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Magnificent Sachin seeks that missing signature

Tony Lawrence | December 03, 2003 21:58 IST

As sporting greats go, Sachin Tendulkar is something of a puzzle.

It is easier to recall the career statistics than the individual innings. His body of work is magnificent but the signature seems to be missing.

The next few weeks, in Australia and against the world's best side, provide him with a perfect opportunity to put that right.

All he needs to do is to serve up one of those "I was there" days.

Lined up against him in the four-match Test series will be Steve Waugh, a man with perhaps less natural talent but with as glorious a track record.

Waugh, on the brink of retirement as the most capped player of all time, has 32 Test centuries, one more than Tendulkar and two short of Sunil Gavaskar's all-time benchmark.

Waugh has more runs -- he is only the third player to pass 10,000 Test runs -- and, at 51.25, an equally imposing average.


The Australia has other strings to his bow -- he is a captain without peer. More importantly, however, while hardly the most expressive of men, he has produced moments of real sporting romance.

His match-winning century against South Africa in the 1999 World Cup has become the stuff of legend -- even if Waugh in fact never said: "You've gone and dropped the World Cup, mate" after being given a life by the butter-fingered Herschelle Gibbs.

His unbeaten 157, completed on one leg, against England at The Oval in 2001 was pure, obdurate Waugh -- he was batting with a calf muscle torn only weeks before -- as was his Sydney century against the same opponents at the start of this year, completed off the final ball of the day just as the selectors prepared to force him into retirement.

Waugh has a massive advantage over Tendulkar, of course, in that he is surrounded by so many other players of the highest calibre.

Tendulkar is expected to carry his team.

He has never disappointed against the Australians, having made six Test centuries against them, three of those on enemy soil (none of which, however, led to victory).


But think of recent Indian cricketing romance and you do not think Tendulkar.

You think Anil Kumble and his 10 wickets in an innings against Pakistan or VVS Laxman and that dazzling 281 against Waugh and company at Calcutta in 2001.

Or even Harbhajan Singh's 32 wickets at 17.03 runs apiece in the same series. The next most successful India bowler in the series was part-timer Tendulkar himself, with three wickets, each costing 50.33.

Tendulkar has rarely featured in such romantic, colourful and ultimately decisive actions.

Wisden reflected the point last year when they classed him as the second-best Test batsman ever, yet did not include any of his centuries among the top 100 individual innings of all time.

Tendulkar is as formidable a one-day player. His last four one-day innings against the world champions have been 100, 68, 89 and 45.

But the match that really mattered came in March, in the World Cup final in Johannesburg. Ricky Ponting revelled on the big stage with a match-winning 140.

Tendulkar made four.

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