Man of records

In full flow… Sachin Tendulkar lofts Chris Pringle of New Zealand to the boundary. Opening for the first time in ODIs, Sachin Tendulkar blasted 82 off 49 balls in the match at Eden Park, Auckland, on March 27, 1994.-V.V. KRISHNAN

With over 18,000 runs in one-day cricket, Sachin Tendulkar stands head and shoulders over the rest in the elite 10,000-plus runs club. By G. Viswanath.

Sachin Tendulkar occupies the exalted position in the 10,000-plus runs club in one-day internationals. He made his debut against Pakistan at the Jinnah Stadium, Gujranwala, in December 1989 and went on to play in 463 ODIs in 23 years.

Tendulkar, who amassed 18426 runs against 15 countries, is 4722 runs ahead of Ricky Ponting, who announced his retirement in December last year. Illustrious names such as Sanath Jayasuriya, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Jacques Kallis, Sourav Ganguly, Kumar Sangakkara, Rahul Dravid, Mahela Jayawardene and Brian Lara too feature in this elite club of batsmen, who have scored over 10,000 runs in ODIs. This goes to prove that their rich performances have truly embellished the one-day format of the game that was introduced to the cricketing world in 1971 as Australia took on England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Along with Tendulkar, the other two Indians in the club, Ganguly, who doubled up as a utility seamer, and Dravid, who also proved to be an efficient wicketkeeper, formed a formidable threesome. They were chiefly responsible for making India a major force in limited-overs cricket and taking the nation to the final of the 2003 ICC World Cup in South Africa.

Virender Sehwag (8238) and Yuvraj Singh (8051) have a realistic chance of expanding the Indian presence in the 10-member club, but it will take at least three years for them to reach that unique landmark. Among players of other countries, Chris Gayle of West Indies and Michael Clarke of Australia should make the most of the opportunities, but with players making clear choices between the three formats, what is almost certain is that this club will remain small.

Barring Mahela Jayawardene of Sri Lanka, who achieved the feat in November 2012, the others have played over one-and-a-half decades of one-day internationals.

The format of the game (the first three editions of the World Cup were 60 overs a side) is such that it gives ample freedom to gifted openers and middle-order batsmen to demonstrate a variety of strokes. It also gives them the opportunity to score at a good speed in order to make their team’s position strong.

Dravid scored heavily in the middle-order (playing at Nos. 3, 4 and 5) and provided his team stability. Sangakkara too played a similar role, but he has scored a high percentage of his runs at No. 3. Someone like the Australian left-hander, Michael Bevan, regarded as a one-day specialist, made 6912 runs in a little over 10 years with six centuries, but he was a fine finisher and was seen more in cameo roles scoring quick runs.

India’s fortunes in one-day cricket swung like a pendulum and they hinged on the form of Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid. Tendulkar figured in 234 matches that India won, scoring 11157 runs at 56.63. Dravid featured in 160 matches that India won, scoring 5729 runs at 50.70, while Ganguly played in 149 games that his team won, making 6938 runs at 55.06.

Tendulkar is also the common factor in many of India’s first wicket and second wicket century partnerships with Ganguly and Dravid. The three were the mainstay of India in the World Cup played in England (1999), South Africa (2003) and the West Indies (2007). However, Tendulkar has played in a record six, starting with the Benson & Hedges World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and finishing with the 2011 edition that India won by defeating Sri Lanka in the final.

In the World Cup honours’ list, Tendulkar comes second best to Ponting. Although the Indian enjoys a better run-aggregate at 2278 in 45 matches with six centuries and 15 half-centuries at a high average of 56.95, he has only one big prize under his belt. Ponting has three: he was a member of the Australian side led by Steve Waugh that won the 1999 World Cup in England before leading the Aussies to victory in the 2003 and 2007 editions. In fact, it was Ponting’s match-winning 140 in the final at the Wanderers (Johannesburg) that thwarted India’s bid to win the World Cup the second time in 2003. Tendulkar, who scored 673 runs in that edition, was declared the Player of the Tournament and received the trophy from Sir Garfield Sobers, but this was only a consolation.

Sri Lanka has three players in the 10,000-plus runs club — Jayasuriya, Sangakkara and Jayawardene. Initially, players such as Arjuna Ranatunga, Aravinda de Silva, Jayasuriya, Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan played a big part for Sri Lanka in one-day internationals. It was the opening pair of Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana who gave Sri Lankan ODI cricket the thrust with their roaring starts.

Jayasuriya was part of the Sri Lankan team that won the World Cup in Lahore in 1996. But Jayawardene and Sangakkara have not been as lucky, though the former had scored a brilliant century in the final against India in April 2011. Jayasuriya showed a readiness to throw his bat at the new ball and reflected a carefree batting style. Sangakkara, on the other hand, showed a determined spirit while Jayawardene epitomised dexterity.

Pakistan’s Inzamam-ul-Haq was bold and he challenged bowlers of all kinds. He was a member of the Pakistan team, led by Imran Khan, which won the 1992 World Cup in Melbourne. He scored a match-winning 60 against New Zealand in the semifinals. Inzamam was all lazy elegance. That he managed to score only 10 centuries in 378 matches is a big disappointment.

Easily one of the modern greats, Brian Lara was seen as an equal to Tendulkar and Ponting — or even better by some discerning people. Lara, Tendulkar and Ponting were all aggressive players and began with the intent to dominate the bowlers. The ‘Prince of Trinidad’ was a left-hander and brought in the style element to his batting; he figured in 139 winning matches for the West Indies out of the 299 he played.

Jacques Kallis has been the most watched cricketer as a batsman, bowler and fielder across all formats of the game since South Africa’s return to mainstream cricket. He has played 321 ODIs and has figured in 206 matches that South Africa has won.

While all the 10 players from the elite club have taken 100-plus catches, only four — Ganguly, Tendukar, Kallis and Jayasuriya — have taken 100 wickets or more. All the 10 players have shown a terrific ambition and excellence in skills, but more than anything else they have shown the ambition to achieve the impossible in their long careers. They have also proved that only those who have strong fundamentals and technique and accomplished deeds in Test cricket can distinguish themselves in limited-overs cricket.