Sachin Tendulkar's top 12 defining moments of his international

Sachin Tendulkar scored 74 in his 200th and last Test match against West Indies at Wankhede Stadium © IANS

Sachin Tendulkar approaches the end of one of the most illustrious careers in the history of the sport. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the top12 defining moments of his career.

There may be a day when I will write an article titled “Top Ten Reasons to Hate Your Editor”; the entry at the top of the list may be “He asked me to write an article on the top ten defining moments of Sachin Tendulkar’s career.”

How is one supposed to go about this? Even if one ignores the matches from a level lower there are still 663 international matches across three versions to choose from. Thank goodness he did not attract controversy of any sort; had he done, I may have given up.

So, after a lot of brainstorming and coffee, I finally decided that it cannot be less than a dozen. This is what I came up with:

1. The teenage man: Sialkot, 1989-90

We all know the story. The first two Tests were not broadcast on Doordarshan, which meant that nobody in India got to see Sachin Tendulkar’s Test debut. The third Test at Lahore was the first one to come on air: Tendulkar scored 41 on absolute shirtfront of a wicket.

The fourth Test at Sialkot began on a positive note for India. The top nine Indian batsmen all went into double-figures; though Wasim Akram picked up five wickets India managed to reach 324 on a pitch that assisted the fast bowlers. India struck back, with rookie speedster Vivek Razdan picking up a five-for and giving India a lead of 74.

For the first time in the series India had acquired a lead. However, they managed to squander it almost immediately, losing their first four wickets with 38 runs on the board as the 16-year old Tendulkar walked out to join Navjot Singh Sidhu. “He [Tendulkar] came on the tour as a little kid. He had hardly shaved, I guess, when I first saw him. With curly hair, he walked on to the field and we never thought he would be able to handle this sort of cricket,” Waqar Younis later said.

One of the balls lifted almost vertically and hit the teenager on the nose. Take a moment to visualise this: at his age we were probably bunking tuitions to catch evening shows in random theatres or trying to obtain telephone numbers of the girl we day-dreamed about. That was all we had to worry about.

He was of the same age. The nose bled. He refused medical assistance. He refused to leave: he uttered two simple yet powerful words “main khelega” (“I will play”). He batted on with blood on his shirt. Waqar bounced. He hooked. Backing away was out of the question.

“I thought to myself that it wouldn’t be too long before we got him out but he stayed there and got 50. His technique stood out, his body was behind the ball and from then on myself and Waqar realised he was something special,” Akram said in an interview to BBC.

There was no question of Imran Khan letting the pressure go, but Tendulkar was up to the task. He batted for 193 minutes, faced 134 balls, and scored a 57 studded with six boundaries. Sidhu, of course, held fort after Tendulkar fell and saw India to a draw. India returned from Pakistan unvanquished; but more importantly, the entire nation knew that a star had arrived.
Brief scores:

India 324 (Sanjay Manjrekar 72, Mohammad Azharuddin 52; Wasim Akram 5 for 101) and 234 for 7 (Navjot Sidhu 97, Sachin Tendulkar 57; Imran Khan 3 for 68) drew with Pakistan 250 (Rameez Raja 56; Vivek Razdan 5 for 79, Manoj Prabhakar 3 for 92).

Sachin Tendulkar's top 12 defining moments of his international

Sachin Tendulkar acknowledges the Perth crowd after reaching his century © AFP

2. A star is born: WACA, 1991-92

Had the umpiring been a bit more unbiased, India would have gone into the last Test with the score-line on 2-2 instead of 0-3. A demoralised Indian side took field and witnessed Australia reach 346 from 145 for four at one point of time.

In the early 1990s WACA [Western Australia Cricket Association] track used to provide nastier bounce than it does today. Australia had gone in with four seamers (along with Tom Moody and Steve Waugh); after Sidhu and Krishnamachari Srikkanth fell early the spectators were surprised to find Dilip Vengsarkar, India’s regular number four, being held back: Tendulkar walked out to face the heavy artillery instead.

The usually hostile Australian crowd cringed in adulation unknown to them as their own fast bowlers hurled bouncer after bouncer to the youngster; the boyish face, however, never displayed anything other than grim determination. He let the very high ones go past him; cut, hooked, or pulled the ones that passed slightly lower; and the booming drives flowed from those young yet unyielding forearms when anything was pitched up.

The batsmen at the other end the seniors  began to desert him one by one — Manjrekar, Vengsarkar, Mohammad Azharuddin all fell in quick succession, followed by Kapil Dev and Manoj Prabhakar. India were soon reduced to 159 for eight — but Tendulkar simply refused to give up.

