Sachin Tendulkar's 186: Reliving one of ODI cricket's most pristine innings
sarva-dharmaan parityaja maam-ekam sharanam-vraja
aham tvaam sarva-paapebhyo mokshayishyaami maa shucah
After explaining all the complex sciences of humanity to his friend and disciple, Arjuna, Lord Krishna ultimately orated the above shloka (verse) upon seeing the bewildered look on Arjuna’s face. “Abandon all forms of religion and surrender unto me,” said the Lord in the shloka above, “I shall cleanse your sins, do not fear.”
One can almost envisage Sachin Tendulkar as the Lord here and us – the mortal beings – as Arjuna, clasping our hands together with our knees sunk on the ground and hopeful eyes looking at him for divine blessings.
“Abandon all forms of work and watch me bat,” Lord Sachin says in the image above, “it shall cleanse your sins, do not fear.”
The Divine Day
November 8, 1999. The mere mortals are on their feet, their eyes purified, their souls chastened. It feels as though Sachin has painted the star-woven silk skies with his bat as the ether at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium in Hyderabad exuded the scent of his fragrant sweat.
The scorecard reads, ‘India: 376/2 in 50 overs,’ Tendulkar has made just a little under half the runs as he leaves the pitch unbeaten on 186. Ah, only 14 more runs and he would have been the first man to reach 200. God smiled because the future is known to Him.
Nevertheless, it was a treat — no, it was a privilege to watch this innings. Only the lucky ones witnessed the creation of something transcendental with that bat while it was actually being created. For the unlucky ones, the highlight reels offered some salvation.
It’s the last over
Sachin is at the non-striker’s end. Just six balls ago, he was batting on 158*. It gives the fans hope; just 18 more runs – but he is not at the striker’s end. Never mind, he is back at the crease now – Ajay Jadeja doesn’t want to incur the sin of getting in the Lord’s way, he, like the rest, wants to witness history being made and, hence, takes a single to give Sachin the strike.
Perhaps he sees himself as Arjuna here; just wanting to learn the art of supreme batting from the Master. He could proudly say to his grandchildren, "I was just 20 yards away when God assumed the Vishwarupa (the Universal Form) and devoured the New Zealand bowlers to make history."
But... wait, what? How did this happen? How could Sachin not dispatch the delivery to the boundary? Ah, crap. At least he ran two after guiding the ball down to deep mid-wicket. Alright. Four balls to go, 16 runs needed to reach 200. No big deal; four consecutive boundaries should do it.
Chris Cairns runs up to bowl the third ball. Full and outside off. A yorker. Sachin delicately dunks his bat down. The ball caresses the willow and goes to gully. Sachin takes a single. S**t. It’s all over now.
Two more balls to go. 200 is out of reach now, but the Little Master manages to take one last run before leaving the pitch unbeaten. What an innings. He might have fallen short of the immortal figure by 14 runs, but there wasn't a single person who was not spellbound.
The match took place in a time when the players wore dull-white boring attire in ODIs, but Sachin’s innings made it all colourful. His bats were the colour, his shots were the splashes as the match turned into a festival of Holi.
It’s the 49th over
Chris Drum is going to bowl the second-last over the game. Strange. Sachin dispatched him to all parts of the park prior to this over, but he could redeem himself by taking his wicket. Tendulkar, though, has become a tempest in these final few overs.
Regardless of what is being thrown at him, he is whirling them to the boundary with his bat. Yorkers, short balls, full-length, good-length and even beamers; nothing, nothing seems to be working. There is no stopping him, he is going to burn them all with his graceful fury.
Drum looks intimidated. Almost as though he has already surrendered to the will of the Almighty. It is said in the scriptures that getting slaughtered by the Lord is, in itself, a reward of past karma since it helps to attain moksha – divine freedom – in the after-world.
First ball. On the legs of the Lord. Oh, you fool, Drum, what have you done? That’s a gift for a man who is in such good touch.
