Bloemfontein (South Africa): "The hunter has returned," a South African newspaper wrote on Sunday as the media in the country as well as former players went lyrical about Sachin Tendulkar's swashbuckling 155 on the opening day of the first Test against the South Africa on Saturday, a knock his skipper Saurav Ganguly described as "breathtaking".
Former South African captain Kepler Wessels summed up the reaction in this country by saying that Tendulkar's knock was the best he had ever seen. "It is the most outstanding knock I have ever seen in my entire life," Wessels said. "It was fascinating to watch it happen." Radio sports commentator Imraan Munshin went a step further saying Tendulkar displayed "some of the finest batting ever seen in Test history". The return of the hunter, that cricket journalist Trevor Chesterfield wrote, alluded to the Indian maestro's return to Test cricket after missing the tour of Sri Lanka due to a foot injury. One newspaper, the 'Sunday Tribune' of Durban, carried its match-report under the headline "Tendulkar overtakes Bradman" which was more than just a reference to statistics i.e. Tendulkar surpassing Sir Don Bradman's 6,996 runs in Test cricket on his way to crossing the 7,000 run mark on Saturday. The media also waxed eloquent about the other hero of the day, Virender Sehwag who produced a scintillating century on debut. "He hit some glorious strokes as well. He has modelled his batting style on that of Tendulkar and has many of the mannerisms of his mentor," wrote another cricket journalist Stuart Hess. "Together the pair provided rich entertainment and seldom has one day's Test cricket provided such a high standard of stroke play," Hess wrote referring to the 220-run stand for the fifth wicket between Tendulkar and Sehwag, which pulled India out from a hopeless 68 for four. Headlines like "Slashin' Sachin turns the tide" and "Vintage Tendulkar makes SA suffer" were splashed on the sports pages of all the newspapers which described Tendulkar as the finest batsman in contemporary cricket. The newspapers carried full details of Tendulkar's Test record and compared him to such greats as Bradman, Sir Gary Sobers and India's own Sunil Gavaskar. Similar accolades came from Ganguly and Indian coach John Wright too. "Breathtaking," said Ganguly. "It is difficult to put it in words the quality of this innings." Wright echoed the feelings. "I have never seen a better Test knock in my life," he said. Former South African off spinner Pat Symcox said Tendulkar's extra-ordinary innings had made things very difficult for the home side. "After such an innings and looking at the wicket, I would say South Africa are in trouble." On the other hand, speedster Allan Donald who is not playing in this series because of an injury blamed his team's bowlers for not bowling properly while acknowledging the great knock of Tendulkar. "I wish our bowlers had bowled him in the right area," said Donald who is in the commentary team. "They gave him too much width." The bowling did deserve censure but former Indian opener Navjot Singh Sidhu was convinced the attack was made to look ordinary by the magic of Tendulkar. "When he came to the crease, he realised quickly, it wasn't a wicket suited to drives. So he started steering it over the slips' heads - a shot devised on the spur of the moment and one which fetched him half his runs," he said. "There is this quality about this man - after all talent does what it can while genius does what must be done," Sidhu said in his inimitable style. Gavaskar couldn't agree with him more. "The noticeable aspect of this innings was the way he picked up the length and bounce of the wicket. If it wasn't so, he couldn't have played those shots over slips with this certainty," commented the Little Master. Another former India captain Ravi Shastri was also forced to go lyrical. "It was a sheer privilege to watch this magic - South Africans have been treated with a special Tendulkar sorcery," he said. Commentator Harsha Bhogle made a pertinent point on how Tendulkar quickly realised that the dismissal of Ganguly meant there were two debutants to follow and then the long tail of bowlers. "The remarkable aspect was how he changed the pace of his innings. He quickly sized up the situation and realised he needed to take the fight back into the South African camp." "It was one more proof of Tendulkar being as strong in skill as he is in mind," said Bhogle. Extras: Sachin overtakes Bradman on all-time list