South Africa were among the rare international bowling attacks who could claim to have kept Sachin Tendulkar quiet in one-day cricket. The Indian maestro has turned that tide too.
In the 1990s, as a young, explosive opener, Tendulkar plundered attacks all around the world except for the disciplined Proteas bowlers, who somehow managed to come up with a strategy to rein him.
The striking feature of the final phase of Tendulkar's glorious career is the way he has taken upon himself in correcting the few things gone wrong in his career. His record against South Africa is one. His overall average is 45-plus, versus SA it is 34.94 - the lowest of all Test-playing nations. However, he's worked that out too.
Tendulkar's Saturday special (111 off 101 balls) is another proof of that. It comes at the back of his unbeaten double-hundred in the last ODI against the Proteas in India.
"He was a stroke player and would sometimes be too aggressive for his own good. When he used to bat, they wanted to bring me on to bowl for the variations I had, especially slow balls. Away swingers are always dangerous, and I would mix them up with slower ones. He's been a scholar of the game and he's learnt from experience. Thankfully, I don't bowl to him now. I don't see myself being as effective against him now," De Villiers told HT in Jamtha.
De Villiers said Tendulkar has nullified South Africa's bowling plan by tightening his game against the away swingers and reading the variations. "Time works wonder; overall he's learned that away swingers are the ones that can get him out."
For De Villiers, Tendulkar is as aggressive as he was when he played against him between 1992 and 1997. "He is very much the same; he's still an aggressive player. His bat is wider than anybody else's. He's just going on; he's the sort of guy who really stands out for guts and determination, not only on but also off the field. My respect for the guy is more for the fact that he's survived 20 years of cricket; 20 years of pressure. You need extraordinary skills for that. Most people leave cricket after 10 years because they have the money; they don't want the rest of the things that come with it."