Sachin Tendulkar had already established himself in Test cricket but shown only glimpses of his talent in the shorter version of the game. He had batted mostly at number 4 or below with reasonable success but had essentially been a support act in the 68 ODIs he had played.
If seen through the Impact sieve, he was the twenty-fifth highest impact batsman in the world (minimum 20 matches) during his short career thus far (December 1989 to March 1994).
Azharuddin, Kambli, Sidhu and Manjrekar all had a higher impact with the bat than Tendulkar during this time-frame.
But in Auckland, in March 1994, it all changed. The Indian pace attack had skittled New Zealand for 142. For the first time in his career, Sachin Tendulkar was asked to open the innings (in the absence of Navjot Sidhu who was sidelined due to a neck-strain) with Ajay Jadeja.
What followed redefined Indian cricket’s ODI history.
Tendulkar tore into the New Zealand new ball pair of Morrison and Pringle and made optimum use of the fielding restrictions. He put together 61 with Jadeja in just 9 overs before the latter departed for 18.
Tendulkar then went ballistic and especially got stuck into Larsen, smashing the right-armer for three fours and a six off his first over. He added 56 with Kambli in the next six overs, while displaying his entire repertoire. There was no hint of slogging in his 82 off just 49 balls, which included 15 fours and two sixes -his joint second-highest score at the time.
India romped to victory by seven wickets with more than half their overs in the kitty, not a common occurrence for that team. The next highest score in the innings was Kambli’s 21.
Tendulkar’s innings was reminiscent of Greatbatch’s exploits from the 1992 World Cup. The latter was one of the first to exploit the then newly introduced field restrictions. Tendulkar just took the stroke-play to another level.
He now became a permanent opener and his career just took off from here on.
It went from 1.83 to 2.58.
He became the second-highest impact batsman in the world (after Bevan) from this match till the end of the decade.
He was the fourth-highest impact batsman in the world (after Amla, Hayden and Bevan) post this match till the end of his ODI career. This means that for 371 of his 439 matches, he was the fourth-highest impact batsman in the world – for a continuous period of approximately 18 years.
No batsman in the history of ODI cricket has produced more
He played a pivotal part in India’s relative success in the 1996 and 2003 World Cups and was the highest impact batsman in the 2011 World Cup, which India won.
He went on to become the highest scorer in ODI cricket with the maximum number of hundreds. The support act became a world-beating dominant force and finally retired as an ODI great.
As things stand now, Tendulkar is the second-highest impact batsman (after Virat Kohli) in Indian ODI cricket history (minimum 60 ODIs).
It all started on the 27th of March, 1994 in Auckland.
Art- Gokul Chakravarthy
NOTE: Impact Index has undergone an upgradation in November 2015, and though 95% of its findings remain the same, there have been some minor shifts. This piece was updated post that, and is up-to-date as of August 2016.