On November 15, 1989, a 16-year-old named Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar made his Test debut against a ferocious Pakistan attack at Karachi. In a wonderful co-incidence, exactly 24 years later, he completed his last Test innings at his home ground, the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Although he fell short of a hundred, his 74 was a terrific innings, reminiscent of the vintage Tendulkar we have come to know over the years. A day later, his Test career was over as West Indies succumbed to a massive innings defeat on day three of the Mumbai Test.
Tendulkar’s 200th Test brought to an end a glorious journey, which began 24 years and a day ago in Karachi. When the little man made his debut back in 1989, it was pretty much baptism by fire for the 16-year- old. He looked all at sea during his first visit to the crease as Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Imran Khan unnerved him. He was even famously hit on the nose by a vicious bouncer by Waqar during the tour, and bled profusely. But, as Navjot Sidhu recalls, Tendulkar told him in a tiny voice, ‘main khelega’ (I will play). Tendulkar got 59 in the second Test at Faisalabad, showing maturity well above his age.
The tough tour to Pakistan was followed by the visit to New Zealand in 1990 when he came tantalisingly close to his maiden Test hundred at Napier, eventually falling for 88. The monkey was finally off Tendulkar’s back when he blazed his way to an unbeaten 119 at Old Trafford in Manchester to help India save a Test they seemed destined to lose. He had scored 68 in the first innings of the same Test, but once he had got that first Test hundred, Tendulkar was a changed player. His confidence grew manifold.
What cricket fans witnessed in Australia during the 1991-92 tour Down Under was something special. Even as India went down 4-0 in the five- Test series, Tendulkar came up with two spectacular knocks on the tour. His unbeaten 148 at Sydney was a solid support act to Ravi Shastri, who came up with a fighting double century. But, it was his 114 at Perth that was extraordinary. Even as all the other Indian players floundered on Test brought to an end a glorious journey, which the bounciest pitch in the world, Tendulkar easily got on top of the ball, and hit a number of glorious boundaries. The world knew by now that Tendulkar was destined for greatness.
Over the next two decades, Tendulkar went on to play a number of magnificent knocks – 155 not out at Chennai, 241 not out at Sydney, 111 at Johannesburg, 177 at Nottingham, 169 at Cape Town, 155 at Bloemfontein, 136 at Chennai, 193 at Leeds, 154 not out at Adelaide 160 at Hamilton and finally 146 at Cape Town (his last Test ton). There have been many we missed out on; it isn’t possible to mention all. Above all though, the biggest joy that Tendulkar gave all his fans was the comfort that we experienced when he was out in the middle -- a sense of ease, which cannot be described in words. It had to be felt. Period. --By A Cricket Analyst