Sachin ‘The Man’ Tendulkar

April 2, 2011 – World Cup Final, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai. It’s India vs. Australia, Aussies need 16 runs to win the match. Irfan Pathan steaming in to bowl, first ball a full toss, smashed to cover point for a 4, next ball a length ball squeezed for 2. Captain walks up to bowler and tells him to pitch it up, Irfan nods his head and says he gets the message. Next 2 balls, length balls and are promptly dispatched for 6s. GAME OVER!!! Oh wait, this was the fate of KXIP in today’s match against CSK. Lets try this again.

April 2, 2011 – India vs. Australia, World Cup Final, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai. India is chasing 260 to win, and after a poor start, things are stabilized. Even after losing 3 wickets, Sachin Tendulkar takes attack to Aussies, and is nearing yet another ODI century. India are well placed with just 100 runs to win, 20 overs to go and decent batting to come. India is odds on favorite to win the match, Ponting searches for inspiration and finally gets one in Sachin’s wicket. Still with 6 wickets left and some heavy hitters to come India should win this easily. Operative word being should, however predictably, India lose all their wickets and lose a close match, a match they had no business losing.

Think this hasn’t happened before? Check this match out. Before Hyderabad, before Chennai, and before Eden Gardens, there was Wankhede. The match and the collapse, which prompted Mukesh Ambani, the richest Indian, to name his team “Indians”. He knew after Sachin gets out, his team is going to collapse.

My brother (Happy Birthday to him, btw) wanted me to write about my favorite Sachin innings. Any cricket fan knows the 200*, the 175, the Sharjah storms or many of his test 100s. But to me what represents Sachin and India cricket is this Wankhede knock. Sachin was in his 2nd year as his opener, and had become by then one of the most important, if not the most, player of the team. India was playing a league game against one of the favorites Australia, at Sachin’s home ground Bombay. An inspid bowling performance on a wicket helping spin, allows Aussies to score 258. Yes, in those days anything over 250 was considered a good score.

India’s chase is rocked by 2 quick wickets, and Azhar is not at his fluent best (at that point he was in team because there was no suitable alternative) and not scoring any runs. Crowd is getting restless, Sachin decides to takes matters in to his own hand. McGrath to Sachin- a cover drive for 4 of a full toss, McGrath offers a few words of advice. Next ball, a lofted drive over midwicket for a 6, run rate on the rise and McGrath goes back to his fielding position. Shane Warne comes to bowling crease, remember this was a wicket that was assisting spin, a pull to the straight boundary rounds up the over and India’s run-rate is back on track. Few pulls, drives and cuts later Sachin is batting on 90. At that point, with 117 to win in just over 20 overs. A run rate of less than 6 runs an over, with a batting line up to come that includes Prabhakar (a test century to his name, on a spicy Mohali pitch that too), Mongia, Srinath and Kumble. Awe-inspiring batting line up, no, but effective none the less. After all Mongia would score a century later that year, Srinath and Kumble had test 50s. This didn’t include Manjrekar who was batting at the time.

In any case, Sachin plays one shot too many, get out stumped to Mark Waugh, and all fall down. What seemed an aberration that time was repeated 2 weeks later in a more important match, WC Semifinal. Predictable pattern, indeed. What made Sachin’s innings special was the way he absorbed the pressure of losing 2 quick wickets, slow run-rate and then cut loose in a fury of shots. Oh and not to mention the pressure of 40,000 fans screaming their lungs out on HIS home ground. Talk about pressure.

The indelible memory from that match is that flick over midwicket for 6, off McGrath.

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