It was as if the Tendulkar was batting on a completely different planet. A gorgeous straight drive off Craig McDermott (not the one that has been the trademark of his batting; there was a slight adjustment because of the bounce) brought up his hundred: it was one of the finest Perth had ever witnessed. It was evident that India had found a boy man who could take the challenge to the opposition on fast pitches when the big names failed.

“A splendid ovation from a small crowd, but it is the sort of innings that deserved a crowd of a hundred thousand,” complained Richie Benaud on air. He eventually fell for a 161-ball 114 with 16 boundaries (scored out of 181 during his stay at the wicket). It turned out to be a valiant effort (giving people a reason to criticise him) as Mike Whitney’s seven for 27 (match figures of 11 for 95) guided Australia to a 300-run win.
Brief scores:

3. Australia 346 (David Boon 107, Allan Border 59, Tom Moody 50; Manoj Prabhakar 5 for 101) and 367 for 6 declared (Dean Jones 150 not out, Tom Moody 101) beat India 272 (Sachin Tendulkar 114, Kiran More 43; Mike Whitney 4 for 68, Merv Hughes 4 for 82) and 141 (Mike Whitney 7 for 27) by 300 runs.

The pressure man: Calcutta, 1993-94

Tell someone that this was one of the greatest moments of his career; then show anyone the scorecard of the Hero Cup semifinal and he will look quizzically and inform you that he had scored 15 in the match. You smile and tell him it was the bowling. He will see an innocuous 1-0-3-0 and look even more perplexed.

What really happened? India were bowled out for 195, and suddenly from 106 for three South Africa collapsed to 145 for seven. The drama was not over, though: Brian McMillan and Dave Richardson added 44 before the latter was run out in the penultimate over. South Africa required six to score off the final over with two wickets in hand.

All four Indian seamers, Kapil, Prabhakar, Javagal Srinath, and Salil Ankola, had overs left. Azhar, the captain, and Kapil, the seniormost, were in a mid-pitch conference; they were joined by a short frame who looked almost too immature for the phrase vice-captain.

What followed left the spectators in awe and the usually eloquent Henry Blofeld at a loss of words. Tendulkar snatched the ball, handed his cap over to the umpire, and went to the bowling mark. He was not asked to bowl; he wanted to bowl; and boy, did he look confident!

Ankola later recalled: “I was standing in the deep and I don’t know exactly what the conference among the Indians was all about. But it seems Tendlya [Sachin Tendulkar] was keen to bowl the last over. There was lot of dew on the wicket and Tendlya is very difficult because he bowls all kinds of deliveries.”

The first ball, a slightly short-pitched one, was hit to deep point; Ankola’s throw came straight, flat, and hard; Fannie de Villiers was caught stranded and was run out. What was more, Allan Donald would have to take strike.

Then followed three dot balls —three balls that turned the match on its head; Donald had a heave at the next ball outside off-stump and missed; he played the next ball — a leg-break —back to Sachin; and attempted a stroke completely out of the cricket manual in the fourth ball and missed. An unusual on-drive fetched a single off the fifth ball.

It was then that Azhar stepped in with his input: Vijay Yadav was sent back to the edge of the 30-yard circle; it was almost prophetic as McMillan missed the yorker and the ball rolled down to Yadav. It seemed, at least then, that India had found a future captain. Time decided otherwise.
Brief scores:

India 195 in 50 overs (Mohammad Azharuddin 90, Pravin Amre 48; Fanie de Villiers 3 for 19, Richard Snell 3 for 33) beat South Africa 193 for 9 in 50 overs (Andrew Hudson 62, Brian McMillan 48 not out) by 2 runs.

Sachin Tendulkar's top 12 defining moments of his international

4. Winning the clash of the titans: Chennai, 1997-98

The world had waited for Shane Warne’s first tour of India with bated breath: little did they know, however, that Tendulkar had been preparing himself for Warne as well; he had been practising on a manufactured turf with a rough outside the leg-stump and practised for hours against Laxman Sivaramakrishnan.

He was ready the time Warne had arrived in India: in the tour match against Bombay he had scored an unbeaten 204 in 192 balls. As for the Test, Sidhu began the onslaught with Mongia and for company. Two quick wickets brought Tendulkar to the crease.

The first ball was hit high between the bowler and mid-off. Four. Three more balls passed. Then, with an attempt to drive Warne through cover, Tendulkar’s blade flashed – with the wrong result. The ball took the edge and flew to Mark Taylor at first slip. Warne had drawn first blood.

