Over his 21-year-old-and-counting career, Indian run-machine Sachin Tendulkar has exuded the attributes of a magician, slipping with effortless ease into each of the game's three formats. He knows how to hold fort and provide stability and substance in the Test scenario. He has even proved adept at upping the ante and blazing away in Twenty20s. But one could argue that he possesses a special penchant and prowess for one-day encounters.
As Tendulkar slips out of Test mode and gears up for what promises to be a lip-smacking quintet of one-day matches against South Africa to round off India's 2010-11 tour of the Rainbow Nation, Sachin will have to come to grips with two niggling factors.
Firstly, the Little Master will be donning the one-day "true blue" attire for the first time in nearly a year. The last time, he took guard in a one-day milieu was way back in Feb 2010. Is it possible that a return to the format after 11 months could mean he has become slightly rusty?
Secondly, given that both India's regular openers in Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, will be out of action for the forthcoming series due to injury, the mantle of taking up the opening slot has fallen on Tendulkar. He will be batting opposite stand-in Murali Vijay through all the five scheduled
one-dayers. If Sachin will be able to adapt to that role once again and assume the monumental responsibility that goes with it, is the big question.
After all, he last opened India's innings as far back as Dec 2006. As coincidence would have it, even that series four years, ago was against South Africa. But back then, the batting maestro put on a poor show, only managing to garner 93 runs from the 4 matches at a below-par average of 23.25 and even worse, with a deplorable strike rate of 58.12! It was a performance truly worth forgetting as it was unbecoming of a player of Tendulkar's calibre, class and ability.
But in Tendulkar's last ODI series, he was back to his most devastating avatar and as coincidences go,
again, it was against South Africa. Appearing in 2 matches of the 3-encounter series which India went on to win, Sachin averaged a staggering 204, largely due to his record 200 not out - the highest individual one-day score by any batsman in the history of one-day cricket.
Given the fact that Tendulkar has been in his element during the recently-concluded Test series, indicates that he is indeed on a roll and could easily whip together a string of formidable innings in the one-day series as well. Will he live up to his 45.12 average? His fans will certainly be hoping so.