In his long and illustrious career, Sachin Tendulkar featured in 463 ODIs – between 1989 and 2012 – and witnessed several milestone moments of Indian cricket.
And ahead of India’s iconic 1000th ODI – against the West Indies – in Ahmedabad on Sunday, Tendulkar – the first batter to score a double hundred in ODIs – shared his thoughts with Sportstar on the milestone match and how the game has evolved over the last few decades.
What are your thoughts ahead of India’s 1000th ODI?
I think it is a fabulous moment because (India’s) first ODI was in 1974 (against England). From there, multiple things kept happening in Indian cricket. From red ball to white ball, from white jerseys to coloured clothing. Now, on Sunday, we will be playing our 1000th ODI, which is a huge milestone. That would have not been possible without the past and the present players, the past and the present officials of the BCCI and all the people who support Indian cricket wholeheartedly.
They wish well for the team, for the players. It is a massive effort from everyone and that’s why I feel that it’s a moment to be proud of as India will be the first team to play 1000 ODIs.
You have featured in 463 ODIs between 1989 and 2012. How did the approach to ODIs change during this time?
ODI has changed totally. Let me start with 1989 when I made my debut. From there till almost about 2000 or so, there were mostly day matches with the red ball. I remember playing an ODI against Zimbabwe in whites and back in those days, the matches would start at 9 o’clock in the morning and in certain places, like Guwahati and Cuttack, the games would start even at 8.45 in the morning.
Pitches played differently when the games started that early. The red ball behaved differently on those surfaces. We played a series against the West Indies before leaving for the 2007 World Cup and those, too, were day matches. Slowly we moved to (only playing) day-night matches and (also shifted) from the red ball to the white ball.
Sachin Tendulkar: 1996 World Cup changed everything for Indian cricket
There have been so many changes – from one white ball to two white balls, from four fielders in the ring to five fielders in the ring. Earlier, when a spinner was bowling, ideally one would want to have long-on, long-off, deep point, deep midwicket, and deep square leg. But because of this one extra player in the ring rule, you either must have a long-off in the ring if an off-spinner is bowling, or you must have a deep point in the ring if an off-spinner is bowling or if a left-arm spinner is bowling. You cannot have a deep mid-wicket or a deep square leg.
Every generation has played cricket differently. I was not there in 1974, so I can only speak from 1989 and I feel these were the changes.
How have ODIs changed since the advent of T20 cricket?
The biggest transformation has been from 2008 onwards because the Indian Premier League (IPL) started and other T20 Leagues in various parts of the world.
In 2012-13, the rule was changed where two new balls were introduced and one additional fielder in the ring. If you see, the average scores started going up because there is one extra fielder in the ring and two new balls.
The bowlers’ economy rates have also gone up. This has happened because of ODI rules and because of T20 cricket.
The batters are playing more and more new shots. They are willing to take more chances. A batter would back himself to clear the ropes if the fielder is on a 30-yard circle. But if the same fielder goes back and stands on the boundary line, you will still end up clearing the fielder, but you would be more calculative, in terms of when to take that risk. So, the timing of the shot has changed a lot and because the additional fielder is in the ring, the bowler also starts thinking differently. He bowls at different line and length.
Virat Kohli, the anchor for the future
What are the milestones from your ODI career that you will always cherish?
Nothing beats the World Cup final in 2011. That was the best cricketing day of my life. That’s what you play for. I had the honour and privilege to represent the country for 24 years and had the honour of lifting the trophy on behalf of a billion-plus people. So, I always feel that it is not just a few individuals, but the entire 1.39 billion-plus population has played their role in bringing the trophy to our dressing room. It belongs to a billion-plus people.
And do you have a favourite ODI innings?
The first 200 in the ODI that I scored against South Africa (in Gwalior in 2010) is one of my top ODI innings. Their bowling attack was very good, and they were a very good opposition. That was the first time in the history of ODIs someone scored 200 runs, so that has its own relevance.
With T20 cricket gaining in popularity, do you suggest any changes in the ODI format?
To be honest, like I said, earlier the game was played with just red balls, there were day matches, and there were four fielders in the ring.
Since the introduction of two new balls, I think world cricket has hardly seen reverse swing. A ball starts reversing as late as the 45th or the 46th over. But now, at the 45-46 over mark, the ball is just 22 or 23 overs old. So, if only one ball is used, then it starts discolouring and the batter has less reaction time. The ball starts reversing and you have one extra fielder outside the ring. So, that’s a different ball game altogether.
What is your advice to the current Indian team ahead of this historic moment?
The Indian team will be playing against the West Indies, which is a decent team. So, one would have to put the best foot forward and play good cricket. I would like to wish the Indian cricket team best of luck for the series.