The batting legend holds the records for most Test runs (3630) and most Test centuries (11) in India-Australia Test matches overall.
Tendulkar’s 3630 runs against Australia were scored in 39 Tests at a staggering average of 55, with the epic unbeaten 241 scored in Sydney in January 2004, being his highest score.
Tendulkar in fact was the Indian captain when the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, named after legends Allan Border and Sunil Gavaskar, was introduced from the only Test that Australia played in India in October 1996.
As India and Australia get set to lock horns in a four-Test series Down Under, Sachin Tendulkar talked to TimesofIndia.com on the impact Virat Kohli‘s absence could have on the Indian team after the first Test, the Rohit Sharma factor, his own favourite hundred of all the centuries that he has scored in Australia and more.
The first Test of the series gets underway in Adelaide from Thursday (December 17). That will be the only Test that Virat Kohli will play on this tour. He will return to India after that for the birth of his first child.
Talking on the current Indian captain not being there for three of the four Tests, Tendulkar told TimesofIndia.com – “He is one of the senior most players in the team, Rohit (Sharma), Ajinkya (Rahane), (Cheteshwar) Pujara, these are players who have been around for a long time, so it’s a nice blend of seniors and juniors. So obviously when he (Kohli) has to come back for personal reasons, the team has to be prepared, because normally a player is expected to play a whole series but nothing is guaranteed. A player can also get injured, it’s not just about coming back for personal reasons, a player can be ruled out of a tournament, it doesn’t have to be always due to personal reasons, players can have injuries also and the team has to play without them, for example, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was ruled out of the IPL, so those kinds of things happen, it’s about the whole nation, it’s about India, it’s not about individuals. Individuals come together to build a wonderful team, so when he (Kohli) is not going to be there, but I am sure when the team does well in the remaining three Test matches, he will be as happy as any other Indian.”
Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli. (Getty Images)
In the absence of Kohli, Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane will be leading India in the remaining matches. Rahane’s style of captaincy is very different to that of Kohli’s. While Kohli is all charged up and aggressive, Rahane’s demeanour is much calmer, though his field placements and tactical decisions can be aggressive when required. Rahane incidentally had led India to victory against Australia in the 2017 Test in Dharamsala, which Kohli had missed due to a shoulder injury. India won that match by 8 wickets. Rahane was also in charge when India had thrashed Afghanistan inside two days in Bengaluru in 2018 in what was Afghanistan’s debut Test match.
When asked what advice he would like to give Rahane for when he leads the Indian team in the absence of Kohli, Tendulkar said, “Whatever I have seen of Ajinkya over the years, he is a very sincere, hard-working fellow who has a good cricketing brain. He is balanced, he is aggressive, he understands the game, he is methodical. Whatever I have seen I have liked, so my advice would be – ‘be yourself’. He has to be himself more than anything else.” Sachin told TimesofIndia.com.
Rohit Sharma, who left for Australia in the early hours of Tuesday, will be available to play the last two Test matches of the series, if he is cleared by the physio in consultation with the BCCI medical team after his two week quarantine period is over Down Under. That assessment will only happen after the mandatory 14 day quarantine period is over.
For now, Indian cricket fans will be hoping Rohit is fit to play the last two Tests, because his experience could be vital, especially in the absence of Virat Kohli.
Rohit Sharma. (Getty Images)
However, the team management would have definitely made plans to tackle the Test series without Rohit playing any part in it, because that scenario too remains a possibility. After all, he will need a considerable period of time to get into Test match mode after his quarantine period is over. The team management will have to take a lot of things into account and take the right call, depending on the medical team’s assessment etc.
Tendulkar echoed that sentiment.
“That is going too far ahead (whether Rohit will play in the last two Tests), whether that will happen or not, but as I mentioned, Rohit is one of the most senior players and when senior players are there, it is always a nice balance, a nice blend of having that senior player alongwith juniors around, that combination is a nice combination to have. But whether Rohit is fit or not, or whether anything else needs to be done, that the team management decides on the tour. I am sure the physio will be involved in this, the captain, the coach, the tour management will be involved, so one should just leave it to them rather than assuming a lot of things. Right now, I don’t know exactly what the status is, so I think they (Indian team management) are the best people to judge, in which direction they need to move forward.” Sachin told TimesofIndia.com.
