It took 39 years, nearly 3000 matches (2961) but finally the double hundred summit in One-day Internationals has been breached. And it is almost befitting that the greatest ODI batsman in the history has reached that mark first. With his unbeaten 200 yesterday at Gwalior, Sachin Tendulkar added yet another feather in his already overflowing cap. Such was his control over the environment, the attack, his body and his emotions that there can be only one word to describe this innings: FLAWLESS !!
This innings was admittedly on a belter of a pitch, and didn't have the same pressure as his two out standing Chennai test hundreds, or some of his brilliant ODI knocks vs Australia (Sharjah, Hyderabad, Sydney) and Pak (WC 03), but what one cannot take away is the batting masterclass displayed here. None of the other 21 players could come remotely close to achieving what he did on the same track.
For 50 overs, Sachin dominated which is probably the best pace attack in the world with ease that was hard to imagine. Every bowler was battered into submission not by brutal stroke-play of a Richards, not by exhilarating attacking intent of a Gilchrist and not by an audacious Sehwag onslaught but classical simplicity. Entire innings was constructed with beautiful and classical cricket strokes all around the park, placed with clinical precision and perfect timing. There was the odd cheeky stroke and improvisation here and there, but for most parts it could resemble a batting coaching video. It was easy to feel sorry for the bowlers because at no stage did Sachin look like giving a chance. It was surreal to watch graceful strokes all around the park with minimal risk played with such an alarming regularity, that one could easily mistake it for a net session off bunch of club bowlers.
Dale Steyn bowled 2 full dot balls outside off in the batting powerplay, and Sachin sizing up the ploy and field placing promptly moved towards the off to flick it almost nonchalantly to mid-wicket boundary, Steyn the best paceman in the world can only look on and shrug his shoulders. Parnell came around the wicket trying to angle the ball in to Sachin, and was driven multiple times through the covers, it was not as easy as Sachin made it look as could be seen from a complete miss when attempted by Karthik. Van der Merwe also tried to cramp up Sachin bowling around the wicket into his legs, but was repeatedly hit inside out over the covers. It was just that sort of a day, no matter what any bowler tried, it was to no avail against the master at work.
Tendulkar has always threatened to reach this mark before getting close to it twice last year with 163 n.o against NZ and the heartbreaking 175 vs Aus. But this time once he crossed 170 with time to spare, one could see his determination that he won't be denied again. You only need to see the replay of his last 6 off Van der Merwe on the last ball of the 42nd over, as he moved to 179 he let out a huge 'whoop' as if to egg himself on for the final stage of the epic knock. Yes, the 200 was on and he was not going to miss out again !!
It is easy to see child like enthusiasm in Sachin's play and although he has achieved heights one can only dream of, he still wants more. It is important to have passion to achieve success and that is perhaps what is driving him nowadays. He is constantly raising the bar of achievements for him to get and then getting them. He knows he is on his final stretch in the career, and has set himself to tick off all the boxes for critics. Good examples of that are: 1st ODI hundred in Australia (that too a final) - check, 4th inns match winning hundred at Chennai - check, home test 100s vs South Africa - check and check, 200 in ODI - check. And many more of these to come, for example 50 centuries in tests, a 100 international hundreds, 15000 test runs; but one thing he wants more than anything is the World Cup winner's medal. That would complete a stellar career, and if few more of these days in WC next year, maybe he'll check that box too, nearly 1.2 billion would surely be hoping he does.
I can only hope he continues to churn out more of these incredible innings and goes on to redefine the word 'LEGEND'. All I can say to this is, borrowing 2 words from A.R Rahman and Gulzar: जय हो !!