India were bowled out for 257, but struck back to reduce the tourists to 201 for eight. Ian Healy then added 96 with debutant Gavin Robertson; even after Healy’s departure Robertson rubbed it further in, adding 31 more with Michael Kasprowicz. Australia managed a 71-run lead. India lost Mongia early, but Sidhu began his second onslaught of the Test. The score was 115 for two when Tendulkar walked out to join Dravid.

He was not willing to give in easily this time. Warne was square-cut twice in succession; when Robertson bowled from the other end he was slog-swept for six, and followed it with a pulled boundary. The spinners fell apart. An alarmed Taylor brought back Paul Reiffel, and Tendulkar brought up a 64-ball 50 in the last ball before lunch on Day Four.

It was the next session that decided the great leg-spinner’s career in India. Warne came around the wicket and Tendulkar swept him through mid-wicket for four. Then, when the ball pitched in the rough and turned, Tendulkar stepped out — he must have been grateful to Siva for all those sessions — and the ball landed in the stands.

The carnage continued. A leg-glance off Kasprowicz brought up Tendulkar’s hundred, and when ‘Kasper’ bounced twice he was pulled and cut for two successive boundaries. Taylor turned to Mark Waugh – without a slip – and Tendulkar late-cut him for two boundaries.

He brought up his 150 in 185 balls. Azharuddin declared soon, with India on 418 for four and Tendulkar on a brutal 191-ball 155 with 14 fours and four sixes. Set 348 for a victory Australia succumbed to Anil Kumble and Venkatapathy Raju for 168. The innings was the beginning of Warne’s wretched career against India: while his 708 wickets had come at 25.41 the 43 against India had come against 47.18.

Brief scores:

India 257 (Navjot Sidhu 62, Nayan Mongia 58, Rahul Dravid 52; Gavin Robertson 4 for 75, Shane Warne 4 for 82) and 418 for 4 declared (Sachin Tendulkar 155 not out, Navjot Sidhu 64, Mohammad Azharuddin 64, Rahul Dravid 56) beat Australia 328 (Ian Healy 90, Mark Waugh 66, Gavin Robertson 57; Anil Kumble 4 for 103, Venkathapaty Raju 3 for 54) and 168 (Anil Kumble 4 for 46, Venkatapathy Raju 3 for 31) by 179 runs.

Sachin Tendulkar's top 12 defining moments of his international

Sachin Tendulkar (right) being congratulated by Shane Warne after the match © AFP

5. Storming past the Aussies: Sharjah, 1998

If you create a list of 10 out of that many you’re allowed to cheat, and that is precisely what I have done here: include two innings under one heading. India were virtually knocked out of the tournament going into the last league match of the Coca-Cola Cup at Sharjah. After Australia scored 284 they needed to score 254 against a formidable bowling attack to pip New Zealand and find a spot in the final.

It all started with Kasprowicz’s third over: Tendulkar stepped out and heaved the Queenslander over deep mid-wicket in the most outrageous of strokes. The next ball was pitched short, Tendulkar rocked on to the back-foot, and Sharjah celebrated another six as the ball hit the middle of the bat and into the crowd.

The floodgates opened. He picked out ‘Kasper’ for special treatment, but was severe on the others as well; Shane Warne was treated with disdain: he was hit through cover with a front-footed, flat-batted drive. Then came a sandstorm to hold up play for 25 minutes: on resumption India needed 276 to win in 46 overs, or, more realistically, 237 to go past New Zealand.

It was then that Tendulkar broke loose. Poor Kasprowicz was recalled, and the brutal lofted sky-bound straight drive landed just in front of the sight-screen. A straight drive over Moody’s head bisected long-on and long-off and raced to the fence. The hundred was met with a minimal raise of the bat: there was still business to be done.

A pull off Damien Fleming brought India closer; Steve Waugh committed the blunder of pitching up, and the ball disappeared for another six over his head, releasing the pressure. With the target for qualification coming closer the spectators wondered: why was he taking risks?

They got their answer shortly after 237 was reached with 20 balls to spare (Tendulkar raised his bat in acknowledgement, which is rather unusual for someone who ‘plays for his hundreds and not for the sake of the team’); with a surreal lofted cover-drive he sent the message to the Australian camp: he was playing to win.

In the end India fell short after a Fleming bouncer had him caught-behind; Tendulkar had seen India through, but his responsibilities were far from over. He still had a final to win.

The final turned out to be a one-sided affair even after Australia amassed 272 for nine. Sourav Ganguly and Tendulkar scored ten runs between them in the first over, and India were away. When Ganguly fell Azhar promoted Nayan Mongia, and he walked out himself with the score on 128 for two in the 25th over.

Batting on his 25th birthday Tendulkar smashed the Australians all over the ground at Sharjah; the fifty came up with a deft leg-glance and paddle-swept Mark Waugh for four more. It was then that Warne, in an inspired move, decided to come round the wicket – the way he had done earlier the year at Chennai – with rather adverse effects.

