Tendulkar is for India, what Maradona is for Argentina – A God!
A statue of Sachin Tendulkar stands tall in a temple, located in South Bihar, India, where thousands worship him as a God, a God of cricket that is and by far the GOAT.
Globally, he may not be a supreme being, but he has done enough to be remembered as a legend, except in Pakistan, where words such as overrated and selfish continue to taint his reputation, even after his retirement.
I once overheard a ridiculous comment - “Imran Nazir was more of a match-winner than Tendulkar”. That accurately sums up the Pakistani perspective of the only man to score a century of centuries in international cricket, and the first man to score a double century in one day cricket.
It is rather strange that the illustrious Virat Kohli, who himself quotes Tendulkar to be his major inspiration with the bat, has earned plaudits across the border in such a short time.
So what has held Pakistanis back from acknowledging Tendulkar’s legendary status, and was he indeed overrated, as they claim?
Without further ado, I will list down all the Pakistani critiques of Tendulkar and unfold this mystery with a game of true or false.
Critique 1: He scored most of his centuries against weaker opponents and that means he was not the GOAT
First, we need to define what a weak opponent is. For this one, we will go with the lowest-ranked teams during Tendulkar’s tenure.
Out of Tendulkar’s 49 ODI hundreds, only 10 came against weaker teams -Bangladesh, Kenya, and Zimbabwe.
The only top opponent against whom he averages under 40 in South Africa, but still managed to score 5 centuries against them – impressive!
In ODIs, Tendulkar also scored 96 half-centuries and only 11 came against the lower-ranked teams.
The story of Test cricket is somewhat similar, where 8 of his 51 centuries came against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, and only 3 of a total 68 half-centuries versus the same opponents.
Since numbers don’t lie, Tendulkar has an impressive record against top teams. And if Tendulkar did fail against the remaining, he would be doubted even more.
Critique 2: Tendulkar was a home bully who struggled to score away from home and was not the GOAT
It is the most common form of criticism against any batsman. If they can’t score outside their home, then they haven’t got any class.
To everyone’s surprise, Tendulkar scored a whopping 58 international centuries away from home, 29 each in Tests and ODIs. Also, his first four international centuries came on foreign pastures.
Essentially, Tendulkar’s away test batting average betters his home average. And although he averaged lower outside India in the ODI format, he still scored more centuries, and the average itself was not bad by any means. The same holds true for his half-centuries.
Read the breaking myth on Hitler and the German Cricket Team.
Referring to critique 1 and only taking strong teams into account, Tendulkar scored 8887 runs against top teams in their countries - 48.23% of his total ODI runs. In tests, 7645 runs against those same teams, again in their countries - 48.01% of his total test runs.
If we are fair, it is evident that Tendulkar performed in every condition, on every pitch, making him a class of his own.
Critique 3: Sachin Tendulkar thrived under spin conditions, but his technique faltered on seaming, bouncy and fast pitches and hence, he was not the GOAT.
What many don’t know is Tendulkar’s first four international career centuries came at what is deemed as unfavourable conditions for Asian batsmen - two in Australia and a century each in England and South Africa – the countries that are absolute nightmares for Asian batsmen.
Asian batsmen struggle in all these countries: Australia, South Africa, England, New Zealand, and the West Indies. And these are where Tendulkar scored 17 Test and 9 ODI tons.
Neither True nor False.
This was a tough one especially because Tendulkar’s couldn’t replicate his Test prowess in the limited-overs game. A plausible explanation is that ODIs demand a higher strike rate, and Tendulkar, arguably one of the best batsmen against spin, perhaps, felt more comfortable establishing himself in spin-friendly conditions.
Critique 4: Sachin Tendulkar was a good player but not a match-winner or the GOAT, most of his runs were in losing causes. He was actually a selfish player, who only cared about his records. Lara, Ponting, Yousuf, and Inzamam were all far better players.
This is where the debate gets serious. And a lot more complicated, too!
India won 70.21% of their one-day matches when Tendulkar scored 100 or more. So far, so good, but not that simple.
And this brings us to comparisons, it’s time to finally settle this once and for all. This is it!
I am deliberately leaving out the Test format in this case because it’s challenging to audit and a few words won’t do it justice.
|ODI Performance Comparison (Batting 2nd)
|Inzamam ul Haq
|Centuries leading to wins (%)
|Against Top Teams
|No of not outs against top teams (scoring 100 or above)
Match winning was certainly Tendulkar’s weakest attribute, however, the selfish criticism was fairly anecdotal, as his higher strike rate suggests otherwise.
Sachin Tendulkar was an integral part of Indian cricket, correction, world cricket; and inspired a whole generation of Indian batsmen to take seriously to batting. It was a joy to hear the sound of the ball as it flew off his bat’s blade. He brought elegance to the art of batting, and without him, who knows, we would have missed out on classy Indian batsmen, especially, Virat Kohli.
Sachin had a knack for finding gaps between the fielders and his impact on the game will remain unparalleled. I remember spending a whole week practising Tendulkar’s infamous backfoot punch, before an important match which did wonders for me.
He was an innovator, and while he may not be a match-winner, he is not remembered for that, but for his contribution towards the sport. And these words are coming from an avid supporter of the Pakistan Cricket Team.
Talking about Tendulkar during an interview, Kohli made it clear that Sachin Tendulkar’s skill level is unparalleled and so much different from the others. He also added that he always aspired to be like Sachin.
Well, here we are at ground zero, again. Was Tendulkar a great player? Yes. Was he a legend? That’s subjective, but I’d definitely go with a yes. Is he the GOAT? For me, yes!
Everyone has haters, but it is the response to hate that separates legends from other players, and Tendulkar, also took many hits along the way, his captaincy was a disaster, fingers were raised from time to time when his form collapsed, but he always picked himself up.
What better way than to sign off with the little master’s own words:
“People throw stones at you and you convert them into milestones”