n november 16, 1989, the yet-to-be 15 Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar didn’t stay at the crease for too long. Making his first appearance in international Test cricket at the National Stadium in Karachi, Tendulkar had experienced baptism by fire. He had been battered by the pace attack and succumbed to another debutant, Waqar Younis, when his score was 15. Regardless of the low score, there was something in the young batsman’s grit and courage in taking the bodyblows from international cricket’s most formidable fast bowling battery that was noticed by pundits that winter day. Nearly 19 years later, and after building a reputation that borders divinity, the 35-year-old Tendulkar has become the highest run-getter in the history of the game.
The journey from Karachi 1989 to Mohali 2008 may have taken a tad longer than one would have come to expect. But the journey has been no less sweeter than the destination. When he came in to bat on Friday with 11,939 runs in his kitty, the world in general and India in particular was sure that Tendulkar would pass Brian Lara’s 11,953 runs record that day. When he did guide that delivery from debutante Peter Siddle for three runs to third man, the moment was as overwhelming as it was meant to be. Scoring a stylish 88 against the Australian side, Tendulkar now has 12,027 runs scored off his bat. That is a remarkable feat in anybody’s book.
It isn’t just the ticking runs that make Tendulkar a towering figure in world cricket. The way he has played the game — and who can forget, just as one example among many, the 109-run knock against Sri Lanka in Delhi in 2005 — has defined him as a master batsman.
The debate about whether he is past his prime — along with the other one about whether he should be judged by the same rules of performance as everybody else — will be postponed for a while. But regardless of when he hangs up his pads, there is no doubt that Tendulkar is a different kettle of fish than other batsmen who have taken guard in front of the stumps. We always knew that at a gut level. Wednesday’s record was just an empirical confirmation.