Little Master enjoys 'wonderful moment'
Sachin Tendulkar savoured a "wonderful moment" after adding a new chapter to his record-breaking career by becoming the first batsman to score 15,000 one-day international runs.
Tendulkar reached the landmark while making 93 in India's six-wicket win against South Africa at Stormont in Belfast on Friday, a victory which levelled the three-match series at 1-1 ahead of Sunday's finale at the Belfast ground.
His innings left Tendulkar with a one-day international career record of 15,043 runs in 387 matches at an average of 44.24 with 41 hundreds.
To put that in context, his nearest pursuer in the list of all-time leading one-day international run scorers is Sri Lanka's Sanath Jayasuriya with 12,063 in 395 matches.
"It is satisfying, a wonderful moment," the 34-year-old Tendulkar told reporters after stumps. "This match was extremely important for us, to keep us alive in the series. It's obviously a happy feeling - especially when we ended up on a winning note."
But Tendulkar, who made his debut as a 16-year-old, said the record had simply been the result of a long career. "After playing for 18 years, I feel it's just one of those things."
Nicknamed the 'Little Master', the diminutive Tendulkar dominated a first-wicket partnership of 134 with experienced left-hander and fellow former captain Sourav Ganguly, who made 42.
"I thought looking at the conditions, to counter-attack was the best option. "It wasn't that we were playing pre-determined shots. We were picking the lengths. We played positively - and that is what was needed."
Tendulkar, who holds the record for Test hundreds with 37, produced some trademark strokes during the course of his innings, notably straight drives down the ground achieved with a minimum of effort.
But having struck two sixes and 13 fours in just 106 balls, he missed out on a hundred when he played on to 22-year-old Thandi Tshabala, appearing in only his second one-day international.
It was the second time in four days Tendulkar had fallen short of three figures after making 99 in South Africa's four-wicket, series-opening, win on Tuesday. "If I could get to the 90s every time, I wouldn't mind," he said.
India, chasing 227 for victory, lost four wickets for eight runs, including Tendulkar, before an unbroken stand of 85 between Yuvraj Singh (49 not out) and Dinesh Karthik (32 not out) saw them overhaul South Africa's 226 for six with five balls to spare.
"I would have loved to be there right till the end - that is what all batters think about," Mumbai right-hander Tendulkar added.
India captain Rahul Dravid, also 34, paid tribute to Tendulkar's endurance as well as his ability.
"It's a phenomenal achievement - for someone who has played so long to be so consistent. It's incredible. Not only do you need skill; you need a lot of mental strength and fortitude to do what he's done, t o have that hunger over such a long period of time and go on scoring runs and find new challenges.
"I think he's achieved everything he ever wants to achieve in this game, but it's about motivating himself and trying to do his best for the team and ensure we win games. It's great to see."
South Africa captain Jacques Kallis, himself one of the world's leading batsmen, said of Tendulkar: "It was an unbelievable knock he played.
"You need things to go your way when you've got a world-class player like that. On his day he's very dangerous."
Some observers suggested Tendulkar ought to retire from one-day cricket after a lacklustre World Cup in the Caribbean.
But Tendulkar said: "It is their 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."