Sachin – In a class of his own.

Sachin Tendulkar has scored more than 78 000 runs in all formats of cricket at all levels.  A remarkable amount of runs that cannot be compared to any of his contemporaries. He is a man in a class of his in own. This is the piece I did on Sachin ahead of the T20 internaitonal on Sunday, January 9, published in the Sunday Tribune on January 2.

Numbers don’t lie – and when the world looks back on Sachin Tendulkar, the numbers will bear testimony to one of the world’s greatest cricketers.

It is hard to argue against claims that Australian Don Bradman is the greatest, but Tendulkar’s record certainly stands up well in comparison. And for former Proteas spinner Pat Symcox, Tendulkar is certainly the best batsman of his generation.

“As a batsman, he is the greatest I’ve ever played against. Whether he is as good as Bradman I can’t say,” Symcox said this week before the T20 international between South Africa and India at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Sunday.

This match – or the One Day International three days later – will be the last time 37-year-old Tendulkar will play in Durban. For Symcox, Tendulkar’s retirement will be a “sad day for cricket”.

“Cricket will be poorer without him. There is no heir apparent at the moment. Great players come and go and are replaced. But Tendulkar stands apart from the rest. It will be a sad day for Indian cricket when he retires, but not for India’s opponents – they’ll be loving it,” he said.

Sachin raises his bat after scoring his century against South Africa at Centurian. It was his 50th Test century, the most by any batsman.

Symcox played several times against Tendulkar, in India and in South Africa. On these occasions, Tendulkar “obviously dominated most of the team talk the night before you started a Test”.

“But there’s actually not much you can do if he’s playing well. It’s not as if he’s weak outside off stump, or off the back foot – he’s strong all over. You just hope that he makes a mistake and gets himself out. He is bloody difficult to get out and his bat always seems so wide.

“One of the things that makes him the phenomenon he is, is that he’s been analysed from front to back for so many years, yet he still makes runs.”

Tendulkar’s record is remarkable. He made his debut for India aged just 16 and has played for more than 21 years – the 11th longest international career. He has scored a record 50 international Test centuries and 59 Test 50s – a total of 14 513 runs. His 176 matches also make him the most capped Test cricketer. In One Day Internationals he has scored 17 598 runs in 442 matches, with 46 centuries and 96 half-centuries. In all formats of the game, including all international and domestic matches, the “Little Master” has amassed 78 193 runs and taken 471 wickets.

The numbers are remarkable.

But it is the way he carries himself and has imprinted his name on the game that will stand out. He is respected at home and abroad and is idolised by millions of cricket fans across the globe. Cricket website CricInfo has him in their World XI alongside the likes of Bradman, Shane Warne, Wasim Akram, Viv Richards, Dennis Lillee and Garry Sobers. And rightfully so.

Sachin at his brilliant best.

He made his debut against India’s greatest rival, Pakistan, in Karachi on November 15, 1989. He only batted once in that drawn Test, scoring 15 before he was bowled by Waqar Younis. It was the start of an amazing Test career – one that, for Durbanites, came to an end this week when he played his last Test in Durban.

In the match – won comfortably by the Indian team – Tendulkar scored 13 in the first innings and 6 in the second. It wasn’t his greatest performance, but those at the ground cheered and applauded as he walked to and from the pitch. They were saying farewell to a genius.

But all is not lost. Tendulkar will play again. The T20 will be a fitting farewell for him and South African favourite Makhaya Ntini, who will be playing his last game in a Proteas kit.

Symcox, who had a rant on social networking site Twitter about poor attendances at the Durban Test earlier this week, said he hoped Tendulkar would get the send-off he deserved.

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