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Sachin Tendulkar has scored 872 runs at the Eden Gardens at an average of 47.88 with two tons. In this picture, he is seen celebrating his ton against South Africa in 2010, which came when India were trailing in the series © AFP

The Eden Gardens has not been the most successful ground for Sachin Tendulkar, yet he has a record on the ground that lesser mortals would envy. As he gets ready to play his final Test on the ground, Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the earlier appearances of the master in this sports-mad stadium.
No, the Eden Gardens has not been the most successful ground for the master.

In his glittering career there have been other grounds which have seen more spectacular displays of his brilliance.

MA Chidambaram, Chepauk, in Chennai has witnessed him pile 970 runs with five splendid hundreds at 88.18 in 10 Test matches. At the Chinnaswamy Stadium , Bangalore he has 869 runs at 62.07. Looking just at the batting average, he has excelled even more in the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) Stadium, Nagpur, scoring 679 runs at 97.00 in the six Tests.

If we look beyond India, the great man has hit 785 runs at a whopping 157.00 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, 698 at 99.71 at the Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo, 489 at 81.50 at Newlands, Cape Town, 541 at 67.62 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, and 322 at 64.40 at Seddon Park, Hamilton.

Yet, even something relatively less successful in the Sachin Tendulkar scale goes way beyond the realms of the ordinary. And in the course of his forays across the stadium in Kolkata, he has left more than a memorable trail.

For starters, Tendulkar’s collection of Test runs at the ground is 862, which is next only to the two men for whom the Garden of Eden actually translated into Paradise — VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid. The runs have been obtained at a healthy average of 47.88 with two hundreds.

In One-Day Internationals (ODIs), Tendulkar actually tops the list of run getters by a fair distance, with an aggregate of 496 at 49.60 from 13 matches.

Additionally, he has done some rather nifty work with the ball as well — playing a leading role in two most memorable victories.

Here is a look at his appearances at the celebrated venue in the City of Joy:

1. India vs Sri Lanka Asia Cup Final, January 1991: It was as a 17-year-old Boy Wonder that Tendulkar played his first international match on the ground. Asanka Gurusinha, Aravinda de Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga helped the visitors to 204 in their quota of 45 overs. Tendulkar walked in at 30 for two — a crisis situation already familiar in his brief career. He scored 53, adding 91 with Sanjay Manjrekar. Mohammad Azharuddin came in next to finish it off with a 39 ball 54. India won with plenty to spare.

2. India vs South Africa, 1st ODI, November 1991:  The return of South Africa to the fold of international cricket. Put into bat, the Proteas were restricted to 177 for eight, with Tendulkar picking up the important wicket of highest scorer Kepler Wessels. He walked in at a precarious three for two, with Allan Donald having blasted out Ravi Shastri and Sanjay Manjrekar with blistering pace. Donald went on to pick up five, but Tendulkar hit eight fours and a six while holding the innings together with a mature head. Pravin Amre did the rest after he departed for a match changing 62. He was declared joint Man of the Match with Donald.

3. India vs England, 1st Test, January 1993: The start of the saga of victories at home under Azharuddin. Tendulkar was going great guns on Friday afternoon, driving with grace and cutting with élan. And then he broke the hearts of the thousands who would have loved to flock to the ground and watch him on Saturday when he chased a wide one from Devon Malcolm. He scored 50, but Azharuddin got 182 before Anil Kumble, Venkatapathy Raju and Rajesh Chauhan made short work of the Englishmen.

4. India vs South Africa Hero Cup semifinal, November 1993: Tendulkar walked in again in a crisis situation with the score reading 18 for three. Richard Snell snared him for 15 after a brief stabilising partnership with Azharuddin. A score of 195 hardly looked challenging, but the Indian bowlers choked the runs before Brian McMillan went berserk in the last few overs. Six runs remained to be scored off the final over with two wickets in hand and Tendulkar was handed the ball. Every delivery was pitched in the blockhole and the South Africans managed just three. Not for the last time Tendulkar performed magic with the ball at Eden Gardens.

