With Sachin Tendulkar completing 20 years in international cricket on November 15, Gulu Ezekiel looks back at 20 of the masterrrÃƒ?s greatest knocks.
With Sachin Tendulkar completing 20 years in international cricket on November 15, Gulu Ezekiel looks back at 20 of the master’s greatest knocks.
(The article was first published in All Sports Monthly, November’09)
- It was in the Harris Shield semifinals for Shardashram Vidyamandir (English) against St. Xavier’s (Fort) at the Azad Maidan in February 1988 that Tendulkar’s name first entered the record books. The score was 84 for 2 when the 14-year-old Sachin joined Vinod Kambli at the crease. They were not separated till the lunch break on the second day when the declaration finally came at 748 for 2—Sachin not out on 326 and Vinod on 349. Their unbroken partnership of 664 runs in 120 overs was a world record for any wicket in any game of organized cricket. The Sachin saga had begun.
- Having made his mark with a century on first-class debut in the Ranji Trophy against Gujarat in 1988, Tendulkar then went one better on his Irani Trophy debut. Playing for the Rest of India against Delhi in November, 1989 he celebrated his selection for the Indian team to tour Pakistan with a brilliant unbeaten 103 against a powerful Delhi bowling attack.
- The teenage Sachin made an immediate impact on his maiden tour. The opening One-day International at Peshawar on 16 December, 1989 was reduced to a 20-over exhibition match due to rain. Now it rained sixes as Sachin took on master leg spinner Abdul Qadir. He smashed him for 27 runs in one over and raced to 53 not out from just 17 balls.
- This was the moment the boy turned into a man. Still only 17, Tendulkar saved India’s bacon at Old Trafford in 1990. His unbeaten 119 against a rampaging England attack made him the youngest Test centurion on English soil. It would be the first of many, many more.
- The wicked WACA track posed no problems for the teen titan in 1992 even as all other Indian batsmen crumbled around him. His superb 114 made him the youngest batsman to score a Test century in Australia. Yet India lost the match by 300 runs!
- The innings that changed the face of Indian cricket. Pressed to open at Auckland in 1994 in the absence of the injured Navjot Singh Sidhu, Tendulkar tore the Kiwi attack to shreds, smashing 82 from 49 balls. The opening slot was now his for keeps.
- The India/Australia match in the 1996 Wills World Cup at Mumbai was a high voltage clash. Australia sneaked home by 16 runs. But while Tendulkar was at the crease he was in total command and never looked like getting out before he was stumped off a wide for 90.
- It was just an exhibition match. But the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial at Lord’s in July 1998 to commemorate WG Grace’s 150th birth anniversary became a one-man show. Tendulkar’s 125 for the Rest of the World XI against MCC XI had even the opposing bowlers applauding his shots.
- The legendary desert storm 143 at Sharjah in 1998. India needed 276 to win against Australia in the final league match and 237 to reach the final of the tri-series and edge New Zealand out on net run-rate. Not even a freak sand storm could stop Sachin. India lost the match but reached the final.
- Two days later and it was Tendulkar all the way again against Australia in the final. India won by six wickets and Tendulkar was unstoppable with a masterly 134.
- Not the best of his ODI centuries by a long stretch. But the circumstances behind Tendulkar’s 140 not out against Kenya in Bristol in the 1999 World Cup were extraordinary. He had returned just 24 hours earlier after attending his father’s funeral in Mumbai. There was not a dry eye in the house.
- It was a rare opportunity for Tendulkar to play in the Ranji Trophy and it resulted in his maiden first-class double century in the semifinals against Tamil Nadu in 2000. He brilliantly guided the tail past TN’s first innings total of 485 with an unbeaten 233. He added 41 runs for the last two wickets, all the runs coming off his bat. Mumbai would go onto win the title.
- Coach John Wright said it was the best Test innings he had ever seen. Still, his 155 could not prevent defeat at the hands of South Africa at Bloemfontein in 2001. Coming in at 68 for 4, he took the home attack apart in a storming partnership worth 220 with debutant centurion Virender Sehwag. India lost by nine wickets.
- The combined batting carnage of Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar took India to their first Test victory at Headingley, Leeds--that too by an innings on the 2002 tour of England. They smashed 96 runs from the last 11 overs of the second day. Tendulkar’s rollicking 193 was his 30th century, taking him past Don Bradman. The English bowlers simply threw their arms up in despair.
- It was the match the whole cricket world was waiting for. India v Pakistan at Centurion in the 2003 World Cup was touted as the clash of the giants. The Pakistan bowlers, particularly Shoaib Akhtar made bold predictions before the start, confident they would blow India away with sheer pace. But they their taunts backfired as Tendulkar tore the bowling apart with a vengeance. The target of 274 was made to look puny as he raced to 98 from 75 balls. It was worth more than a century as India strode towards the final.
- It was a historic tour and a historic century, the first by an Indian in an ODI on Pakistan soil. Yet Tendulkar’s 141 at Rawalpindi at better than a run a ball was still not enough to take India home. They fell 12 runs short of Pakistan’s massive 327.
- India had never won the ODI tri-series title Down Under and now in 2008 it was their final chance as the format was due to be scrapped. On two previous occasions in the finals against Australia, they had failed to even win a match. Now all that changed in the first final at Sydney thanks to Tendulkar’s masterly 117 not out. India won the second match too to romp home in style.
- This one was extra special. England had agreed to return to India for the Test series just weeks after the horrors of 26/11. The first Test in December 2008 was shifted from Mumbai to Chennai and now for the very first time in his long Test career, Tendulkar scored a match-winning century in the fourth innings to effortlessly guide India home. The target of 387 was the highest run chase on Indian soil and Tendulkar got to the winning score and his century (103 not out) with a flashing boundary.
- Tendulkar himself rated his 44th ODI century against Sri Lanka at Colombo in 2009 as one of the top three of his career, fit to rank with the two Sharjah gems. It meant India had won only their fourth tri-series title in 21 attempts since 2000 and their first in Lanka since 1998.
- Was this the greatest innings of all? On the eve of Tendulkar’s 20th anniversary, his 175 took India to the brink of victory against Australia at Hyderabad in November 2009. It was as if the clock had been turned back 10 years as he toyed with the Aussie bowling. But unlike the ‘Desert Storm’ final knock of 1998, this time he fell with victory within sight.