Revisiting Tendulkar's valiant 136 against Pakistan in the 1999 Chennai Test
- Tendulkar's 136 in Chennai will be remembered by fans with fondness for the plethora of emotions that the master took them through.
What do you do when you have given it your all, but your team still falls short of the finish line? What do you do, when you have scored more than half of the team total but still your side ends up on the losing side? What do you do, when people blame you for the defeat, simply because they have accorded you a divine status and will come down scathingly on you every time you don’t match their expectations?
Sachin Tendulkar would have experienced all this and a plethora of other emotions as his heroic 136 failed to help his side cross the finish line over arch-rivals Pakistan in 1999. The Indian side fell short by the thinnest of margins (12 runs) as Pakistan romped home in a humdinger of a contest.
The MA Chidambaram Stadium was brimming with anticipation. The heat was sweltering, but still a huge crowd turned out to see the two sides take on each other. Pakistan had set a challenging target of 271 runs in the fourth innings and Tendulkar walked in to bat with the score reading 6/2. Wasim Akram was making the ball dance to his tunes, Waqar Younis was spitting fire, and everything hinged on how Tendulkar fared with the bat.
Mind you, when Tendulkar played this Test, he was only 25 years old, but people were expecting miracles from his willow. And he did not disappoint. The ‘Little Master’ scored his first boundary with a flick off Wasim Akram. The ball was drifting onto the pads, and Tendulkar just helped the cherry past square leg. India lost Rahul Dravid at the other end, but there was no stopping Tendulkar. Saqlain Mushtaq’s short delivery was pulled with élan by the maestro past mid wicket for a boundary.
Meanwhile, wickets tumbled at the other end. Mohd. Azharuddin and Sourav Ganguly departed in quick succession, and India were tottering at 82/5. But then, Tendulkar was still out there, and that meant there was still hope. Mushtaq bowled a short delivery that spun in sharply, but Tendulkar made room for himself and punched the ball past cover for a boundary. He was creating gaps in the field, and toying with the bowling. He got to his fifty with a single to third man, and the huge crowd at the MA Chidambaram stadium erupted in unison.
Shahid Afridi came around the wicket in a bid to cramp him up. He bowled a short delivery that pitched outside leg stump. Tendulkar made room for himself and played the ball with the turn through the off side for a boundary. Nayan Mongia at the other end was growing in confidence too, and India crossed the 150-run mark with five wickets in hand.
Pakistan knew that it was just a matter of one wicket. But then, Tendulkar was refusing to give in. Mushtaq bowled a delivery on the master’s pads, and Tendulkar brought out the paddle from his repertoire and the ball raced to the boundary. Tendulkar had moved to 90 runs by then, and the Pakistanis were slowly wilting under pressure.
Then came a moment that made the nation gasp. Mushtaq bowled a delivery that drifted away and turned in sharply, Tendulkar came down the track, but Moin Khan missed a crucial stumping chance. Mushtaq had his hands on his head in despair.
Could it be Tendulkar’s day? Could he take India to an improbable victory on a pitch that was a minefield to bat on?
Tendulkar reached his 18th Test hundred with a single to deep square leg. The crowd erupted in Chennai, but Tendulkar knew that the job was not done yet. India were still more than 100 runs away from victory. Pakistan took the second new ball in a desperate attempt to break the partnership between Mongia and Tendulkar.
Skipper Akram was back into the attack. The left-arm pacer bowled a perfectly good delivery on off stump, and Tendulkar punched the ball past mid-off for a boundary. Younis bowled an over pitched delivery that swung in, Tendulkar presented the full face of the bat and the ball raced to the boundary yet again.
Things were getting easy now. Tendulkar was playing a genius of a knock and the bowling attack consisting of the likes of Akram, Younis, and Mushtaq was made to appear clueless.
But then, just when India were inching closer to the victory, Tendulkar’s back started to give in. He was experiencing back spasms, and the heat and humidity in Chennai only made matters worse. He had to finish the match as quickly as possible, because every moment spent in the heat only compounded the pain in his back.
Mushtaq was introduced into the attack. The scorecard read 246/6, with Tendulkar still out there. Mushtaq tossed the ball up, the master danced down the track and smashed him over his head for a boundary. The bowler tried to compensate for it by bowling short, but Tendulkar rocked onto the back foot and pulled the cherry past mid-wicket for another boundary.
India were just 17 runs away from victory. Then, disaster struck. Mushtaq tossed the ball, Tendulkar came down the track, the ball drifted away, the 'doosra' took the leading edge and landed straight into the hands of Akram at mid-off. The crowd fell silent.
After Tendulkar’s departure, the rest of the Indian batting line up folded up like a pack of cards, and Pakistan scraped home by 12 runs. Tendulkar was adjudged the man of the match for his masterly knock. But tragically, it could not get India over the line.
In fact, it would take Tendulkar almost another decade to score a century in the fourth innings for his side that resulted in a victory. And coincidentally, it came at the same venue, Chennai against England in the year 2008. But the 136 in Chennai will be remembered by fans with a sense of fondness for the plethora of emotions that Tendulkar took them through.
Published 14 Mar 2020, 12:37 IST