15 Years since the Sachin special at Centurion
Out of the 452 innings played by Sachin Tendulkar he has batted at number 2 position in 293 innings. He has batted at number 1 position in only 45 innings which is approximately 10% of the total innings played by him. Now, I don’t know the reason behind this choice by the little master, but fans like me had been accustomed to seeing him bat at number 2. We got a feeling that this was his preferred batting position.
So, when the great man took strike to the first ball in the 2003 World Cup match against Pakistan, we were surprised. The die-hard fan in me was also scared, as Sachin was up against Wasim Akram, arguably one of the best fast bowlers of all time. My heartbeat and nerves would have felt better had Virender Sehwag taken the strike and given me time to warm up.
This was no ordinary match
But Sachin needed no warm-up, for this was no ordinary match, this was by far the biggest match of the 2003 World Cup. I believe the master was making a statement by taking strike. The very third ball of Akram’s over was dispatched to the boundary through a stylish back-foot punch. Commenting on the shot Ravi Shastri who was on air said, “Tendulkar on his way in spanking fashion”.
This shot did do a word of good to soothe my nerves, but the next over brought in more excitement and tension. The fourth ball of the second over being bowled by Shoaib Akhtar was cut over the square boundary for a six. It was Sachin’s day and everything that he touched turned to gold. A catch was dropped when he was in his 30s, but other than that it was a flawless innings.
Like any India-Pakistan encounter, it was a high-pressure game. Sachin had later himself told that the people had started asking him about the match as early as a year prior to the game. Coming back to the match, Pakistan had set India a challenging score of 274 runs in 50 overs courtesy a century by Saeed Anwar. The magnanimity of the situation made this total appear more than 300.
It needed a special performance to overhaul this target and Sachin did just that. He fell two runs short of a well deserved century, but his 75-ball innings had taken the fizz out of the
famed Pakistan attack comprising of Akhtar, Akram & skipper Waqar Younis. Yuvraj Singh (who scored 50 runs) & Rahul Dravid (who scored 44 runs) ensured that Sachin’s brilliance did not go in vain and the two helped India achieve the target with four overs to spare.
“I don’t think there was a better World Cup match that I have been part of”
The victory was special. Years later Sachin rated this match as one of his best World Cup matches. He had said, “I don’t think there was a better World Cup match that I have been part of”. This coming from a person who has played two World Cup finals and a total of 45 World Cup games over six editions tells a story in itself.
For many of the Indians, it did not matter that India eventually lost the finals to Australia. Their World Cup dream was fulfilled when India had beaten Pakistan at Centurion. It was indeed a cracker of a match and Sachin’s knock itself will go down as one of the finest knocks in World Cup history. Ali Bacher, the chief of the World Cup organising committee telegram to Sachin echoes the same sentiments. Bacher had written, “We wanted this World Cup to be the most successful World Cup ever and your innings against Pakistan at Centurion has helped us achieve that”.
And that’s probably the reason that even though 15 years have passed since that epic knock was played, we still talk about it with immense pride and affection. It was a delight to the eyes of Sachin fan’s and I am sure that thinking about that match would still give them goosebumps.