PHENOMENAL achievements

Recently, SACHIN TENDULKAR became the most capped Indian player in Test cricket when he appeared in his 132nd match. S. DINAKAR takes a look at some of the major landmarks in his career.

Sachin Tendulkar has gobbled up miles and milestones on the cricketing highway. Recently, he became India's most capped Test cricketer, surpassing the legendary Kapil Dev's 131 matches, in the Mumbai Test against England. Here's a look at some of the Test achievements of this astonishing cricketer.

Most Test hundreds: This, arguably, is the mother of all batting records. When he notched up a match-winning 109 against Sri Lanka in New Delhi, late 2005, he had made a Test record 35th hundred, going past Sunil Gavaskar's 34 centuries. He had caught up with Gavaskar in Dhaka with an unbeaten 248 in late 2004 and in the process had scored hundreds against all Test-playing nations; this was his first big innings after the tennis elbow setback. He went past Steve Waugh's 32 hundreds in Multan with an unbeaten 194 in 2004, having earlier overtaken Don Bradman with his 30th century, a match-winning 193, in Leeds, 2002. While natural ability has been his biggest strength, Tendulkar's refined technique and great reserves of mental stamina have been his allies as he broke through barrier after barrier. Interestingly, he scored his first Test century when he was only 17 years and 107 days old, an unbeaten 119 against England in Manchester. That then was the beginning for Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. Only Pakistan's Mushtaq Mohammad and Bangladesh's Mohammad Ashraful have made Test hundreds at a younger age.

In Test batting's most exclusive club: Tendulkar entered the 10,000-run club during the Kolkata Test of 2005 against Pakistan. It was his 122nd Test and he joined the only other Indian to have achieved the feat, Sunil Manohar Gavaskar. The others in this rarefied zone are Brian Lara, Allan Border and Steve Waugh, with Lara and Border having breached the 11,000-mark, too. Tendulkar reached his first thousand runs in 19 Tests, and 5000 in 67.

Youngest Indian to play Tests: Tendulkar was only 16 years and 205 days old when he was picked in the Indian team for the Karachi Test against Pakistan in 1989. Soon, he had made his first half-century — 59 — for the country in Faisalabad. In Sialkot, he was struck on the face by a lifting delivery, but a bleeding Tendulkar refused to leave the field. A cricketing legend was born.

Landmark innings: Tendulkar's 114 on a fast, bouncy Perth wicket against Australia in 1992 indicated his precocious ability. His range of strokes off the back-foot was his major strength on lively surfaces. Subsequently, his career has been dotted with some remarkable centuries. His counter-attacking 169 against South Africa in Cape Town, 1997, was a breathtaking effort. At home, Tendulkar's 136 against Pakistan, 1999, when he withstood shooting back pain to pilot India to the brink of victory on a wearing M. A. Chidambaram Stadium pitch was a masterpiece. India eventually lost the humdinger by 12 runs. In 1998, he had produced a phenomenal unbeaten 155 in Chennai against the Australians, pulling leg-spin wizard Shane Warne from the rough outside the leg-stump. Tendulkar adopted a more open stance to counter Warne's strategy of getting the ball to turn and bounce from the rough and used his wrists to keep the ball down.

Double hundred in Sydney: Tendulkar had to wait for 10 years before registering his first double hundred in Tests — 217 against New Zealand in Ahmedabad, 1999. His 241 not out against Australia, 2003-2004, in Sydney, reflected on his progression as a batsman, cutting out flair for more solidity. There were a lot more strokes on the on-side.

His share in a moment of history: Virender Sehwag rollicked to a blazing triple hundred, Anil Kumble bowled with typical precision, Rahul Dravid led shrewdly. And Tendulkar's unbeaten 194 was a major contribution in the Indian victory over Pakistan in Multan. The master batsman was unhappy with the Indian declaration, which denied him a double century, but viewed from a larger perspective, he had once again played a key role in a significant occasion for Indian cricket.

A century of Tests: Tendulkar became the youngest cricketer, at 29, to figure in 100 Tests. This was at The Oval in 2002. And he had played 84 of these matches in succession before injury forced him to miss the Test series in Sri Lanka, 2001.

Chequered time as captain: Tendulkar skippered India to victory in the one-off Test against Australia in New Delhi, 1996. A hard taskmaster, Tendulkar's two tenures as India captain were mixed ones. He stepped down after the two-Test series against South Africa at home in 2000 and has since not led the country.

Becomes the most capped Indian cricketer: Tendulkar's 132nd Test, in front of his home crowd at the Wankhede Stadium, takes him past Kapil Dev's 131 Tests. It has been a tremendous journey along the cricketing highway by the Little Master.