March 27, 1994, Auckland: After bowling out New Zealand for a meagre 142, India sends in a new opening batsman to partner Ajay Jadeja.
This boy wonder produces one of the most stunning knocks witnessed in ODI cricket history till then shredding the Kiwi attack to all corners at Eden Park.
His 82 of 49 deliveries leaves the crowd in the stadium, the cricket pundits and journalists and the cricketing world stunned!
India chases down the target within 24 overs.
More significantly, a STAR is born!
Sachin Tendulkar gave a glimpse of his true prowess in ODI cricket opening for the first time in the format.
It was the fifth-fastest above-75 knock in ODI cricket till then. Tendulkar smashed 15 fours and 2 sixes and scored at a strike rate of 167.34.
He hammered an astonishing 87.8% of his runs in fours and sixes which was the highest percentage of runs scored in boundaries amongst the 50 fastest above-75 innings in ODI cricket till then.
The innings transformed Tendulkar. And Indian cricket.
Till then he had aggregated 1758 runs in 69 matches (66 innings) mostly from number 4 and 5 at an average of 30.84 and strike rate of 74.36 with no hundreds.
Post Auckland 1994, Tendulkar went on to become one of the greatest batsmen in the history of ODI cricket. He scored 16668 runs in 386 innings at an average of 47.08 and strike rate of 87.71.
No one in the history of ODI cricket has scored more runs or registered more hundreds than Tendulkar’s 49.
As an opener, Tendulkar has scored 15310 runs in 340 innings at an average of 48.29 and strike rate of 88.05.
Tendulkar was way ahead of the pack and a couple of notches above any other batsman in the format thereafter. His ability to score big runs consistently over a long period of time at a very high strike rate separated him from other great players of his time and put him in a league of his own.
He was amongst the 5 highest impact batsmen from Auckland 1994 till he retired in 2012 – for a period of 18 years!
The period from March 1994 till the end of the millennium (31st December, 1999) was his Golden Period.
As an opener, he averaged 48.6 with a strike rate of 91.45 in this period. Just for perspective, Ganguly had an average of 43.63 but a strike rate of just 71.58, Anwar (42.61, 82.86) and Mark Waugh (44.37, 76.76) during this period. Sanath Jayasuriya had a strike rate of 95.13 but an average of only 33.4 in this time-frame.
Tendulkar scored 24 hundreds in this time-frame more than double of the next-highest, Anwar who registered 11.
Tendulkar was a cut above the rest!
There was Tendulkar, broad daylight, more broad daylight and then the rest.
Tendulkar had 63 very high impact batting performances in his career. 58 of these came in the 371 matches post Auckland’ 94 – which meant one such performance every six matches – that shows the remarkable consistency of his performances.
He also had a special ability to rise to the occasion and produce his best in the big matches – in world tournaments and series-deciders and against the toughest opposition.
He aggregated 2278 runs (the highest in World Cup history) in just 44 innings at an average of 56.95 and strike rate of 88.98 including 6 hundreds.
He played a pivotal part in India’s relative success in the 1996 and 2003
World Cups and was India’s most impactful batsman in the 2011 World Cup.
He had an excellent record against the best team of his era – Australia – scoring
3077 runs at an average of 44.59 including 9 hundreds against them – none more
memorable than his back to back hundreds at Sharjah in 1998.
It all began on that glorious March day 26 years ago in Auckland!
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