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Little man, massive talent

Updated: 2013-11-13 07:20
By Tym Glaser ( China Daily)

Sachin Tendulkar takes his final international bow this week. Tym Glaser takes a look at cricket's most prolific batsman of all-time.

I've pored over the numbers for so long that my brain hurts like one of Monty Python's Mr Gumbys. Still, at the end of many a long day ... and night, Sachin Tendulkar is statisically the greatest batsman to ever stand 22 yards away from a bowler and wield a flat-fronted piece of willow. There are, of course, lies, damn lies and statistics, but how can you argue against the Little Master from Mumbai who played more Tests and ODIs than anyone else while making more centuries and half tons in both forms of the game than any person ever placed on a green field?

You simply can't. The only areas he falls short in are average and highest totals in both Tests and ODIs, but if I was starting an All-World XI, I think I could live with those 'flaws'.

But here comes the tricky bit for me and why my cranium is throbbing: I can't come to call him the greatest batsman of all-time nor even the best of his generation.

To remove the first elephant from the room; another shorty, Donald George Bradman, is on totally different plateau to any stick-wielder that ever lived - and that includes you, baseballers.

His average of 99.94 is as seemingly untouchable as the Little Master's Test runs tally. Just figure this: if World War II had not interrupted the Australian's career and he played five Tests per year during that lost period between 1938 and 1946 - and he averaged his Invincible team average of 72.6 in 1948 - he would have finished his career with about 13,400 runs in 92 Tests, which would have placed him only behind Sachin - with 108 matches in hand!

(Now you can see why my head ails me)

The final pachyderm that needs to be expelled is a purely subjective and perhaps even pink one. And that's that Sachin is not the greatest batsman I have seen.

That honor goes to his great West Indian contemporary Brian Lara, whose numbers (131 Tests, 11,953 runs, 400 not out highest score, 52.88 average, 34 centuries and 48 50s) fall well short of Tendulkar, but 'BC' was a bona-fide match-winner whose flamboyant strokeplay, particularly those pulls off the hip, electrified crowds.

But therein may be the brilliance of the cornerstone of Indian cricket for nearly a quarter of a century.

He didn't have to dazzle because he had the entire skill set and more.

A great eye, quick hands, wrists and feet, an uncanny ability to find gaps in the field - or create them - and unflinching courage when facing the finest fast bowlers in the world, like Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Glenn McGrath, Allan Donald, Dale Steyn, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose and so many others of that fiery ilk. Then the abiltiy to outwit the spin mastery of the world's Abdul Qadirs, Shane Warnes and Muttiah Muralitharans.

The diminutive star's ultra-compact technique against the quicks made it look all so easy while even the great Lara and other modern day stars like Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh, Jacques Kallis and Rahul Dravid were made to look ordinary against quality pace at times in their careers.

The captaincy of the world's second most populous nation's cricket team never sat comfortably upon him, injuries - particularly a bad elbow - and criticism in his twilight years that he was overstaying his welcome and holding young talent back rocked him, but he never fell.

Now this monument to the game (all 5 feet, 5 inches of him) gets to bow out on his own terms at his homeground.

We will not see his like again, and we will be poorer for it.

Perhaps the final word should go to someone who knew more about cricket greatness and its ups and downs than even Sachin.

"I saw him playing on television and was struck by his technique, so I asked my wife to come look at him. Now I never saw myself play, but I felt that this player is playing with a style similar to mine, and she looked at him on television and said yes, there is a similarity between the two ... his compactness, technique, stroke production ... it all seemed to gel," said the late Sir Donald Bradman.

Tym Glaser is a senior sports copy editor at China Daily who can't wait for the next Ashes series to start. He can be contacted at

 Little man, massive talent

Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar will begin his 200th and final Test match on Thursday against the West Indies in his hometown of Mumbai. The Little Master, pictured driving at Wankhede stadium in Mumbai last year, has set international batting records in Tests and one-day internationals that are unlikely to be broken. Indranil Mukherjee / Agence France-Presse

Little man, massive talent

(China Daily 11/13/2013 page24)

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