The first ball vanished over long-on into the crowd; the strokes kept coming, and hundred came up through a flicked boundary off Moody. Once again the acknowledgement was minimal, but the aftermath was scary: Steve Bucknor was almost decapitated as Tendulkar hit Warne straight back for another four.

Then came one of the most iconic strokes of his career: as Moody bowled a slower delivery Tendulkar stepped out and hit the ball straight into the sight-screen, sending Sharjah into ecstasy. “The little man has hit the big fella’ for a six! He’s half his size!” bellowed Tony Greig’s voice on the microphone.

The first ball of poor Kasprowicz’s next over was dispatched to the roof of the stadium with such absurd ease that even the experts sat open-mouthed. There was nothing brutal about the stroke: it was sheer timing. Two disputed decisions – a leg-before to dismiss Tendulkar and a caught-behind that brought an end to Azhar’s innings — made things close, but they reached home with nine balls to spare. From the verge of being eliminated Tendulkar had single-handedly clinched the tournament for India.

Brief scores:

Australia 284 for 7 in 50 overs (Michael Bevan 101 not out, Mark Waugh 81) beat India 250 for 5 (Sachin Tendulkar 143) by 26 runs (revised target: 276 in 46 overs).

Australia 272 for 9 in 50 overs (Steve Waugh 70, Darren Lehmann 70, Adam Gilchrist 45, Michael Bevan 45) beat India 275 for 4 in 48.3 overs (Sachin Tendulkar 134, Mohammad Azharuddin 58) by 6 wickets with 9 balls to spares.

Sachin Tendulkar's top 12 defining moments of his international

Sachin Tendulkar’s innings of 136 runs had come in 273 minutes – a master-class of ability, technique and grit © AFP

6. Conquering pain: Chennai, 1998-99

The year 1998 was an excellent one for Tendulkar by any standards — but could he carry his form to the next year as well? Wasim’s Pakistan played their first Test of the series at Chennai: Pakistan scored 238 and conceded a lead of 16. In the second innings, however, Shahid Afridi bludgeoned his way to 141 and helped Pakistan to 286 before Venkatesh Prasad finished things off with an amazing spell of five for nought. India were set 271.

Disaster struck early with Waqar removing both openers with six on the board. Rahul Dravid hung on for close to two hours but was not able to penetrate the field, and by the time Azhar and Ganguly were back in the pavilion India were reeling at 82 for five after four hours of cricket. The five dismissed batsmen had managed only 24 between them.

Tendulkar began in style, scoring runs at ease off a formidable Pakistan attack while Mongia held fort. When Wasim cut off the boundaries Tendulkar stole singles as India slowly turned things around. It was attrition at its dourest; Tendulkar’s fifty took him 136 balls, but the important bit was the fact that he was still there.

Saqlain Mushtaq, who had seemed unplayable at times in that series (he picked up 20 wickets in four innings) could not penetrate Tendulkar’s defence. Wasim fell back on Afridi and Nadeem Khan, but in vain. Tendulkar generally remained on the back-foot, keeping an eye on anything pitched even an inch short; since he had allowed him more time due to his adjustment, the slightest lapse would be cut or pulled severely to the fence.

Perhaps the most amazing stroke came against Saqlain; he remained still in the crease, and when he saw Saqlain bowl a length-ball that bounced a tad higher he did not move back; he simply pulled it, his feet unmoved, cross-batted – through mid-wicket for an outrageous boundary. His confidence soaring, he paddle-swept Saqlain for two more boundaries and slogged him for a fourth in the same over.

The hundred came up with a leg-glance; a gorgeous cover-drive off Wasim followed, followed by an off-drive off Waqar. It was then that the back started to gave in. He still kept on playing his strokes in a desperate effort to reach the target before his back succumbed to the pain.

Fighting bowling was one thing. What is one supposed to do that along with a separate battle against your own body? Wasim bowled one short of a good-length; Tendulkar stood up tall and pushed it past the bowler; he did not need to run. Rameez Raja called the stroke “clearly out of the ordinary”.

He lost Mongia, but that did not deter his determination. Every now and then, when he played forward, he arched his back in pain immediately after the stroke was completed. Saqlain was dispatched past mid-on for a furious boundary as 250 came up for India. The next ball was pulled behind square-leg for four more.

And then it happened: Saqlain bowled one on leg-stump; Tendulkar, with no alternative but to score the remaining 17 runs as soon as possible, tried to clear the ground over mid-wicket but ended up having a leading edge. Wasim caught the skier, India lost the remaining wickets for four more runs, and that was that.

