Sachin Tendulkar, who clinically destroyed the Australians to take India to the Coca Cola Cup triumph in Sharjah last night, has touched such dizzy heights in batsmanship that comparisons, if any, are made only to Don Bradman -- the hallmark of absolute batting perfection in the game.
Such has been the domination by the little genius that all comparisons with contemporary players have simply ceased and the sheer brilliance of his back-to-back centuries has only underlined the added finesse in his approach that has left even as combative a team as Australia a thoroughly beaten one.
``It was one of the greatest innings I have ever seen. There is no shame being beaten by such a great player,'' was the accolade from Australian captain Steve Waugh last night after Tendulkar single- handedly pulled India to victory.
Steve Waugh, himself respected as one of the most gritty players of the era, had earlier been quoted as saying, ``Sachin is perhaps only next to the Don,'' reflecting the awe in which his opponents have held him this season as he has ground the Aussie attack to dust ever since he greeted them with his maiden double hundred for Mumbai in the tour opener.
If Tendulkar's 143, crushing the Kiwi hopes of making the final, took one's breath away, his 134 and the repertoire of shots he unleashed on the Aussies in the final in his 25th birthday bash led former England skipper Tony Greig to gush: ``This is the nearest thing to Bradman there could ever be. What a player!'
Tendulkar, whose batting has attained Bradmanesque heights, has remained the delight of the connoisseur as well as the lay fan as the cricketing genius goes on to unveil one weapon after another, not only with his broad blade, but with the ball and fielding too.
Tendulkar's run pillage against the Aussies in 12 outings (three Tests, six one-dayers and one first-class match) has been a massive 1130 for a superb average of 113.0 against the Kangaroos in the last eight weeks.
West Indian all-time great Sir Garfield Sobers declared the little Indian champion as the best batsman in the world and the Don himself was moved after he found Tendulkar's approach almost similar to his own style.
Not having watched his own batting, the Don last year asked his wife to judge Tendulkar's approach and she declared it came closest to his batting.
With 15 one-day hundreds he is on the verge of surpassing West Indian Desmond Haynes's record of 17 and has already amassed over 6650 runs in 188 matches and 182 innings.
Tendulkar was the unanimous choice for the player of the tournament, as he was for the man-of- the-final title, has caught up with Haynes in claiming the man of the match award 26 times in his career. The only man ahead of the little champion is another Carribbean legend, Viv Richards (31).
While taking India to the memorable victory, Tendulkar claimed a number of personal awards --both in cash and kind. The tournament sponsors announced a 20,000 Pounds special award for his epic knock of 143 in the final league match where he also claimed awards for man-of-the-match and for scoring most number of sixes (5).
After last night's final, he pocketed $1000 (maximum number of sixes in the tournament), $500 (maximum number of sixes in the match), $2500 (man of the final), $1000 (fastest fifty - 43 balls) besides an Opel Astra for the player of the tournament. He will also have a share of the Rs. 10 lakh award announced for the Indian team by cricket board president Raj Singh Dungarpur. Just goes to show that the winner takes it all.