"Sachin Tendulkar redefined and rewrote the role of an opener in the ODIs," says VVS Laxman in an exclusive tete-a-tete with Cricketnext.
Accolades have been pouring in for Sachin Tendulkar – who called time on his ODI career on Sunday – from all quarters, but who other than VVS Laxman, who played with him for so long, would describe the maestro better. The classical batsman shares some of his memories of Tendulkar with Cricketnext.
The game changer: Sachin Tendulkar redefined and rewrote the role of an opener in the ODIs. His rollicking 82 off 49 against New Zealand at Auckland in 1994 was a rite of passage not only in his career, but also in the history of limited-overs cricket. It was the first time he opened the innings and since then there was no looking back. He mixed aggression with sublime skills and emerged as the most successful batsman in the ODI format.
A man of colossal statistics: A look at Sachin's statistics in both formats boggles your mind. Only he could have managed to achieve what he has. An average of 45 in 463 ODIs at a strike-rate of 86 with 49 hundreds and 96 half-centuries is simply incredible. He holds the record for most matches, most centuries, half-centuries, Man-of-the-Match awards, and what not. These are the testament of his longevity, consistency and unmatched genius. He performed against every opposition, and in all conditions and circumstances. He's streets ahead of his contemporaries.
Big-match player: Tendulkar has always been a big match player. His ability to absorb pressure under adverse situations sets him apart. He won many important matches and series for India almost single-handedly. He always performed brilliantly in the World Cup. He was the highest run-scorer in 1996 and 2003 World Cup and was instrumental in India's historic triumphant in the World Cup 2011. His dazzling innings against Australia in Sharjah 1998 are well-documented.
Amazing adaptability: Sachin Tendulkar adapted himself masterfully in Test matches and ODIs. His numbers and records in both the formats are almost identical. I attribute this to his preparation before the matches. His preparation - both technical and mental - for Tests and ODIs was different. It required a lot of hard work and discipline on his part but he ensured that on ground the transition looked smooth and seamless.
His best innings: This is the most difficult part as he has played copious match-winning and spectacular innings in his luminous ODI career. The innings which stand out instantly in my memory are his 82 against New Zealand in 1994, his twin centuries (143 and 134) against Australia at Sharjah in 1998, his sumptuous 98 against Pakistan at Centurion in 2003 World Cup and his 85 in the World Cup 2011 semi-final against Pakistan. I was at the other end when he thumped 143 against Australia at Sharjah. We were chasing a daunting target to qualify for the final and there was a massive sandstorm. But Sachin weathered the storm with aplomb and unleashed the most destructive ODI innings I have ever seen. In the final, he cracked another eximious century as we beat Australia to lift the trophy.