Going into the series opener, both camps are missing key players. Australia will be without David Warner for the first Test. Promising youngster from Victoria, Will Pucovski, who was primed to make his Test debut after back to back double centuries in the Sheffield Shield will also not play the first Test. He suffered a concussion after being hit on the helmet during a warm-up match by a Kartik Tyagi bouncer. Who will open the innings for Australia is one of the million dollar questions at the moment.
India also don’t have their opening partnership sorted. Mayank Agarwal should be one of the openers. But who will partner Mayank is still a mystery. Rahane has said everyone will have to wait till the morning of the 17th to find out who opens the innings for India. The potential candidates, in the absence of Rohit Sharma are Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill and possibly KL Rahul.
India also don’t have Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma. The third pacer after Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, at least for the first Test is likely to be Umesh Yadav. India will be playing their first day-night Test abroad and only their second overall. The Indian team though did well in the warm-ups, especially the second one.
So going into the Adelaide Day and Night Test, who will have the psychological advantage?
“Both the teams would want their full strength squads. Not having your full squad is obviously something no team wants. Ideally everyone would want (their) full squad all the time. But that also doesn’t happen sometimes. Whatever is available, you have to make the most of it, you have to make the best of it and think of how you can make it happen rather than what you don’t have. So I am sure both teams will not be thinking of what they don’t have, they’ll be focused on the first Test and both teams will go all out to win the first Test, because in a four-Test match series or for that matter any Test series, you take a one-up lead, that is a big big psychological boost. So (the) first Test match becomes important.” Sachin further told TimesofIndia.com.
In his record tally of 51 Test centuries, Tendulkar scored 11 against Australia, with six of them being scored on Australian soil. When asked to choose one hundred among those as his favourite, the batting great said – “My favourite hundred I would say would be the one I scored in Perth (114) in 1992, because I was only 19 years old then (he was 18 years and 285 days old on the day he scored this century which made him the youngest player ever to score a Test century at the WACA), it was a proper bowling attack on a lively wicket. For a 19-year-old when you go to Australia and score a hundred in Perth against the leading bowlers of the world, then you are more or less prepared to play in any part of the world against any bowling attack. And that is what I felt. It came at a critical stage in my career, it happened at a time where I felt really wonderful. I felt on top of the world because that was one outing where whosoever had done well there, people have spoken kindly of those players. And that to happen in my career at an early stage, I was only 19, to happen at that time in my career, where I had also got a hundred in Sydney (148*). Both Sydney and Perth were completely different surfaces, so to be able to go out and bat well on those two surfaces gave (me) a lot of confidence and I felt like a different person after that, so it has to be the hundred at Perth for me.”
Sachin Tendulkar celebrates his century against Australia in Perth on February 3, 1992. (AFP Photo via Getty Images)
On December 15, 2008 Tendulkar scored a magnificent unbeaten 103 to lead India to a six-wicket victory against England in the Chennai Test. The Test was held after the ghastly Mumbai terror attacks in late November that year.
“That was a big moment, because when it comes to talking about hundreds, I would say this was the most meaningful one for me, because the mood of the entire nation was understandably different. England graciously came back to play the series. For almost three and a half days we were playing (the) catching-up game with them and then to finish the game on such a high note was great. England’s bowling attack then was possibly the most complete bowling attack. They had (James) Anderson and (Steve) Harmison to bowl with the new ball, (Andrew) Flintoff to bowl reverse swing, and they had (Graeme) Swann and (Monty) Panesar as spinners, so they had covered all areas. And to be able to go out and score 387 was a big ask for the team. And we were able to chase that, so that made things really really special. And that’s the reason I dedicated that particular hundred to the entire nation and also to the martyrs and to the people who lost their lives and that’s why I consider that hundred as the most meaningful and most important hundred of my life, because this was going beyond cricketing reasons. Normally, two countries are competing to either win a Test match or to win a series but this was much more that.” Sachin told TimesofIndia.com.
Sachin Tendulkar celebrates with Yuvraj Singh his century and India’s win over England in Chennai on December 15, 2008. (TOI Photo)