"Apart from a glorious, nothing-to-lose 55 against Australia on a Mumbai terrortrack, watching Tendulkar became a colder experience," the Wisden Cricketers' Almanac 2005, to hit the stands tomorrow (April 7, 2005), said in appraisal of one of the greatest batsmen of the game.
"After his humbling 2003, he seemed to reject his bewitching fusion of majesty and human frailty in favour of a mechanical, robotic accumulation. The end -- an average of 91 for the year -- justified the means, but the game was the poorer for it."
Shane Warne was named International Player of the Year while Michael Vaughan's England made a slice of history by capturing all Five Cricketers of the Year accolade.
Ashley Giles, Steve Harmison, Robert Key, Andrew Strauss and Marcus Trescothick made it only the third time since World War II that all the year's Five Cricketers were from England.
Wisden has reverted to the old way of naming the Five from those who play in the English season, abandoning the global arena which it had adopted briefly from 2001 to 2003.
Tendulkar was among the six Indians in the list of 40 international players of year 2004 -- Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble being the other five.
"Having spent his career delighting the purists, Tendulkar spent 2004 whipping the statisticians into a frenzy," Wisden said.
"In Tests, he played a remarkable three-card trick: 495 runs without being dismissed to start the year; then seven single-figure scores in eight innings either side of tennis elbow; finally normal service resumed with an average of 284 in the series in Bangladesh.
On the Indian vice-captain, Wisden noted in its tribute, "The Wall didn't quite come tumbling down, but Dravid regressed from the stratospheric standards of 2003."
"He was the ICC's inaugural Player of the Year -- chiefly for his displays in Australia in 2003-04 -- but struggled to influence the return series and made just one fifty in four Tests.
"Without the safety valve of Sachin Tendulkar below him for half the series, Dravid went into his shell: his strike-rate dropped from 51 in Australia to 27 at home.
"He still scored more One-day International runs than anyone else, and there were two trademark big Test hundreds. One -- 160 against Bangladesh -- was essentially meaningless; the other -- a 12-hour 270 in a series decider in Pakistan when nobody else made a century -- could barely have been of greater magnitude.