The most complete batsman of his time. The most prolific run-scorer of all time. The biggest cricket icon the gentleman's game has ever known. A living God amongst ordinary men with the unique ability to evoke passion amongst cricket fans. Sachin Tendulkar needs no introduction when it comes to cricket.
Arguably one of the greatest cricketers of all time, Sachin Tendulkar pretty much achieved everything one can dream of in his illustrious career. From his majestic batting, admirable demeanour to records galore, few have come close to matching the Little Master's ability to capture the imagination of fans across the globe.
Boasting a full range of rage of orthodox shots, Tendulkar's batting was based on the purest principles - perfect balance, economy of movement, precision in stroke-making and, above all, anticipation (an intangible quality, possessed by few greats, which continues to elude some of the best in the business even now).
But, before Tendulkar eventually became the world-dominating, bowler-slaying 'Master Blaster', he was a youngster whose batting genius, too good for domestic cricket, propelled him onto the international stage at just 16-years-old, an age where others aren't even sure about their appearances, let alone their career choices. However, Tendulkar was different.
In 1988, the Indian team had travelled to Bombay to play against the touring New Zealand team when the senior cricketers first laid eyes on the Tendulkar's artistry with the willow. The youngster's ability to negotiate the top fast bowlers, including Kapil Dev, in the nets convinced then Bombay captain Dilip Vengsarkar who handpicked him to play for his team.
A Ranji Trophy debut came at the age of 15 and Tendulkar repaid the faith of Vengsarkar by smashing an unbeaten hundred against Gujarat, which made him the youngest Indian to score a ton on his first-class debut. His sensational debut was followed by hundreds in Deodhar and Duleep Trophies. And, at the end of the 1988-89 Ranji season, Tendulkar emerged as Bombay's highest run-scorer with 583 runs at an average of 67.77.
Owing to his spectacular domestic season, the precocious little kid had already shown he belonged in the league of men. And, a national call-up was around the corner. At the end of the 1988-89 Ranji Trophy season, as the Indian team set course for West Indies, Tendulkar was the talk of the town with a chorus of his international debut. But, he eventually missed out on making the cut for the Windies tour.
It was Raj Singh Dungarpur, the then Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president, whose insistence finally led to Tendulkar getting Team India's Test Cap Number 187 as the national team toured Pakistan. On 15th November 1989, Tendulkar found himself in the company of men and at the highest level of cricket as he walked onto the field at the National Stadium in Karachi.
But, that day was not about Tendulkar impressing anyone with his batting or scoring a hundred. In years to come, his debut was going to be remembered as the day a 16-year-old boy became a man.
The rivalry between India and Pakistan was at its peak in the late 80s, especially after Javed Miandad had slammed a last-ball six off Chetan Sharma to win the Austral-Asia Cup in 1986. Thus, when India decided to hand Tendulkar his debut, a lot of people were as nervous and the young Bombay cricketer.
Becoming, and continues to remain, the youngest Indian to make his Test debut, Tendulkar had a forgettable outing as he was clean bowled for just 15 runs in the first innings by Waqar Younis, who was making his debut for Pakistan. Going up against one of the fiercest bowling attacks in the world which included the likes of Wasim Akram, Imran Khan and Abdul Qadir, Tendulkar couldn't improve on his score as he didn't get a chance to bat in the second innings as the game eventually resulted in a draw.
But, Tendulkar remained unfazed by his debut innings. He soon gave everyone a glimpse of his batting masterclass when he hit his maiden fifty, a gritty 59 off 172 balls, in the first innings of the second Test. In the next match, he came close to registering another fifty but missed out after being bowled by Qadir on 41.
For a batsman of his age, Tendulkar, in his own capacity, had already proved his abilities. But, it was the final Test of the series that truly showed his character. With the Pakistani fast-bowling attack targetting his body with nasty bouncers, Tendulkar kept on swaying out of line and dropped his wrists to keep his wicket. But, a nasty bouncer by Younis struck him on the nose as everyone gathered around him in concern.
But, despite the gushing blood from his nose and enduring extreme pain, Tendulkar declined medical assistance and continued to bat, proving that even the chin music or body blows thrown at him weren't enough to shatter his confidence. Showcasing the composure of a seasoned professional, the 16-year-old scored his second fifty - 57 off 135 balls - of the tour.
As the four-match Test series ended in a draw, Tendulkar finished off with 215 runs, at an average of 35.83, to his name. Two days after the final Test, the ODI series was set to begin in Peshawar. But, while it was expected to be a scintillating contest, incessant rains ensured that a 50-over match could not be completed.
Instead, a 20-over exhibition match, a friendly, was played as a token of gratitude for the fans who had turned up in large numbers at the stadium. With nothing on the line, the players from both sides probably looked at the fixture as a mere training session which explains why young Tendulkar was given free rein with the bat.
Chasing a total of 157 runs, India had lost three wickets with 88 runs on the scoreboard when young Tendulkar walked out in the middle and clubbed a young Mushtaq Ahmed for two sixes in an over. In the next over, a seasoned Qadir challenged Tendulkar with an alleged taunt: "why're you hitting kids, try and hit me if you can". And, Tendulkar obliged.
The right-handed batsman smashed Qadir for four sixes, including three big hits in a row. Letting his bat do the talking, Tendulkar ensured Qadir finished his over after conceding a staggering 27 runs (6,4,0,6,6,6). While India lost the exhibition match by four runs, a young Tendulkar won everyone over for his blistering 18-ball 53 - labelled as "one of the best innings I have seen" by the then Indian captain Krishnamachari Srikkanth.
On a tour that many thought was too big a task for a young cricketer like Tendulkar, the Mumbai batsman used it as a platform to showcase his batting abilities and great temperament which set the tone of what would eventually turn into a breath-taking career. Tendulkar played a record 200 Test matches for India in a career that lasted 24 years. And, when he called time on his career in 2013, Tendulkar bowed out as the highest run-scorer of all time in international cricket.
This is something that I love doing the most!ð pic.twitter.com/cbliXB47bJ— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) November 15, 2019
Thirty years after his debut, Tendulkar is still celebrated as one of the greats to have ever graced the game and remains a fan-favourite. While those who saw him play would surely feel blessed, but, for those who couldn't, Tendulkar shared a video of himself playing his iconic strokes on the eve of his 30th Team India debut anniversary.