Of course, his critics remember it as a match that Tendulkar did not finish.

Brief scores:

Pakistan 238 (Moin Khan 60, Yousuf Youhana 53; Anil Kumble 6 for 70, Javagal Srinath 3 for 63) and 286 (Shahid Afridi 141, Inzamam-ul-Haq 51; Venkatesh Prasad 6 for 33) beat India 254 (Sourav Ganguly 54, Rahul Dravid 53, Sadagoppan Ramesh 43; Saqlain Mushtaq 5 for 94, Shahid Afridi 3 for 31) and 258 (Sachin Tendulkar 136, Nayan Mongia 52; Saqlain Mushtaq 5 for 93, Wasim Akram 3 for 80) by 12 runs.

Sachin Tendulkar's top 12 defining moments of his international

Sachin Tendulkar takes a break during his epic innings 98 against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup Pool A match © Getty Images

7. Fire against fire: SuperSport Park, 2002-03

How does one define the World Cup innings? How does one re-live that six off Shoaib Akhtar that set the adrenaline pumping in a billion? One wonders how many people were fixed to their seats when the ball soared over the fence; how many could help them from being open-mouthed; and how many have managed to erase memories of the six.

This was India against Pakistan in a World Cup. The last time they had met in a cricket match was also in a World Cup match when the sides were at war with each other. There may have been stages bigger than this, but few as poignant.

Pakistan had earlier scored 273 for seven. Tendulkar sent out the message early in his innings when he punched the third ball from Wasim past extra-cover for four. He ran a single, and Virender Sehwag followed immediately with another four past third-man.

Shoaib measured out his run-up. His first five balls included three wides; he steamed in to bowl the ball that changed the course of the match: the ball was pitched short outside the off-stump; Tendulkar perhaps had to stretch out a bit for the violent punch; a billion voices, most of them watching the match on cable television rented on an ad-hoc basis, roared in ecstasy.

The rest was almost a blur. Sehwag fell, Ganguly fell next ball, Mohammad Kaif was promoted; Tendulkar was dropped by Abdur Razzaq when on 32; he flicked Waqar to bring up his fifty (in 37 balls) and punched the air in a rare display of emotions. Then, with India on 126 for two, he started suffering from cramps and asked for medical assistance.

Rahul Dravid walked out as Kaif fell to Afridi. It was a situation tailor-made for him: he nudged and placed the ball for singles – but the more they ran the more the cramps set in. When it became unbearable he had to summon Sehwag to run for him. India were 177 for three.

Shoaib ran in. It was payback time for him. He unleashed a bouncer that rose at a terrifying pace at Tendulkar’s rib-cage; he tried to fend it off but the ball took the bat and Younis Khan took a diving catch at point. He was two short of what would have been one of the greatest hundreds in World Cup. Dravid and Yuvraj Singh saw India home.

Brief scores:

Pakistan 273 for 7 in 50 overs (Saeed Anwar 101) lost to India 276 for 4 in 45.4 overs (SachinTendulkar 98, Yuvraj Singh 50 not out, Rahul Dravid 44 not out) by 6 wickets with 26 balls to spare.

Sachin Tendulkar's top 12 defining moments of his international

Sachin Tendulkar reacts after scoring his double century © Getty Images

8. Epitome of self-control: SCG, 2003-04

Steve Waugh’s farewell series was not going the way Tendulkar would have wanted to. He had not crossed fifty even once in the first three Tests, and had scored two ducks and a one. In fact, his form was such that Ganguly himself had walked out at four in the third Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

Aakash Chopra and Sehwag had got India off to an excellent start before both fell in quick succession. Tendulkar walked out to bat at 128 for two; the Australians immediately stuck to a line outside off-stump and tried to lure him into an edge. The plan had worked for the earlier in the series.

What the spectators saw was a completely non-Tendulkarish approach: he had walked out with a determination to spare almost everything outside the off-stump. Unless there was a full-toss or a long-hop on offer everything was let go to the wicket-keeper.

He found a partner in Laxman after Dravid fell. It was a partnership for sore eyes. Laxman was at his aggressive best, placing balls – irrespective of line or length – effortlessly through the gaps for fours; Laxman fell for a glorious 178 and outscored Tendulkar easily in the 353-run partnership.

Meanwhile, Tendulkar’s jaw was firm in determination; there was no question of giving in to temptation. Fifty came and went: his eyes were set on the hundred the way Arjun’s were on the bird’s eyes. Then, when the hundred eventually came via a flick off Katich, Tendulkar punched the air in celebration with uncharacteristic glee: Harsha Bhogle, taken aback, exclaimed, “Oh, I have no idea what this means to him!”