5. India vs West Indies Hero Cup final, November 1993: Three days after his miracle with the ball, Tendulkar produced an all-round show. He got to the wicket as India was in the process of losing Vinod Kambli, Azharuddin and Amre at the same score. He steadied the innings, adding 46 with Kapil Dev, taking India to 225 in their quota of overs, ending with an unbeaten 28. When West Indies batted, he castled the dangerous Brian Lara to make it 57 for two. Kapil got rid of Richie Richardson and Keith Arthurton, and then Anil Kumble ran through the innings with his celebrated six for 12. India won by 102 runs.

6. India vs West Indies Wills World Series final, November 1994: Man of the Match yet again. By now Tendulkar was opening the innings in ODIs. He scored a 68-ball 66, adding 108 for the first wicket with Ajay Jadeja as India piled up 274. When West Indies batted he sent down eight economical overs, finishing with one for 35. India won by 72 runs.

7. India vs Sri Lanka World Cup semifinal, March 1996: He did all that he could do, but his teammates were not good enough to finish the match. When Sri Lanka batted, he had bowled ten overs for just 34 runs, taking two wickets. As India started to chase 251, he geared the chase alone, scoring 65 before being stumped down the leg side off Sanath Jayasuriya. He departed with the score reading 98 for two. India managed just 22 more runs for the loss of another six wickets on a fast breaking wicket before a shower of bottles in the traditional Eden Garden way ended the game. Match referee Clive Lloyd awarded the tie to Sri Lanka. This was the first time Tendulkar featured in a losing side at the Eden Gardens.

8. India vs South Africa, 2nd Test, November-December 1996: A poor outing as the captain of India. Gary Kirsten scored centuries in both innings and South Africa piled up formidable totals. Although Azharuddin played one of the most memorable knocks at Eden, India lost by a huge margin. Tendulkar tasted his first failure at Eden with scores of 18 and two.

9. India vs Australia, 2nd Test, March 1998: Tendulkar walked in a few minutes before tea on the second day and got out a few minutes after the break. Yet, the score against his name as he walked back read 79. It was one of the most magnificent of innings, a sparkling masterpiece by a master at the height of his powers. The 79 was in fact a low score punctuating his two big hundreds in the series. Shane Warne bowled the last over before tea from round the wicket, pitching into the rough. Batting for the interval? Tendulkar went down on his knee and pulled him over mid-wicket for six. It was spectacular hitting until he steered a rank bad ball from Michael Kasprowicz into the hands of point. India won by an innings.

10. India vs Kenya Coca-Cola Triangular Series final, May 1998: The opponent was not Kenya but the sweltering heat of a May afternoon in Kolkata. It was sheer torture to turn out in the middle of the Indian summer, and Tendulkar decided to end things fast. His first hundred at Eden came off 103 balls, as India overhauled the paltry 196 in 35 overs. The 100 not out earned him his third Man of the Match award at the ground.

11. India vs Pakistan Asian Test Championship, February 1999: This is the match where Shoaib Akhtar yorked him first ball in the first innings. He came in at 134 for two in the second innings with India needing 279 to win in a thrilling Test match. Tendulkar made his intentions clear with a scorching square cut off Wasim Akram that went searing to the fence. And then he turned Akram past mid-wicket. As substitute Nadeem Khan ran after the ball, Tendulkar hastened back for a third and collided with Shoaib Akhtar as the ball freakishly hit the stumps. Third umpire KT Francis declared him run out. It led to a near riot, and Tendulkar had to walk around the ground, waving at the crowd in a plea to maintain peace. India lost by 46 runs.

12. India vs Australia, 2nd Test, March 2001: The watershed moment of Indian cricket when VVS Laxman’s 281 and his rearguard act with Rahul Dravid proved that Indian batting had grown out of the one man army led by Tendulkar. The master himself scored 10 in each innings as India fought after following on and Laxman and Dravid batted through the entire fourth day. However, he performed his second magic with the ball at the venue. Three googlies got rid of Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne as Australia tried hard to hang on for a draw. India won a miraculous match, as Harbhajan Singh trapped Glenn McGrath leg before with just a few balls remaining.

