, he fell to debutant bowler Clint McKay, with India needing 19 from 18 balls with four wickets left. The Indian tail collapsed, and they lost by 3 runs.

200* vs South Africa at Gwalior in 2010: In the second of the three-match ODI series against South Africa in Feb, Sachin finished on 200 not out, thus becoming the first batsman in the history of ODI cricket to score a double century. This also took his tally of hundreds to 46 in ODIs and 93 in tests and ODIs combined. He eclipsed Saeed Anwar`s 194 against India and Charles Coventry`s 194* versus Bangladesh.