Ganguly walked out and fell after a brisk cameo; Tendulkar now found an ally in Parthiv Patel, and now, finally satisfied that the base was set up, he began an onslaught. Finally the cover-drives flowed, and the double-hundred came up in due time. Unlike the first the second hundred was celebrated in a rather characteristic fashion with a sigh of relief on his face.

The batsmen exploded after that, and when Ganguly eventually declared the innings closed on 705 for seven on the third morning Tendulkar was unbeaten on 241. Only 54 of these runs had come through the off-side. He had batted for over 10 hours, had faced 298 balls, and had hit 33 fours.

After Kumble’s marathon spell of eight for 141 Australia trailed by 231, but Ganguly did not enforce the follow-on. He was perhaps working on the logic that Kumble, his only strike bowler, was completely exhausted from his marathon spell. India declared at 211 for two (with another 60 not out Tendulkar reached a match tally of 301) but the Test eventually ended in a draw with Australia six wickets down.

Brief scores:

India 705 for 7 declared (Sachin Tendulkar 241 not out, VVS Laxman 178, Virender Sehwag 72, Parthiv Patel 62, Aakash Chopra 45; Brett Lee 4 for 201, Jason Gillespie 3 for 135) and 211 for 2 declared (Rahul Dravid 91 not out, Sachin Tendulkar 60 not out, Virender Sehwag 47) drew with Australia 474 (Simon Katich 125, Justin Langer 117, Matthew Hayden 67, Jason Gillespie 47; Anil Kumble 8 for 141) and 357 for 6 (Steve Waugh 80, Simon Katich 77 not out, Justin Langer 47, Ricky Ponting 47, Damien Martyn 40; Anil Kumble 4 for 138).

Sachin Tendulkar's top 12 defining moments of his international

9. The tournament-winner: SCG and The Gabba, 2007-08

It could well have been Tendulkar’s last tour to Australia (as things turned out, he toured once more); he was determined to win the Commonwealth Bank Series after India had faced a raw deal in the Test series thanks to some poor umpiring; additionally, there was a lot of controversy regarding the infamous ‘Monkeygate’ incident. He was determined to leave the shores on a high: an ODI hundred was the basic minimum.

Australia managed to score 239 for eight in the allotted 50 overs. As Robin Uthappa looked a bit iffy against Brett Lee and Nathan Bracken, Tendulkar shifted gears with a thumping square-cut off Bracken; a cover-drive off James Hopes followed. India lost Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir in quick succession, but Tendulkar stepped out and dismissed Brad Hogg over extra-cover for four and then pulled off an encore.

Yuvraj fell early, but eventually Tendulkar found support in Rohit Sharma. With Rohit looking confident Tendulkar exploded, pulling off two upper-cut boundaries off Mitchell Johnson and then cover-driving him. He brought up his first hundred Down Under when he placed Hopes past gully.

Rohit fell next ball, but the stage was already set. MS Dhoni walked out and pulled off the match with 25 balls to spare. India went 1-0 up in the best-of-three finals. Tendulkar remained unbeaten on a 120-ball 117 with ten fours.

Brief scores:

Australia 239 for 8 in 50 overs (Matthew Hayden 82, Michael Hussey 45) lost to India 242 for 4 in 45.5 overs (Sachin Tendulkar 117 not out, Rohit Sharma 66) by 6 wickets with 25 balls to spare.

India still had another match to win a tournament for the first time in Australia after 23 years. Tendulkar was determined to break the trend: he set off by upper-cutting Lee for four, and then played a trademark pushed on-drive off Stuart Clark for four more.

Then came a magical stroke: Clark pitched a ball slightly short and went for the pull; when he realised that the ball was not short enough he played a tennis forehand-like stroke past mid-on for four more in the same over. Next, he brought the crowd to its feet with a cheeky stroke over the slips off Johnson.

An audacious reverse-sweep off Michael Clarke took him to 87, and just when it seemed that back-to-back hundreds were on the card he fell to a brilliant catch by Ricky Ponting off the same bowler. India eventually scored 258 for nine, but the rookie Praveen Kumar jolted the hosts with his first spell and picked up four for 46 to lead India to a tournament victory.

Brief scores:

India 258 for 9 in 50 overs (Sachin Tendulkar 91; Nathan Bracken 3 for 31, Michael Clarke 3 for 52) beat Australia 249 in 49.4 overs (James Hopes 63, Matthew Hayden 55, Michael Hussey 44, Andrew Symonds 42; Praveen Kumar 4 for 46) by 9 runs.

