Too often Sachin Tendulkar’s achievements get lost in a flurry of statistics – only natural given the number of games he has played over a career spanning 24 years. But there are certain moments, in certain games, certain shots, that remain seared in fans’s memories for ever. Like for example, the square cuts in Perth as a 19-year old, or the lofted shots over mid-wicket off Shane Warne when he came on his first Indian tour. Here, we have picked 10 of Tendulkar’s most memorable innings, centuries either of grit and determination, or distinguished for their dazzling stroke play, or in those causes which advanced Indian Test cricket. As with all such lists, the 10 best are a matter of debate. Which Sachin Tendulkar Test century do you remember?
1) 136 in the first test against Pakistan in Chennai, 1999
It was Pakistan’s first tour of India in almost a decade. Although India managed to stave off Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, Saqlain Mushtaq proved to be almost unplayable and went on to get 20 wickets in the two tests. He had got Sachin Tendulkar for a duck in the first innings. At the end of the fourth day, India chasing 271 to win fell to 82 for 5. Despite back spasms, Tendulkar played on, albeit scratchily at times, adding 136 with Nayan Mongia leading India to the doorstep of victory. When he fell with 17 to get, the tail collapsed. India lost
2) 114 in the fifth test against Australia in Perth, 1992
In what is generally considered the fastest pitch in the world, it was baptism by fire for the 19-year old Tendulkar. It was no mean bowling attack too with the likes of Craig McDermott and Merv Hughes. “India’s bedrock was a captivating 114 from Tendulkar from 161 balls with 16 fours, the bulk of them square cuts,” the Wisden Almanack noted in its match report. Coming at no 4, he was the ninth man out. On the third morning, as he ran out of partners, he scored his second 50 from 55 balls.
3) 241 in the fourth Test against Australia in Sydney, 2004
It was a quiet series by Tendulkar standards till this test – the batting dominated by Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. On a belter of a pitch, India batted first and batted Australia out of the game in Steve Waugh’s last test. The driver of the innings was Tendulkar’s 241. It was a strange, monkish innings totally in contrast with a sublime 176 made by VVS. Tendulkar eschewed shots on the offside, especially the cover drive, grimly determined to remain not out. Twenty-eight of his 33 fours and 188 of his runs came on the leg side.
4) 169 in the second Test against South Africa in Cape Town, 1997
Three individual centuries had given South Africa their highest total in Tests since returning from apartheid-induced isolation. In face of that intimidating total, India had to face a rampant Donald and Pollock. Reduced to 58 for five, Tendulkar came together with Mohammed Azharuddin to forge a partnership of 222 runs. It was counter attacking cricket at its best and saved India from the humiliation of a follow-on. While Azhar fell on 115, Tendulkar continued on to 169. The stand “illuminated the game with its sheer brilliance and aggression in the face of adversity,” noted the Wisden Almanack.
5) 119 in the second Test against England at Old Trafford, Manchester in 1991
Test century No 1 of what pundits were already forecasting to be a long and illustrious career. At 17 years and 112 days, Tendulkar was hardly a month older than Mushtaq Mohammed when he became the youngest to score a Test hundred. Although it was one among the six scored in that match, Tendulkar’s century helped India save the match. He remained unbeaten on 119, displaying a full range of shots. He looked the “embodiment of India’s famous opener, Gavaskar, and indeed was wearing a pair of his pads,” noted Wisden.
6) 146 in the third test against South Africa in Cape Town, 2010
It was Tendulkar’s last Test 100 (as on date). With the series tied 1-1, the stage was set for an engrossing battle in Cape Town. Chasing South Africa’s first innings total of 362, India were reduced to 28 for 2. Then came Tendulkar to score a beautiful, defensive innings against an attack of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. As Cricinfo puts it, “the world’s best fast bowler terrorised the acclaimed batsmen of the No. 1 team with frightening spells of accurate outswing bowling at high speed. Most did not survive the menacing attack, but the world’s best batsman did, and he dragged his team forward through the harshest of circumstances.” Tendulkar was eighth out as India crossed South Africa’s total.
7) 155 in the first test versus Australia in Chennai, 1998
The headline contest of the series was the battle between Tendulkar and Shane Warne, on his first full tour of India. In his preparation for the series, Tendulkar got former leg spinner L Sivaramakrishnan to bowl into a rough outside the leg stump. Wily Warne got the better of Tendulkar in the first innings to have him caught at slip. But the practice paid off in the second, as he repeatedly lofted Warne in the mid wicket region as the latter started to bowl around the wicket. The dominance established that day, followed by similar subsequent innings in ODIS, led the leggie to famously proclaim that he had “nightmares” about bowling to Tendulkar.
8) 117 in the second test versus the West Indies, Trinidad & Tobago, 2002
Unlike Gavaskar, who established his reputation in his first tour of the West Indies, Tendulkar had to wait almost a decade after his debut to score his first century in the Caribbean. It was well worth the wait as it led to India’s only third-ever victory in the West Indies, the foundation laid by the first innings score. Wisden Almanack noted in its report that, Tendulkar’s was a resolute rather than commanding innings; Dravid looked the more assertive in a partnership of 124.” In any case, this particular hundred put him on par with Sir Donald Bradman, although he took 93 tests compared to the former’s 52.
9) 103 in the first test versus England in Chennai, 2008
After the horrific terrorist attack on Mumbai in 2008, England – which had cut short their tour – returned to play Tests. After a tepid first innings from both sides, Strauss and Collingwood piled on the runs to set India a fourth innings target of 387. Although Sehwag started strongly scoring his 83 from 68 balls, India still needed 270 runs to win when he fell. Tendulkar took over where he left, putting up a masterclass playing all strokes, especially the sweep to perfection, as he anchored the highest fourth innings chase in Asia. “Scoring a hundred in a successful fourth-innings run-chase was, according to Tendulkar, something he had wanted, the one achievement missing from his CV: in consequence, he rated his hundred as “up there” and “one of the best”,” noted Wisden.
10) 116 in the second Test against Australia in Melbourne, 1999
Tendulkar was captain for the second time in his career and it wasn’t working on any count. India were already butchered in the first test by a phenomenally accurate McGrath and beguiling Warne. The boxing day Test saw the debut of Lee, supposedly the fastest in the world. A change in the batting line up didn’t work and soon India slipped to 31 for 3. “The innings was a shambles, for all that Tendulkar remained unscathed, gathering runs with deft placements and assaults on the rare loose ball…He had made 116 out of a total of 212, with a straight six off Warne but only nine fours,” summed up the Almanack. India went on to lose the series 3-0, Tendulkar was the only Indian batsman to hold his head high with a 100 and two 50s.