Cricket: Shadow of Tendulkar looms over Black Caps

By Martin Davidson

By standard tape measurement he is only a little bloke but Sachin Tendulkar still casts a giant shadow over the first cricket test between New Zealand and India which starts here tomorrow.

Tendulkar, all 1.67m of him, looms largest in all the pre-match chatter as an expectant nation wills him to tick off yet another remarkable milestone in a remarkable career.

The gracefully ageing 37-year-old is in the form of his life and enters the opening game of a three-match series poised to become the first player to register 50 test centuries.

His 49th, the small matter of 214 crafted over nine hours, came just last month at Bangalore as India completed a 2-0 series sweep over Australia and there is nothing to suggest Tendulkar will be denied his half-century of centuries, if not here, then certainly at some stage over the next three weeks.

His appetite for runs is as insatiable as ever, with the recently crowned International Cricket Council player of the year having filled his plate in 2010 already, 1270 runs at a Bradmanesque average of 97.69, featuring no fewer than six centuries.

Tendulkar's standing as an all-time great is without question, his world record harvest of 14,240 runs and counting even comfortably outscoring the collective efforts of the entire 15-man New Zealand tour party.

It helps put things in perspective for the New Zealand bowlers, who have to somehow restrict Tendulkar while also taking care of India's other heavy hitters such as Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.

The best batsman of his generation certainly has form against New Zealand, scoring the first of his six test double centuries against them here at Ahmedabad in 1999.

New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori has seen enough of the Indian master over the years to understand the threat he poses.

"He has been in form longer than some of our guys have been alive," Vettori quipped.

Talking about him brings an extra crease or two to the brow of New Zealand coach Mark Greatbatch, who recalls playing against him when the Indian was a teenager in New Zealand back 1989.

"I think he played his second test against me.

"It's amazing," Greatbatch said of Tendulkar's longevity.

Greatbatch, who played the last of his 41 tests in 1996, knows quality when he sees it and is looking forward to seeing Tendulkar stride to the crease.

"I am looking forward to watching him bat for about half an hour before getting caught at point."

It is fair to say that is not a sentiment shared by many in this part of the world.


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