Sachin Tendulkar's top 12 defining moments of his international

10. A contest above cricket: Chennai, 2008-09

A nation of news-watchers was shocked when they tuned in on 26 November 2008; at least 164 people were killed in a terrorist attack led by Lashkar-e-Taiba in Mumbai as an outcome of multiple simultaneous attacks in various parts of the city. Cricket was pushed into background.

Kevin Pietersen’s side showed commendable spirit and agreed to get on with the tour, albeit after a gap. The Test eventually got underway exactly 15 days after 26/11; England scored 316, India 241, and with Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood slamming hundreds, India were left to chase 387.

Sehwag then got India off to a flier: the opening pair of Steve Harmison and James Anderson seemed clueless as the Nawab of Najafgarh raced to an outrageous 68-ball 83 with 11 fours and four sixes, setting the momentum. Dravid did not hang around, and though Gautam Gambhir scored 66, both he and Laxman were back with 224 on the board.

Tendulkar had started with a slash through gully off Andrew Flintoff, and soon afterwards paddle-swept Graeme Swann for four more. The trademark uppercut was unleashed when Anderson bowled one short and the ball vanished over slips; and Monty Panesar was pulled heavily to the square-leg fence.

His confidence rubbed on to Yuvraj at the other end; he started playing his strokes, and the shackles were broken when he lofted Panesar over long-on for a huge six. Meanwhile, Tendulkar slog-swept Swann for another four: with less than a hundred left Pietersen went on the defensive and spread the field.

The pair relied on singles and took India closer to the target. Both batsmen looked compact and confident, and when the target went below 50 the English shoulders began to droop; Tendulkar finally exploded with a deft paddle-sweep and a regal cover-drive off successive balls from Panesar.

Then, with his score on 99 and India four away from victory; as Tendulkar paddle-swept Swann for four he pumped the air in joy, Yuvraj lofted him in the air, and the pair was joined by the rest of the team. “It’s a win of epic proportions. This is for Mumbai,” said David Lloyd on air.

It was the triumph of sport over violence. It was about showing the way two countries can compete without bloodshed. And the execution was carried out by the most appropriate of the 22 names that had taken field in the Test.

Brief scores:

England 316 (Andrew Strauss 123, Matt Prior 53 not out, Alastair Cook 52; Harbhajan Singh 3 for 96, Amit Mishra 3 for 99) and 311 for 9 declared (Andrew Strauss 108, Paul Collingwood 108; Zaheer Khan 3 for 40, Ishant Sharma 3 for 57) lost to India 241 (MS Dhoni 53, Harbhajan Singh 40; Andrew Flintoff 3 for 49, Monty Panesar 3 for 65) and 387 for 4 (Sachin Tendulkar 103 not out, Yuvraj Singh 85 not out, Virender Sehwag 83, Gautam Gambhir 66) by 6 wickets.

Sachin Tendulkar's top 12 defining moments of his international

Sachin Tendulkar celebrates after completing the first-ever double century in One-Day Internationals on February 24, 2010 © AFP

11. The double hundred in ODIs: Gwalior, 2009-10

There have always been speculations as to who would be the first to reach the 200-mark in ODIs. Viv Richards had come close; Gary Kirsten had; Sanath Jayasuriya had a bite; Saeed Anwar and Charles Coventry had got as close as 190; but the question remained: Who would be the first to scale Everest? Will it be Virender Sehwag? Chris Gayle? What about Brendon McCullum?

Sehwag fell early after Tendulkar had taken Wayne Parnell for consecutive boundaries in the second over of the match. As Dale Steyn roared in and bowled one short he was pulled brutally through mid-wicket for another four, and followed by another uppish square-cut for four more.

Fifty came up in 37 balls with nine fours when Tendulkar leg-glanced Roelof van der Merwe for four; Jacques Kallis, leading South Africa on that particular day, kept rotating his bowlers, but to no avail. Tendulkar reached his hundred in 90 balls with 13 fours when he square-cut JP Duminy for a single.

Tendulkar broke loose after that: Kallis brought back Steyn, but his first five balls went for two fours as Tendulkar flicked both past square-leg. Yusuf Pathan slogged for a while, and Tendulkar flicked a yorker from Steyn through mid-wicket for four more. Tendulkar’s 150 came up in only 118 balls with 22 fours and a six.

A massive six (dragged from off over mid-wicket) off Charl Langeveldt followed soon, and suddenly speculations of 200 arose in the crowd. Yusuf was replaced by Dhoni, and when the strike was rotated, Tendulkar hit van der Merwe over his head for a one-bounce four and hit a six over long-off the next ball.

The world record came up when he leg-glanced Parnell to fine-leg for a brace; however, it was then that the old cramps started to appear, and the twos dried up. Dhoni decided to go for the big hits while Tendulkar relied on singles to reach the coveted mark.

