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by Saksham Mishra & Cricket World Monday 29 June 2020
The form was dipping, and like with even the greatest of players, demands of Sachin Tendulkar's retirement were gaining momentum.
After an uneventful Champions Trophy and ordinary series against South Africa and Sri Lanka, Tendulkar entered the 2007 ICC World Cup with form not on his side. Although he scored an unbeaten half-century in the tournament, the World Cup did not go well for him, with the master ending the ICC event with an un-Tendulkar like average of 32.
A low score against Ireland and Tendulkar's loss of form was all over the media. However, as was his mantra, Tendulkar chose to answer with the bat.
He was dismissed just one short of a highly awaited century in the opening match of India's 3-match ODI series against South Africa shortly after the World Cup. Despite his knock, the team lost the match by 4 wickets.
In the second ODI, with the series on the line, South Africa were restricted to 226 from their 50 overs, with Morne van Wyk top scoring with 88 off 126 deliveries. Mark Boucher's quick half-century helped the Proteas accelerate in the slog overs, but they still ended with a below-par total.
The successful pair of Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar started the proceedings for India with the pitch in Belfast playing some tricks. Tendulkar decided to take on the South African bowling.
Makhaya Ntini was pulled for a boundary, followed by a couple more successful repeats of the shot. Charl Langeveldt, Andrew Hall and Andre Nel, to a lesser extent, were all taken apart.
As Tendulkar reached his half-century with a push towards mid-off off Andrew Nel, he crossed a significant milestone in his ODI career, getting past 15,000 runs. The opener kept the momentum going but was dismissed off rookie spinner Thandi Tshabalala on 93 off 106 deliveries.
Tendulkar tried to make room but the ball crashed onto the middle stump after taking his inside edge. Another dismissal in the nervous nineties!
Unlike the last match, India went on to win - not without a stutter though - with an 80-odd run partnership between Yuvraj Singh and Dinesh Karthik.
Tendulkar had been the first batsman to cross the 10,000-run mark in ODI cricket and the 15,000 milestone was no different.
"It is their (critics) job to have opinions. When I hold a cricket bat in my hand it's a far tougher and bigger job. That is what I will concentrate on. It is satisfying, a wonderful moment. If I could get to the 90s every time, I wouldn't mind. I would have loved to be there right till the end - that is what all batters think about," Tendulkar said after the match.
There was this insatiable drive to improve, despite reaching the milestone and setting up the team's victory. This was the mindset that egged him on to succeed every time he took the field.
What's remarkable is that after almost one and a half decades of him achieving the feat, Tendulkar remains the only batsman to be in that club. Kumar Sangakkara is the next best with 14,234 ODI runs.
Tendulkar finished his career with record 18,426 runs from 463 ODIs at an average of close to 45 and a strike rate of over 85. This included an eye-watering 49 centuries and 96 half-centuries.
© Cricket World 2020