Less than 24 hours after the ‘Little Master’ became the first batsman in the history of Test Match cricket to pass 14,000 runs, it’s worth pausing for a second and reflecting on the sheer brilliance of the minature man, arguably the greatest batsman of all time.
Commencing his career as a 16 year old in 1989, Tendulkar started his career promisingly if not spectacularly. Between 1989 and 1991, Tendulkar scored 666 runs at an average of 35.05 from 13 Tests, with just the single century against England at Manchester where he made an unbeaten 119 to rescue his side from almost certain defeat.
Things changed dramatically though in the next three years between 1992 and 1994, when he scored a total of 1759 runs at an outstanding average of 65.14 from 22 Tests. The highlights included no less than seven centuries, including a majestic unbeaten 148 against Australia, 165 against England and his highest score at the time, 179 against a fiery West Indies side at Nagpur. It was around this time, having now played 35 games, when experts all over the world started realising just how special SRT was.
The next five years to round out the 20th century produced a staggering 3416 more runs at an average of 59.93, including 14 more centuries, none more memorable than his first double-century during his epic innings of 217 against New Zealand in Ahmedabad. By the time the new millennium had appeared, Tendulkar was now known as one of the world’s best batsman, along side his good friend and fellow run-machine, Brian Lara.
As the new century kicked-off, Tendulkar’s appetite for runs continued as he scored another 4038 runs at 58.52 over the next five years, including a staggering 1392 runs from 16 Tests in 2002. During this period between 2000 and 2004, Tendulkar started amassing some large scores, as highlighted by his 201 not out against Zimbabwe at Nagpur, 193 against England at Leeds, 241 not out against Australia in India’s monstrous total of 7/705 (dec) in Sydney, 194 not out against arch-rivals Pakistan at Multan and his highest Test score to date, 248 not out against Bangladesh at Dhaka. Tendulkar’s tally now stood at 9879 Test Match runs and he had racked-up an amazing 34 Test centuries. The next goal was to cross the magical 10,000 run mark.
The magical feat was achieved against Pakistan at Kolkata in 2005, during his innings of 52. However despite the continuing milestones, cracks were beginning to show in Tendulkar’s technique and he went through the leanest period of his career. In 2005 and 2006 combined, Tendulkar managed just 711 runs at an average of 33.86 and questions were being raised as to whether or not his best was in the past. Afterall, he was now 33 years old and nearing what would usually be considered retirement age. However, as with all sporting champions, Tendulkar wasn’t finished with yet and roared back in 2007.
In May of 2007, Tendulkar smashed two centuries against Bangladesh to re-announce himself on the world stage and extinguish any doubts regarding his suggested, ‘declining ability’. He finished 2007 with 776 runs at 55.42 and continued that form through 2008 and 2009, scoring 1063 runs at 48.31 and 541 runs at 67.62 respectively. Tendulkar was back and his appetite for big scores was as well, scoring eight centuries during this three year period. However, nobody could have predicted what a new decade would bring.
In 2010 thus far, Tendulkar has stunned the cricketing world by amassing 1217 runs at a Bradmanesque average of 93.61, the best he’s averaged in a calender year to date. Included in this are six more Test centuries, two of which are doubles, his 203 against Sri Lanka in Colombo and yesterday’s 214 against the Australians at Bangalore. In total, Tendulkar has now scored 14,187 Test Match runs at an average of 56.74, with 49 Test centuries to boot. With such a rich vein of form and seemingly as hungry for runs as ever before, the question must now be asked as to how long he can continue playing for?
If he continues for another three years, taking him up to the ripe old age of 40, Tendulkar is likely to score just under 2000 additional runs. This figure is derived from an average of 8 Test Matches per year, over his 22 year career and an average of 82.96 runs per match. If this occurs, Tendulkar will comfortably cross the 16,000 Test Match runs barrier, a figure which in all probability will never be exceeded. However, if he continues to churn out runs at a record rate, 17,000 isn’t entirely out of the question either.
Of all milestones that Tendulkar’s achieved, the next major one is arguably one of the most significant, that being an incredible 50 Test Match centuries. From there it’s 15,000 runs and so on, and so on. These are truly staggering numbers from a true champion of the game.
Whatever path Tendulkar’s career takes from this moment on, it is sure to be filled with more records and continuing excitement. One day, the ‘Little Master’ will finally hang up his boots and the only thing that’s certain is that the game of cricket will lose a true champion and a figure idolised by millions of fans all around the world.