Mumbai:The iconic batsman Sachin Tendulkar turns 37 on Saturday. One of the best and most celebrated cricketers of all times, Sachin has devoted more than half of his life to the game he lives.
Unlike some previous years, Tendulkar will have to put his birthday celebrations on hold as a day after he has some unfinished task to complete.
With his coruscating show with the bat, he has led Mumbai Indians to the IPL summit clash for the first time in three attempts and could give himself a perfect birthday gift by laying hands on the winners' trophy.
The maestro is, however, struggling hard to get fit after splitting his right hand webbing during the semi-finals. Fans are keeping their fingers crossed that he is declared fit to play the final on April 25.
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Tendulkar has been in phenomenal form which has made cricket fans around the world wonder what makes him tick on the cricket field with such consistency even after 20 years of virtually non-stop play at the international level.
And to top it all, not a whiff of the scandals that have enveloped the sport in the duration of his incredible career has besmirched his name.
Just when people started writing epitaph on his career, his heavy bat boomed with a huge bang in all three forms of the game - Tests, One-Day Internationals and in the IPL - to silence them.
The champion batsman first ratcheted up the stakes in Test cricket by zooming close to a half-century mark in the number of tons and how well he did it.
Between December's visit to Bangladesh and the February home series against South Africa, Tendulkar wielded his bat like a magician to rake up five centuries in four Tests, including four on the trot.
Tendulkar started the fabulous sequence of three-figure knocks with an unbeaten 100 at Ahmedabad against Sri Lanka that helped India draw the match before going on to clinch the rubber.
In Bangladesh, he struck tremendous form to score 105 not out and 143 for winning causes in Chittagong and Dhaka before returning home to take on the South African pace attack and chalk up innings of 100 and 106 at Nagpur and Kolkata in the drawn two-match rubber.
Then he went into over-drive in the ODI format and made a fabulous attempt at Hyderabad against the top Australian line-up and brought India to the doorsteps of an improbable victory with a classy innings of 175.
Chasing 351 India faltered at the fag end to be stopped at 247 after Tendulkar fired in supreme fashion by slamming 19 fours and four sixes in his 141-ball master class.
Then came his best-ever ODI knock, the record-setting 200 not out that clinched the ODI rubber against South Africa in Gwalior on February 24.
In that monumental knock, the first-ever double century scored in nearly four decades of ODI cricket, Tendulkar mastered the SA bowling attack and made it look pedestrian as India raked up 401 for three.
Tendulkar, who struck 25 fours and three sixes in that 147-ball innings of a lifetime, also slammed an unbeaten 96 against Sri Lanka at Cuttack in between - in December - before setting off for Bangladesh.
Interestingly in both these innings at Hyderabad and Gwalior, Tendulkar's strike rate too was fabulous - 124 and 136 respectively - to give an indication of his domination over the rival bowlers and fielders.
In these two formats of the game the plethora of records he has set might never be bettered in future, such has been his contributions.
In 166 Test matches he has garnered a mind-boggling 13,447 runs at 55.56 per innings and in 442 ODIs the corresponding figures read 17546 and 45.12.
He is only two Tests short of equalling retired Australian batsman Steve Waugh in the highest number of appearances and it's just a matter of when he will achieve this distinction.
He has also under his belt 93 international hundreds, including 46 in Tests, and looks all set to complete a hundred hundreds before hanging up his bat.
The champion batsman, who loves to celebrate his birthday with his family members and friends, took that phenomenal form into the IPL which he lit up with his brilliant displays that has piloted Mumbai Indians into its first final.
In 14 matches (he skipped the last league tie against Kolkata Knight Riders) Tendulkar has amassed 510 runs, the highest by an individual in season 3, with 89 not out as his best at an average of 47.5 and a brilliant strike rate of 135.
(With PTI inputs)