13. India vs England, 1st ODI, January 2002: An ordinary outing for the master as he added 78 with Sourav Ganguly for the first wicket, his contribution being 36. India won by 22 runs after a rather ridiculous leg before decision against centurion Marcus Trescothick.

14. India vs West Indies, 3rd Test, October-November 2002: For some unknown reason, at this point of his career there was increasing criticism about his ability to cope under crisis in the second innings. Of course, this had nothing to do with his record. With a gamut of new batsmen showing their mettle, it was the natural course taken by the celebrated and largely zonal Indian media — to try and discover imaginary chinks in the armour of a long serving hero. Tendulkar came in at 11 for two in the second innings on the fourth afternoon, with a defeat very much on the cards. Soon it became 49 for three and 87 for four, with the first innings arrears still not erased. He proceeded to add 214 runs with VVS Laxman, scoring a steady 176 and saving the match for India.

15. India vs Australia TVS Cup final, November 2003: Tendulkar led the chase as India targeted the 235 scored by Australia. But when he was third out for 99, with his personal score of 45, the rest of the batting fell away. Only Rahul Dravid fought hard with 49. India lost by 37 runs.

16. India vs Pakistan, BCCI Platinum Jubilee match, November 2004: Yet another meaningless standalone ODI. Tendulkar opened with Virender Sehwag and was run out for 16. India lost by four wickets in spite of putting up an imposing 292. Salman Butt did the star turn for Pakistan with an unbeaten hundred.

17. India vs South Africa, 2nd Test, November-December 2004: Struggling with his tennis-elbow, Tendulkar played a slow, disappointing innings of 20 in the first essay. However, he ended things in style, hitting a six and three boundaries in an attractive unbeaten 32 as India chased down the required runs in the fourth innings.

18. India vs Pakistan, 2nd Test, March 2005: Dravid was the hero of this Test with centuries in each innings. However, Tendulkar led a solid helping hand with a couple of fities, identical scores of 52 in each innings. He looked set for many more in the second knock when Steve Bucknor (who else) gave him out caught behind when a rather heavily built elephant could easily pass between the bat and the ball. The master walked back visibly fuming. Kumble picked up seven in the final innings as India won by a huge margin.

19. India vs South Africa, 4th ODI, November 2005: A failure for Tendulkar who was caught behind off Shaun Pollock for two. On a green wicket, India were dismissed for 188 and South Africans were bemused as the regional crowd cheered them to victory — a day of shame for the city of Kolkata which chose their out of form and out of favour local hero over their country.

20. India vs Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, February 2007: The match was rained off after Sri Lanka had reached 102 for three in the 18.2 overs.

21. India vs Pakistan, 2nd Test, November-December 2007: A run-feast on the flattest of wickets. Tendulkar joined the fun with 82 before the match fizzled out into a yawn of a draw.

22. India vs Sri Lanka, 4th ODI, December 2009: Tendulkar scored just eight, but Gautam Gambhir’s 150 and Virat Kohli’s 107 chased down Sri Lanka’s 315.

23. India vs South Africa, 2nd Test, February 2010: An important century by the maestro. Trailing in the series after South Africa had won in Nagpur in spite of a Tendulkar hundred, India dismissed the visitors for 296 from 218 for one. Tendulkar and Sehwag added 249 for the third wicket to set the platform before MS Dhoni and VVS Laxman hammered the last nails into the Protean coffin. India won by an innings through a flurry of Harbhajan Singh wickets at the very death of the match. With this win, India the number one ranked side in the Test world. Seldom has Tendulkar’s smile been wider than it was at the end of the Test.

24. India vs West Indies, 2nd Test, November 2011: Every run at this stage hinted at the hundredth international century, but it was not to be. Tendulkar played a cautious innings of 38 before pulling Devendra Bishoo down the throat of mid-wicket. However, Dravid and Laxman got hundreds and India won by an innings.

25. India vs England 3rd Test, December 2012: A bright spot in the last few days of struggle, as Tendulkar top-scored with 76 in the first innings. India lost and he failed in the second innings. Yet, as he walked back, he was rewarded with a standing ovation from a crowd who realised that it could be the last time they were seeing the champion in action.

As it happens, he is back for one more game — the last of a glittering career.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twiter.com/senantix)