Almost exactly 25 years after Sunil Gavaskar went past Geoff Boycott as Test cricket’s leading run getter another Indian is now numero uno. But then Sachin scaling the summit was almost as inevitable as the sun rising in the east.
The very first time one started to believe that Tendulkar could one day become the highest run getter in Test history was probably in the early 90s when big scores became a habit with him and his career average topped the fifty mark for the first time.
Right through the decade, as he and Brian Lara vied with each other for the title of the leading batsman in the world, there was also a healthy competition between the two superstars towards reaching the summit.
Lara got there first in 2005, but the West Indian being four years older meant that it would be only a matter of time before his great rival went past him. That moment finally came at Mohali on Friday and Indian — and world — cricket rejoiced.
The way the Australian players spontaneously congratulated the great man summed it all up. Tendulkar is such a revered figure in international cricket that even the most hardened opponent has nothing but the highest respect for his ethereal batsmanship and for his gentlemanly conduct — on and off the field.
Nineteen years! One cannot believe how they have flown by!
The journey started in Karachi in November 1989, when as a 16-year-old Tendulkar impressed one and all with his prodigious gifts.
Even then everyone knew that here was an uncommon talent who was bound to serve the cause of Indian for an extended period and score a lot of runs and centuries.
At that time, however, no one could have anticipated the events as they unfolded through the 90s and the new millennium. The staid Wisden, though, did note after his maiden Test hundred at Old Trafford in 1990 that ``there should be many more Test hundreds for Tendulkar.’’
Actually, it did not require Wisden to make such a prediction, for everyone knew that Tendulkar would get many more three-figure knocks.
What probably no one was prepared for was the commanding manner in which he batted over the next couple of decades, the giant strides he made in world cricket and the exalted status that he reached through his batsmanship, an impeccable blend of full-blooded strokes and immaculate defence, utmost determination and intense concentration and a single-mindedness of purpose in achieving his mission.
The ultimate tribute to the Indian maestro remains the one paid to him by none other than Don Bradman who remarked that his method of batting, his style and approach to the game mirrored his own.
Even despite the presence of Lara, Tendulkar was widely rated as the best batsman in the world by cricket fans, media representatives and fellow players. It was a signal honour that remained elusive for an Indian batsman for over sixty years, but the lofty title rested lightly on his strong shoulders.
Sachin, though, never let success go to his head and the ideal temperament allied to a superb technique and in-born talent made him a formidable opponent, a fact underlined by the mind-boggling and eye-rubbing figures against his name. Most number of centuries, most number of runs, the first to get to 12,000 runs all sum up his incredible mindset.
One really wishes that he could go regaling audiences worldwide on and on. But the vagaries of time are something that no one can overcome. At 35, Tendulkar, not unexpectedly, is over the hill, but only just.
One must, however, be cautious in making predictions about the little big man. This after all is someone who has scored a couple of thousand runs in Tests after a national newspaper made bold to publish the now infamous headline `Endulkar?’ at the start of 2006.
The manner in which he has handled the incessant pressure that has been put on the seniors of late is admirable. After Friday’s events at Mohali, the pressure on Tendulkar should ease considerably and one gets the distinct feeling that like Sunil Gavaskar, he will go out on a high — and on his own terms.