Sourav Ganguly on Monday shared an interesting nugget regarding his long-time opening partner Sachin Tendulkar, mentioning how the star batsman never wanted to take first strike. Ganguly revealed Tendulkar had his reasons for not taking first strike, saying he was better off being at the non-striker's end irrespective of whether he was in form or out of form.
However, a cursory glance at Tendulkar's numbers suggest that the former India batsman never had the best of outings when he took first strike early in his career. Out of 344 innings as an opener, Tendulkar has faced the first ball only 49 times, in which he's scored 1625 runs. Contrastingly, his ODI average of 48.29 slipped to 36.11 in these matches. Only twice has Tendulkar scored a century while facing the first ball of the innings – 120 against Sri Lanka in the 1999 Aiwa Cup and 114 vs South Africa in Mumbai.
It was in 1994 in a match against New Zealand that Tendulkar was promoted to open the batting in ODIs for the first time. But it wouldn't be for another two years that Tendulkar would face the first ball of the innings. During the 1996 World Cup, Tendulkar faced the first ball twice, scoring 3 and 65 against Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. A month later, he faced the first ball against Sri Lanka in a match in Singapore and fell for 28.
It would take another 20 innings for Tendulkar to face the first ball again. Clearly, he did not prefer taking first strike. On occasions when Tendulkar has started as a non-striker, his average climbs up to 50.31. Taking first strike, Tendulkar has scored 13685 runs, with 43 ODI centuries.
However, despite his reluctance to take strike, one of Tendulkar's most epic ODI knocks have come while facing the first ball – the 98 against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup match. It may baffle you to know that the last time Tendulkar faced the first ball in an ODI was way back in 2004, eight years before his retirement in 2012.