Sachin's supreme batting prowess is best demonstrated when he dominates the opposition's attack and notches up centuries. Like a true magician, he pulls ton after ton out of hat, prompting his fans and rivals ton take theirs off to him. But in total defiance of his age, he appears to be getting better at his craft. After all, of the six double centuries he has scored in his career, amazingly, two have come in 2010 and both towards victories.
But his most recent Test hundred, completed in the first innings of the third and deciding Test against South Africa of India's hitherto memorable tour of 2010-11, ranks as one of the most stunning innings of his entire 21 years on the international stage.
After all, he came to the crease when his side was stuttering on 28/2 and in danger of repeating their infamous top-order collapse routine. But Tendulkar this time, made a conscious effort to fortify his wicket while he fended off the sting and fire of the new ball that was being hurled at him by the world's best bowler today Dale Steyn.
Tendulkar patiently and purposefully saw the ball transform to old mush before he launched an outright offensive. The crucial 176-run stand with Gautam Gambhir, which was broken with the latter's exit on 204, came as a fitting tribute to his level of commitment to the task at hand. He held fort even as the rest of the line-up threatened to give in to the destructiveness of a second new ball and at 247/6, built a defiant 76-run stand with Bhajji.
In reaction to scoring this ton, Tendulkar said, " It was a tough wicket. The lateral movement occasionally was alarming and you had to hang in there.They got the ball to swing as well. In the air and of the wicket. It was a challenging contest out there. On a track like this, you just need to forget about what happenned and concentrate on the next ball. There were patches I lost my focus a bit but I got it quickly back. This was one of the most challenging hundreds I have scored and it will be right up there in the list."
By the time, Tendulkar departed for a mammoth 146, he had brought his side to within striking distance of South Africa's first innings total and it was ultimately the momentum that he had left in his wake ensured that India surpass it. This valiant innings compares with two other knocks earlier in his career.
And while it is perhaps difficult to rate one innings over another, the criteria considered are - the quality of the bowling attacks, the fact that the innings came at a ground overseas, the situation in the match, and the meagre contributions of other Indian batsmen vis-a-vie Tendulkar's innings.
The first of such innings that comes to mind is the maestro's 111 against South Africa at Johannesburg in 1992. The hosts had just emerged from their 22-year cricketing exile and in the second Test of a four-match series, Tendulkar was up against the venom of Alan Donald, Craig Matthews and Brendon McCullum when he turned out his brilliant innings.
After the hosts had posted a decent total of 292 in their first innings, India were in trouble at 28/2 when Tendulkar walked to the crease. By the time he was done, he had lifted India to 212/9 while no other batsman had crossed 25! The 19 fours he hit in his knock was testament to the aggressive threat that ran through it. Later in the match, South Africa set India a target of 318 to win, but India forced a draw, crawling to 141/4 in 82 overs.
Another innings which exemplifies Tendulkar's tremendous resolve was his 116 against Australia at Melbourne. The hosts made 405 in their first innings before reducing India to a pitiful 11/2 when Tendulkar took guard. Again he held his side's innings together, while quelling the potency of arguably the best bowling attack in the world at the time in Glenn McGrath, Damien Fleming, Brett Lee and Shane Warne. While Tendulkar's held fort, he ensured India at least go over 200 and reach the moderately respectful total of 238. However, Australia ended up whipping the tourists by 180 runs at the end of the match.
But Tendulkar has shown time and again that he has the wherewithal to hold his own against the might of the world's most formidable attacks. It might be unfair that he is often faced with the task of stemming the rot when India is in collapse mode, but that attribute of his only augments his value and indispensability as part of the line-up.