Is India’s Sachin Tendulkar the greatest sportsman in the world?by Jay Elwes / July 20, 2011 / Leave a comment
The world’s best cricketer is on British soil this summer, in what may be his final tour of England. Sachin Tendulkar of India is here. There is a strong case that he is not only the greatest cricketer, but also at present the greatest sportsman in the world.
Tendulkar was born in Mumbai in 1973; his father, Ramesh, was a Marathi-language novelist. Sachin has always been special. In 1988, during a school match, he and a partner scored 664 runs between them, a record for any form of the game. Such was the ferocity of the onslaught that the bowlers were reduced to tears. This got him noticed, and the following year he was selected to make his first-class debut for Bombay aged only 15. Playing against professional cricketers, the boy scored a century. The following year he made his Test match debut for India against Pakistan. The Test match is the five-day long, most demanding form of the game. While batting, he was surprised by a quick delivery that hit him in the face, causing a nosebleed. Tendulkar did not leave the field and continued playing in a bloodstained shirt.
It was a harsh introduction, but since then his achievements in the international game have been astounding. He has scored more runs for India than any other player has ever scored for their country. In Test matches, for example, he has scored 14,692 runs—a fifth more again than the second-placed batsman, Ricky Ponting of Australia. In one-day international matches, the gap is even wider: Tendulkar has put away 18,111 runs, almost 35 per cent more than his nearest rival Sanath Jayasuria of Sri Lanka. Tendulkar is quantitatively the greatest batsman in the game. Discussions are underway to build a museum to his career in the city of Pune. There are no current bowlers of equivalent stature now that Australia’s Shane Warne and Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan have retired.
But numbers are not all—the aesthetic must not be overlooked. Some batsmen have risen in the game on account of their physical strength. Tendulkar, nicknamed the “Little Master,” stands only five feet four. He has become the best through a combination of hand-eye co-ordination and elegance. As the West Indian writer CLR James noted in his famous book Beyond a Boundary, “cricket does… contain genuinely artistic elements.” If this is true, then Tendulkar’s play is the strongest example of this artistry…