Tendulkar was one short of the mark when Langeveldt started the last over. Dhoni smashed him for a six off the first ball – and perhaps for the first time in Indian of cricket — a captain was booed for hitting a six. The crowd wanted to see that record happen. As if by mutual consent, they decided on a single the next ball.

Tendulkar steered the next ball behind point and scampered for the single. “The first man on the planet to reach 200, and it’s the superman from India – Sachin Tendulkar,” boomed Ravi Shastri’s voice on air; an awestruck Virat Kohli bowed to The Little Master from the dressing-room. The first man to reach there was indeed Sachin Tendulkar.

India finished with 401 for three. Steyn finished with figures of 10-0-89-0. Later in the day AB de Villiers played a lone hand as South Africa crashed to a 153-run defeat.

Brief scores:

India 401 for 3 in 50 overs (Sachin Tendulkar 200 not out, Dinesh Karthik 79, MS Dhoni 68 not out) beat South Africa 248 (AB de Villiers 114 not out; S Sreesanth 3 for 49) by 153 runs.

Sachin Tendulkar's top 12 defining moments of his international

12. A contest dreams are made of: Newlands, 2010-11

It was a perfect example of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. It was a day for the Gods. It was the day when the world of cricket witnessed an epic tussle, the kind of which comes once in a decade – and even that is an overstatement.

South Africa had notched up 362 with Kallis notching up his customary hundred. Sehwag then hit Steyn to Graeme Smith at mid-off, and Dravid tried to run off a misfield and was run out by a distance. India were 28 for two when Tendulkar walked out to join Gambhir.

Steyn was on fire. Morne Morkel, with his height and awkward bounce, kept on unleashing lethal missiles from the other end; coming on at first-change, Lonwabo Tsotsobe bowled a nagging line and kept asking questions to the batsmen, and set off with a flick off Steyn through mid-wicket.

The stroke seemed to infuriate Steyn as he added a yard or two to his pace. He came back with a lot more venom in the third session of Day Two. Morkel, too, produced a beauty, but Tendulkar had his revenge, flicking and driving the bowler for two boundaries.

Day Three started with a gorgeous cover-drive from Sachin off Steyn; he followed this with a brutal pull and an outrageous uppercut off Tsotsobe in successive balls. And then, as lunch approached, the partnership was broken as Paul Harris had Gambhir caught-behind. With Laxman run out for a low score, the pressure was back on the tourists with the score on 235 for four.

It was with the new ball that Steyn unleashed the most vicious spell seen in recent times. He swung the ball at extreme pace, leaving Cheteshwar Pujara helpless as he was beaten one ball after the next. He pitched one on leg-stump at a pace and moved away almost as much as a leg-break; it evaded Pujara’s bat and thudded into his back pad; there was no doubt about the decision.

Steyn was virtually unplayable during this phase. He produced one too good for Dhoni’s technique; the ball took the edge and sped into the hands of third slip. Meanwhile, Tendulkar, who had hit Morkel for a six over the wicketkeeper’s head to bring up his hundred, followed it with a boundary as well.

The fast bowler hit Harbhajan’s stumps – but the bails were not dislodged despite Steyn’s pace. Tendulkar then decided to take on Steyn. He stood outside the crease to counter Steyn’s prodigious swing. In ten overs bowled either side of lunch Steyn picked up two for 13; with his scorching pace and unreal swing he was virtually unplayable; and yet – once The Little Master had made up his mind – he saw off 48 of the 60 balls.

Eventually the fire was extinguished as Steyn started to look exhausted. Harbhajan then had some ‘fun’ and so did Zaheer, but the masterpiece had come from the great man, who had scored 146 in 314 balls with 17 fours and two sixes. “This was another side of [Sachin] Tendulkar, just showing his greatness – his ability to make runs when things were really tough and he really had to battle,” Ian Chappell later said.

India managed a slender two-run lead; despite Harbhajan’s seven wicket haul Kallis scored his second hundred and saved the Test thanks to a 103-run partnership with Boucher. Having to chase 340 India decided to play out time and the series ended in a 1-1 draw.

Brief scores:

South Africa 362 (Jacques Kallis 161, Hashim Amla 59, Ashwell Prince 47; S Sreesanth 5 for 114, Zaheer Khan 3 for 89) and 341 (Jacques Kallis 109 not out, Mark Boucher 55; Harbhajan Singh 7 for 120) drew with India 364 (Sachin Tendulkar 146, Gautam Gambhir 93, Harbhajan Singh 40; Dale Steyn 5 for 75) and 166 for 3 (Gautam Gambhir 64).

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)