A genius like Sachin Tendulkar comes along once in a lifetime. The master blaster has spent over 20 years in the game destroying bowlers' reputations and opposing teams in all forms of cricket, and providing a billion Indians real entertainment.
On Saturday, April 24, he turns 37. But unlike previous birthdays, the celebrations this time will be on hold; there is a mission to accomplish the following day when his Mumbai Indians take on Chennai Super Kings in the final of the third edition of the Indian Premier League.
A finger injury - sustained in the semi-finals against Royal Challengers Bangalore - though could keep him out.
Looking back, what a year it's been for the champion batsman. Between December's visit to Bangladesh and February's home series against South Africa, he scored five centuries in four Tests, including four on the trot. The fabulous sequence of three-figure knocks started with an unbeaten 100 at Ahmedabad against Sri Lanka that helped India draw the match before going on to clinch the rubber.
Join us in wishing the batting legend on his birthday.
Record-breaking double century
In Bangladesh, he displayed tremendous form, scoring 105 not out and 143 as India posted victories in Chittagong and Dhaka.
Then, when India took on South Africa at home, he registered innings of 100 and 106 at Nagpur and Kolkata as the two-match Test series was drawn.
Came the 50-over format and he went into overdrive. Against a strong Australian line-up at Hyderabad he took India to the threshold of an improbable victory with a classy innings of 175. Chasing 351, Tendulkar slammed 19 fours and four sixes in a 141-ball master class, but the team failed in the chase and stopped at 247.
Then came his best-ever ODI knock - a record-setting 200 not out - that clinched the ODI rubber against South Africa in Gwalior on February 24. In that monumental essay, the first-ever double century scored in nearly four decades of ODI cricket, Tendulkar destroyed the South African bowling attack, hitting 25 fours and three sixes off 147 balls as India put up 401 for 3.
Two Tests short of becoming most capped player
Photographs: IPL/Getty Images
In between he scored an unbeaten 96 in the ODI against Sri Lanka at Cuttack in December before setting off for Bangladesh. Interestingly, in both these innings at Hyderabad and Gwalior, Tendulkar's strike rate was fabulous - 124 and 136 respectively - giving an indication of his domination over the rival bowlers and fielders.
The plethora of records he has set in these two formats of the game may never be bettered. In 166 Tests he has a mind-boggling 13,447 runs at 55.56 per innings, while in 442 ODIs the corresponding figures read 17,546 and 45.12. He is only two Tests short of equalling retired Australian batsman Steve Waugh in the highest number of appearances.
That's not all. He carried that form to the third edition of the IPL which helped Mumbai Indians romp into its first final. In 14 matches (he did not play the last league tie against Kolkata Knight Riders) he amassed 570 runs, the highest by an individual in Season 3, with 89 not out his best, at an average of 47.5 and a brilliant strike rate of 135.
With the 50-over World Cup being staged in India next year, let's hope the good form continues.