The most famous Indian cricketer and arguably the greatest batsman this country has produced, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar is celebrating his 46th birthday. While the 24-year career of Sachin is full of great memories and unforgettable moments, there are some innings which stand out as the best. Considering that he scored 51 tons and many more half-centuries, it's hard to narrow all his knocks down to best five. But we will endeavour to pick those innings where the genius of Tendulkar was most resplendent.
146 vs South Africa, Cape Town (January, 2011)
When you have Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel bowling at their best, very few batsmen can resist them. That's exactly what Sachin did in this match. India was in trouble at 247/6 responding to South Africa's first innings total of 362. What made the situation worse was that Dale Steyn was bowling one of the best spells of his career. But Sachin, who came out to bat after India were 28/2 kept battling hard and managed to ward off the threat from Steyn. Thanks to him, India managed to get two runs past South Africa's score and had a great chance to win but that was squandered by the bowlers. The contest between Steyn and Tendulkar though, was one for the ages.
92 vs West Indies, Barbados (March, 1997)
If there was one pitch in the world that could be counted in the same category as Perth for its pace and bounce, it was the one at Bridgetown in Barbados. During India's tour of West Indies in 1997, Sachin played a brilliant knock of 92 on this fiery surface against a bowling attack that was led by the great Curtly Ambrose and also had Ian Bishop, Franklyn Rose and Mervyn Dillon. Rahul Dravid provided support with a score of 78. It was due to these two batsmen that India managed a lead in first innings and ended up needing just 120 for a famous victory. But the Bridgetown pitch proved too difficult in the second innings and India were bundled out for 81. But Sachin's knock was another proof that whenever conditions were tough, he emerged as India's toughest batsman.
114 vs Australia, Perth (February, 1992)
Sourav Ganguly rates this knock as Sachin's best. Perth was, at that time, the fastest wicket in the world and a terror for batsmen the world over. Most of them struggled to get used to the extra pace and bounce of the WACA pitch. And in those days, it used to be really rapid unlike today when batsmen are continually getting big scores there. Sachin played a lone hand in this innings as his senior teammates failed to cope with the attack of Craig McDermott, Merv Hughes, Paul Reiffel and Mike Whitney. The ease and comfort that Sachin showed batting on this most difficult of pitches, that too at the age of just 18 confirmed his future greatness.
116 vs Australia, Melbourne (December, 1999)
This innings of 116 was another proof of the Little Master's brilliance. Australia had a bowling attack consisting of the two legends – Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne – along with a fiery debutant in Brett Lee as well as a very capable Damien Fleming. Like it happened so often in his career, Sachin found no support from his team in foreign conditions this time also. The second highest score in this innings was 31. But he remained sublime and scored a masterful hundred against a bona fide great attack that once again proved his status as the pre-eminent batter of his generation.
136 vs Pakistan, Chennai (January, 1999)
Just look at the situation: Indian are batting fourth on a dusty fifth-day pitch; Saqlain Mushtaq is in full flow; Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis are getting generous reverse swing; and chasing a target of 271, India are reduced to 82/5. Sachin then produced arguably the best knock of his career. Battling a bad back, he overcame all the almost insurmountable challenges in that situation to take his team to the doorstep of victory. Alas, when India was 17 runs away from a monumental victory, Sachin played against the spin to a 'doosra' from Saqlain and was dismissed. The team lost by 12 runs. It's probably the most painful memory for all Sachin fans and it is said that the great man was in tears after the match. But that shouldn't detract from the greatness of that knock.
Now, some of you may have noticed that none of this knocks formed part of an Indian victory. In fact, four of them were part of defeats. But the fact is that this cannot be blamed on Sachin as that was due to the lack of support from the tea. The very fact that Sachin rose to the challenge when others folded up in difficult conditions shows his greatness.