The stats would have you believe that this is the best Sachin Tendulkar has ever batted. And for once, the stats may well be right. On Monday, Sachin posted Test century no. 49. It was his sixth in the calendar year, the most by any Indian ever. And it took his aggregate for the year so far to 1194 runs at an average of - hold your breath - 99.5. Indeed, the only word to describe his form is Bradmanesque (the Don, remember, had a career average of 99.94). And India will play at least five more Tests in 2010.
On Monday, Sachin finished at 191 not out. And if Dhoni and the tail hang around, who's to say 300 is out of reach? On Sunday, he had passed 14,000 Test runs, taking just 12 innings to race there - the fastest he has ever gone from one 1,000-run mark to the next.
But the stats, staggering though they undoubtedly are, don't tell the full tale. They fail to capture the utter serenity that Sachin now radiates like an aura while he's at the crease, the sense of inevitability that accompanies yet another big score. Indeed, watching him in action now reminds one of nothing so much as a martial arts grand master, achieving maximum impact with minimum effort.
In fact, the numbers that really make you marvel are 5, 3 and 1. Those were the respective ages of Murali Vijay, Pragyan Ojha and Cheteshwar Pujara when Sachin debuted in Tests. They now play with him, but Sachin still has the passion of a rookie.
On Monday, as Vijay battled his way to his maiden Test century, Sachin Tendulkar handed out yet another batting masterclass. The concentration didn't waver for a moment, the hawk-like patience was intact. These qualities were best exemplified by how he dealt with a slow bouncer from Peter George that never arrived. Tendulkar saw the ball early, started to duck but because he had his eyes on the ball, was able to defend at the last minute as the ball rose less than expected. It had to be seen to be believed.
All this despite the fact that he wasn't exactly up against a world-class bowling unit which may have motivated him to perform harder. The wicket too wasn't a testing one and so it would have taken some effort to buckle down, which he had to do in the circumstances given Australia's imposing first-innings total.
Then again, the Tendulkar of the last two-three years is a much-changed batsman, and definitely more consistent. Where he used to have three to four options for one ball, now he is prepared to wait for the loose ball.
He plays far straighter these days, thus closing that little gate between bat and pad that had seen him get bowled on more than a few occasions. He does bring out the magnificent on drive once in a while but far less frequently than before.
On one other aspect though, he has taken the other route, thanks to someone who wasn't anywhere near being born when Tendulkar took his bow in international cricket. Having got out quite a few times in the nervous 90s, he was advised by his son to try and get there with a six, a la Virender Sehwag. On Monday, he got there with two of them, first to move from 93 to 99 and then on to 105.
So what's next? Well, there's 15,000 Test runs to get, 50 Test centuries, 100 international centuries. All landmarks that once seemed impossible, all now seemingly within touching distance. But first, how about a triple?