Sachin Tendulkar's illustrious career has been much more than runs and records. Hailed as a genius after he broke into the international scene as a 16-year-old, he has constantly worked on little things to stay on top of the game.
The man who pretty much hoards most of the batting records has rarely endured a long lean patch. His focus on the game has been impeccable, having lived in a cricketing cocoon. Tendulkar has time and again overcome tough situations and rival bowlers individually, as well as guided the team out of many tricky moments.
In 1992, after failing with the bat in the semi-final of the Hero Cup six-team one-day tournament against South Africa at the Eden Gardens, Sachin Tendulkar stepped up to bowl the last over as his senior team mates debated how to stop the rivals from scoring the six runs needed for victory. He conceded just three runs in the over, which saw a run out, to clinch victory by two runs.
In 1998, Tendulkar prepared for the threat of Shane Warne ahead of Australia's tour in a unique way. At the nets, he practiced on a pitch which was scuffed up around the leg-stump area where the leggie would pitch.
The preparation paid off when he struck his maiden first-class double century, for Mumbai in the tour game against the Australians at the Brabourne stadium. He went on to score two centuries and amass 446 runs at an average of 111.5 in the 2-1 Test series victory. Tendulkar's first major injury - severe back spasms - struck him while batting against Pakistan in the Chennai Test of 1999. He reached out to cut a wide ball and pulled up wincing in pain. Although he brushed aside suggestions that the heavy bat he used was the reason, he began switching to a lighter bat off and on, sometimes in the middle of a long innings.
At the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, where he finished as a top-scorer to be named the Player of the Tournament, he pulled out the lighter blade to great effect. While doctors had advised a lighter bat would help reduce the stress on his back, he also took into account the faster and bouncier pitches where he had to play more horizontal bat shots. That meant the meat of the bat was higher than usual.
Tendulkar is renowned for his elaborate preparations, much before his facing hundreds of throw downs in the nets over the last few years made headlines. On the 2003-4 tour of Australia, Tendulkar, struggling to find his best form, cut out the cover drive from his repertoire during his career-best 241 not out at Sydney. Tendulkar rapidly grew in stature as a one-day batsman by hitting through the line to help India blast off early, during the field-restriction overs. Thus once Sehwag joined in, it became a double act.
While the batsman hit the straightest of straight drives to leave bowlers in despair, he mastered the paddle sweep to overcome restrictive field placements, using the risky but effective shot to keep the score ticking.