Sachin Tendulkar and the monuments that speak eloquently about his cricketing genius

Tendulkar’s first innings are naturally more readily lauded. But his second innings too deserve credit. Sometimes, he has seen the entire line-up come and go © Getty Images

By Rudolph Lambert Fernandez
 
Tendulkar’s innings are monuments to his genius without being landmarks in the history of Indian Test cricket’Men in White: A Book of Cricket by Mukul Kesavan
 
That sounds right. It even feels right. But is it?

A segment of Sachin Tendulkar’s critics, especially those compelled to concede Sachin Tendulkar’s crucial contributions in One-Day International (ODIs), are less generous about his heavy-lifting in Tests. Are they right about Tendulkar’s legacy in Test matches? Has he really been playing, more or less, for himself?
 

  • In June 1996, India scored 219 in their second innings against England in Birmingham. Tendulkar scored 122 — 56% of the team score.
     
  • In December 1998, India scored 356 in their second innings against New Zealand in Wellington. Tendulkar scored 113 — 32% of the team score.
     
  • A few weeks later, in January 1999, India scored 258 in the second innings against Pakistan at Chennai. Tendulkar scored 136 — 53% of the team score.
     
  • In October 2002, India scored 471 in their second innings against the West Indies at Kolkata. Tendulkar scored 176 — 37% of the team score.
     
  • Seven years later, in February 2010, India scored 319 in their second innings against South Africa at Nagpur. Tendulkar scored 100 — 31% of the team score. Two decades into a gruelling career he was still able and willing  to score about a third of the team’s runs.
     

No batsman, however great, can be solely responsible for a Test win or a loss. Now, if that batsman accounts for 10% of the team score, he is good value. If he accounts for 20% he is very good value. But if he has often accounted for about 30% hasn’t he been building landmarks?
 
Of course the team didn’t always pull together to ensure a win; many of these matches ended as losses or draws. But a closer look reveals how a single ‘bat’ has frequently carried the burden of three, four, even five ‘bats’.
 
Critics swoon at a second innings performance, almost as if the first innings were a meaningless exercise. But the first innings lays the foundation. It builds momentum.
 
Tendulkar’s first innings are naturally more readily lauded. But his second innings too deserve credit. Sometimes, he has seen the entire line-up come and go.
 
In August 1990, India scored 343 in their second innings against England at Manchester. Tendulkar scored an unbeaten 119 — 35% of the team score. He was just 17 then.
 
In March 1998 against Australia at Chennai, Tendulkar scored an unbeaten 155 in the second innings — 37% of the team score.
 
In February 1999, India scored 306 in their second innings against Sri Lanka in Colombo. Tendulkar scored an unbeaten 124 — 41% of the team score.
 
In December 2008, India scored 387 in their second innings score against England at Chennai. Tendulkar scored an unbeaten 103 — 27% of the team score.
 
In November 2009, India scored 412 in their second innings against Sri Lanka in Ahmedabad. Tendulkar scored an unbeaten 100 — 24% of the team score.
 
In December 2010, India scored 459 in their second innings against South Africa at the Centurion. Tendulkar scored an unbeaten 111 — 24% of the team score. He was 37 years old and had been through a punishing schedule of playing cricket around the world for 20 of those years.
 
Is it right to single out only Tendulkar for India’s defeats or draws? He has scored a hundred roughly once every four Tests — 51 tons from 198 Tests.  
 
Tendulkar is understandably a shadow of the batsman he once was. But the triumph of Indian Test cricket since 1989 is a story of how vital he has been to the team. Today, he is within a whisker of the unprecedented landmark of 200 Tests. As he plays in what many believe may be his last year in international cricket, it is time to acknowledge the monuments scripted by the genius and landmarks in the history of Indian Test cricket
 
(Rudolph Lambert Fernandez is an India-based writer, currently working on a non-fiction book that celebrates batting greatness in cricket. His Twitter handle is @RudolphFernandz)