|Player:||BC Lara, RT Ponting, SR Tendulkar|
DateLine: 16th September 2006
Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting have paid tribute to Sachin Tendulkar's "genius" after the Indian batsman's unbeaten 141 in his first match in six months since a shoulder injury.
Lara, himself one of the best batsmen the world has seen, watched in awe as Tendulkar hit 13 fours and five sixes here on Thursday to carry his bat for only the second time in his 364 limited overs internationals.
"I think it was a very good pitch other than a small ridge. I think that spoilt it of course, but taking that into consideration Tendulkar played a magnificent innings on such a surface," said the West Indian captain. "For a guy coming back after six months, it showed how much of a genius he is. We just had to watch him and appreciate him. It was a very special innings."
The 33-year-old had been out since March after surgery but proved he has fully recovered and lost none of his winning instincts in a major boost for India ahead of the Champions Trophy next month. It was his 40th one-day century but it was not enough to save his side who lost to the West Indians by 29 runs on the Duckworth/Lewis method in their rain-hit DLF Cup match.
"Sachin is the best player I have seen and the best player I have played against," added Australian captain Ponting, who will come up against Tendulkar in a day/night match here on Saturday. "He's got a good record against Australia and when I look at his overall record, something like 75 hundreds in international cricket, that is just an amazing statistic. He's obviously a world-class player and having him back at the top of their order makes India even more formidable. Doing what he did on Thursday is just what he does."
In cricket-mad India, the media and former great Sunil Gavaskar were equally gushing in their praise. The front page of the Hindustan Times had a picture of him under the headline "Batman returns", while the Indian Express cried: "He's back, and how," with a photo of Tendulkar with his arms raised.
The Times also carried an appreciative article by Gavaskar, who said Tendulkar had dispelled all doubts over his fitness. "Once he hit that front foot down and straight drove the fast bowler, it was clear that he was mentally at peace with himself and had no doubts in his mind about his fitness," Gavaskar wrote.
Tendulkar himself was buoyed by the way he played.
"It was a very special 100. It was made on a difficult track and I am very happy with it. Everything clicked," said the batsman, who has scored more runs than anyone else in the one-day game - 14,289 at an average of over 44. "I'm feeling absolutely fine and very happy to last 50 overs and still be running. It is a reflection of what I have been doing the past few months. It has been a challenge because I am coming out of a serious injury. I had a couple of surgeries but you have to just keep fighting and try to be mentally strong. I've been able to do that and I'm happy with that."
Tendulkar's injury forced him to skip seven one-dayers at home against England and a tour of the West Indies.