72 off 27 balls, Christchurch 2002:
Few know that T20 cricket had a direct precursor in ‘Cricket Max’, the brainchild of New Zealand legend Martin Crowe. Cricket Max featured two ten over innings a side, with a ‘Max Zone’ behind the bowler which doubled the runs scored off boundaries in that area. On a calamitous New Zealand tour in 2002, the embattled Indian touring party found some respite with a friendly ‘Super Max International.’ India still managed to lose, but that was largely because of our sub-standard bowling attack. However, Tendulkar managed to with the man-of-the-match award with a blazing 72 off 27 balls (he hit two 8s and one 12 but it’s still impressive). A worthy mention because of how few people remember or have seen this innings.
92 off 113 balls, Trent Bridge 2002
India conceded a massive lead in the second Test of this classic tour, and were soon reduced to 11-2 and were staring at a large defeat. Enter Tendulkar. There is perhaps no greater exhibition of Tendulkar’s classical range of strokes than this innings. On a pitch without much lateral movement but was still quick enough for the ball to come onto the bat, Tendulkar cut, drove, and pulled with consummate fury. This was the sort of innings which separated him and his contemporary Brian Lara into a tier of their own, statistics be damned. His remarkable knock was cut short in perhaps even more remarkable fashion, as part-time off-spinner Michael Vaughan produced a ripping off-break which spun from wide outside off stump to beat Tendulkar’s cover drive.
171 off 236 balls, Chelmsford 2007
A seldom considered statistic which further demonstrates Tendulkar’s dominance is that he averaged above 66 in first-class cricket outside the international level. He was clearly a few classes apart whenever he faced domestic sides, and his pedigree was on full display during this innings against England A. This innings, as part of the England tour of 2007, has deep significance at least to me in my perception of the evolution and resolution of Tendulkar’s career. After a poor World Cup in the West Indies and a difficult few years struggling with tennis elbow issues, Tendulkar’s career and game were at a crossroads. He found much of his old fluency and indeed worked out slight adjustments to his game starting on this victorious tour, which manifested into his resurgence until the 2011 World Cup. Here he treats the opposition like he is having a net, beating deep point on either side of him with ease and smashing a young Adil Rashid out of sight. The innings is also a great showcase of what Tendulkar was capable of doing without the stress and clutter of mind Test cricket produced.
84 off 107 balls, Dunedin 1992
The 1992 World Cup is still considered by many aficionados as the best iteration of the tournament, in no small part due to the emergence of a series of brilliant young stars. Tendulkar was one of these; all of 18 years old, he injected much needed momentum through the tournament into a soporific Indian batting line up. In this match in Dunedin, against a powerful New Zealand team, he cracked a fluent 84 to give the Indian innings some semblance of competitiveness. Yes, it doesn’t quite match up to his more famous innings in Perth and Sydney that summer during the Test series, but it is a good portrait of the kind of Indian team Tendulkar inherited. More than mediocrity, there was simply a deep sense of complacency and conservatism, which could not have succeeded in the rapidly changing landscape of the game in the Nineties.
160 off 260 balls, Hamilton 2009
It is odd that this innings is not mentioned often because it is a fitting riposte to many Tendulkar detractors; an aggressive knock in a winning cause overseas (which eventually led to a series win as well). Tendulkar pulled out all the shots with with an undeniable sense of mastery, leaving the Kiwi bowling attack outclassed and demoralised. New Zealand maintained a consistent, disciplined bowling effort through the innings, but Tendulkar seemed to be able to summon runs at will, pouncing on anything loose and turning good balls into boundaries at his discretion.