17th February 1999. A jam-packed Eden Gardens on a hot afternoon was set ablaze by a certain Shoaib Akhtar. The guy had pace, he had already bowled V.V.S Laxman out, and had Rahul Dravid’s off stump cartwheeling back. In walks Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. Yes, the Master blaster, the boy wonder of Indian Cricket, who captivated one and all with his genius strokeplay.
He held the weight of expectations of over a billion people. In he stepped, took a middle stump stance, gazed at the field and waited for the bowler to run in.
50.2 – Shoaib Akhtar with his tail up, goes into bowl and he knocks him over! The middle stump goes down to an inswinging yorker. He had done Sachin all end up.
Flabbergasted as I was, I heard my grandfather utter “it’s all over”, and he followed it up by turning off the T.V.
The hope attached with this man every time he stepped on to a cricket field is immense. And his sheer brilliance to perform and excel under this sort of pressure is what is inspiring kids all around the globe to hold a cricket bat and dream of representing their country at the world stage.
Through this, I look back at some of the most compelling innings of man, who has done it all.
“He can play that leg glance with a walking stick also.”
- Waqar Younis, former Pakistan fast bowler.
10. India vs Pakistan, 2003 World Cup, Super Sports Park (centurion).
The stage was set. It couldn’t have been bigger than this. Arch rivals set to battle against each other in the Super 8’s. Chasing a competitive score, what was required was a calm head to guide India home. Sachin provided us with a spectacle of an ODI innings, as he thrashed his way past some of the best fast bowlers of modern era – Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar and Waqar Younis – only to be denied a century (98). Nevertheless, it was enough to guide India to an easy win over their fierce competitors.
“We did not lose to a team called India…we lost to a man called Sachin.” - Mark Taylor, Australian captain in 1998 when his team lost the Chennai Test.
9. 90 vs Australia CWC 1996 Wankhede (Mumbai)
One of those masterclass innings that is still etched in everyone’s mind. Pulling and hooking the Aussies, using his feet against one of the best spinners to have ever graced the cricket field and smacking sixes over his head – everything was a treat to watch. Hardly was there a rash shot or an edge past the keeper. It was dominance personified, till he was stumped off a wide ball (a foolish rule in my opinion; why should be a batsman be given out on an illegitimate ball?). Yet another Bombay crowd denied a century by its favourite son.
“Commit all your sins when Sachin is batting. They will go unnoticed because even the lord is watching!”
8. 142 vs Australia Sharjah 1998 (Desert Storm)
In what was a do or die match for the Indians to qualify for the finals of the Tri-nation cup, Sachin hadn’t yet left us wanting for more in the series. Coming into the match, Aussies were on a winning spree, sweeping across every opposition that came along.
Cutting to the scenario, what followed was a Tendulkar special with a rather steady start to his innings. The rundown that followed left the Aussie attack searching for answers as they ended up searching for balls searing up through the sky. The only thing that could have stopped that innings was a natural disturbance, and even that struck that very day, as the ground was engulfed by a high sand dune; although it couldn’t stop India qualifying to the finals.
“I‘ll see god when I die but till then I’ll see Sachin.”
7. 134 vs Australia 1999 (Coca-cola cup finals)
On what was a spectacle of an innings from a batsman ages ahead of his time, Sachin produced stokes worth every penny. The finals became a one man show; magical is the word to be repeated.
“He has been in form longer than some of our guys have been alive.” - Daniel Vettori, New Zealand cricketer who began his career as a teenager.
6. 96 vs Pakistan 2008 Gwalior
Sublime drives both from the front as well as the back foot, some of the straightest straight drives down the ground and over the top sixes off spinners, Tendulkar seemed unstoppable that day.
Only if it wasn’t for that edge.
“I have seen god. he bats at no. 4 for India.” - Mathew Hayden, former Australia cricketer.
5. 114 vs Australia 1992 ( Perth WACA)
On what was considered as the swiftest and bounciest tracks of the world, a young Tendulkar produced one of the gutsiest knock when everyone seemed to have failed. 114 against an Aussie attack down under took some doing.
“In India, you can sue Prime Minister for once but no one can contest Sachin Tendulkar.” - Navjot Singh Sidhu, former India cricketer, politician and TV personality.
4. 140* vs Kenya ( 1999 CWC )
On what was an emotional set back for the lil’ master ( he had just lost his father), this was the test of his character. The whole country was saddened by the master’s loss early in the tournament. Tendulkar returned to England to keep everyone’s hopes alive. Just 5 days after biding his father a last goodbye, he made an upbeat 140 against a resilient Kenya; enough to keep India alive in the tournament.
“There are two kind of batsmen in the world. One Sachin Tendulkar. Two all the others.” - Andy Flower, former Zimbabwe cricketer.
3. 175 vs Australia Hyderabad 2009
One of the greatest innings in ODI’s, this was the master at work. Chasing 320-odd to win, the lil’ master just about scripted a once in a life time run chase (if only it had got a finishing touch). Toying with the Aussie’s inexperienced attack, he taught them how men play cricket.
Ending on a losing side was still very unjust, simply because of the quality of that innings.
“To Sachin, the man we all want to be.” - Andrew Symonds, Australian cricketer, signing a T shirt specially for Sachin.
2. 87 vs Pakistan ( CWC 2011 semi-finals)
In what was his 6th World Cup, the maestro wasn’t the one to be bowed down. On what was the biggest possible setup for an Indo-Pak encounter on the world stage, Tendulkar scrapped passed the Pakistani attack, collecting 87 of the most valuable runs of that match. The Bombay Bomber attained World Cup glory on 2nd April 2011 in this very World Cup.
“Nothing bad can happen to us if we’re on a plane in India with Sachin Tendulkar on it.” - Hashim Amla, South African cricketer, reassuring himself when board a flight
1. 200* vs South Africa (Gwalior 2010)
Ravi Shastri (in commentary box) — Langeveldt comes into bowl..
“He gets there…1st man on the planet to reach 200* and it’s the superman from India. Take a bow lil’ master. Cometh the hour, cometh the champion.”
Champion he is. He showed us how a 37 year old manages to play throughout an innings, plays shots that would leave bowler’s wondering, runs between the wickets all by himself, and achieved the feat that eluded every batsman for years. 200* – 1st ever man to reach there.
Yes he taught us “impossible is nothing”.
“Sachin is a genius. I’m a mere mortal.”
- Brian Lara, West Indies batsman who holds record of highest score in cricket.