Should he have been picked?
Back on May 21, 1997, I was logged into that great 20th century social medium, IRC, when Saeed Anwar smashed 194 against India to break Viv Richards’ thirteen year-old record for the highest score in a One-Day International.
The big question that was being asked by the Indian fans, who made up the vast majority of IRC participants following the game that night: How soon until Sachin Tendulkar claimed the world record and became the first to break the 200 barrier?
Now we know the answer.
It took Tendulkar another twelve years and nine months to pass Anwar’s milestone and reach 200. He scored exactly 200 not out on Wednesday evening as India went on to defeat South Africa by 154 runs at Gwalior.
What is amazing is that no one, in the intervening years, beat Tendulkar to it, despite Zimbabwe’s Charles Coventry drawing level last year.
Tendulkar’s latest achievement is a delightful and, frankly, unexpected twist in the long career of one of the sport’s true geniuses. If it had been premature to do so before, I think we can now finally proclaim Sachin Tendulkar to be India’s Don Bradman.
Sachin is 37 in April, and the body is well past its peak. How much more is there for Tendulkar to achieve? For India, there is a number one Test ranking to preserve, subject to the whims of the BCCI’s erratic scheduling philosophy. More definite, however, is India’s campaign at home in the 2011 World Cup.
For himself, there are already world record run aggregates to build upon (13447 in Tests and 17598 in ODIs). Not too far into the future, there are the milestones of fifty Test centuries and fifty ODI centuries (he currently has 47 and 46 respectively), and, by extension, the attainment of 100 centuries in all full internationals combined.
There’s also the prospect of an Indian Premier League triumph for the Mumbai Indians. This seems far less important, and perhaps there’s a message in that somewhere.
How long will Tendulkar’s 200 world record last? It could be quite a while.
Take a look at the list of highest individual innings in ODIs. Only Anwar, Coventry and Tendulkar have yet surpassed Richards’ 1984 mark of 189 not out. Clearly the onset of Twenty20 hasn’t inspired its exponents onto greater heights in the slightly-longer-form game. Indeed, it may be discouraging batsmen from having the patience to bat that long.
Looking at the way the record has developed, you could mount an argument to say that we will be waiting till 2023 (if the goose that laid the golden T20 egg hasn’t been killed long before then).
But there’s another statistic from Wednesday’s Gwalior ODI that is possibly very instructive. Tendulkar’s 200 not out (achieved, incidentally, as an opening batsman) was part of an Indian fifty-over total of 401 for 3.
That’s 49.87 per cent of the team total. Compare that with Richards (189 from 272, 69.48%), Saeed Anwar (194 from 327, 59.33%) or earlier record-holder Kapil Dev (175 from 266, 65.79%). With 400-plus team totals more common these days, is an individual ODI 250 a possibility?
Despite the expansion of the ODI circuit to include the top six Associate nations since 2006, we have yet to see any massive individual scores by anyone in a “Minnow versus Minnow” ODI.
I’ll stick my neck out and predict that Tendulkar’s world record will be broken in the near future by someone from Afghanistan.