Like the very incarnation of the Almighty, Sachin accepts the gift from his devotee. He clears his left leg out of the way, brings his bat down at full swing like an inverse trebuchet and whacks it to deep mid-wicket for a boundary.
In the Vedic scriptures, Shiva is considered the God of Destruction. He is of a mild nature; calm and collected in meditation as the river Ganges flows from his matted locks. His translucent demeanour is what lights the world.
However, once his rage is invoked, it consumes everything within it. In his vehemence, Shiva dances as the flailing serpents garlanded around his body spit venom, poisoning everything into destruction. This is the Tandava of Shiva – the dance of destruction.
Drum races in to bowl the fourth after keeping things a bit tidy in the last two deliveries. He wants to end his misery quickly, but it is the Tendulkar Tandava he is up against. Another ball on the legs, another gift from Drum, another slog over deep mid-wicket. This time, however, there is a slight change: the ball goes sailing over the boundary for a six and Drum has overstepped as well.
This might be the game where Sachin makes history and becomes the first batsman to score a double hundred in ODIs.
The Tandava is in full swing now. The virulence from Tendulkar’s serpent – his bat – has intoxicated the Kiwis to the extent where Drum doesn’t look like he wants to bowl anymore. He runs in like a 50-year-old man carrying luggage with both hands while trying to catch a train that is already moving away from the platform.
And he – oh dear – never learns.
Same ball. Same shot. Boundary. Drum has lost the plot here. Five men are fielding on the off-side and yet he bowls to Sachin on the legs. Perhaps he is being audacious. Or, perhaps, his mind has given in to the tempest of the Tendulkar Tandava.
You thought that Drum was out of his mind to bowl to the Master Blaster on his pads. You thought that Drum was being audacious.
Wrong. We are the audacious ones to think that good deliveries could actually stop him at this point – and we can only pray to the Lord to forgive this transgression.
Fifth ball. This time, Drum bangs it in short just outside off-stump – but Sachin is in God mode now and regardless of what he is presented with, he shall put it away.
When Sachin is in this kind of mood, he becomes the master of time. They say that time waits for no mortal, but Sachin is no mortal – at his best, time becomes the subject of his command. So as Drum raises his arm to release the ball, Tendulkar knows exactly where he is going to bowl because he has already instructed time to show him the future.
Now, the Master Blaster orders time to slow down. The moment the ball is released, he leaps outside off with the fierceness of a tiger and eases it down to fine leg with the gracefulness of a swan. This happens within mere seconds.
Well, what are mere seconds to us is timeless eternity to Sachin right now.
Drum’s name has become a perfect depiction of jokes that write themselves. He has been beaten around like a drum and it has gotten to the point where the drum has torn itself, no longer making proper sounds.
'Just one more bowl, just one more ball'… If someone could read the mind of the bowler, they might have heard this. Drum runs in and somehow bowls the final ball. The last ball of the over is an example of what Sachin has done to the bowler's mind.
The ball is on the leg stump and all Sachin had to do was make connection. Given the maelstrom that he had caused thus far, he could have been in a blindfold and still gotten that shot away.
It’s the 37th over
Three more runs needed. This guy is not even real. Well, given that everything in this world is said to be an illusion, he might as well not be real. Or, maybe, Sachin is the only thing that is real – and the rest of us are just here to witness his omniscience.
That’s perhaps our only purpose in life.
Drum takes a deep breath and starts his run up, reaches the popping crease and releases the ball. Time. Eternal. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.
Arms wide open, raised in the air. He looks up at the heavens without a care. After all, it is his own eternal abode – his kingdom come – where he shall head to after all this is done.
Right now, though, Sachin is living the moment – absorbing it – as he has just reached his 45th international and 24th ODI century.
Drum bowled it a little full outside the off-stump, Tendulkar’s left-leg reached out for the ball like a lover meeting his long-lost love after a long time. The bat, ever-so-poetically, came down and wildly kissed the ball between mid-off and extra-cover.
It’s the 20th over
Tendulkar is getting in the groove now. So far, it has been the gentleman’s game. The Mumbaikar has been taming the Kiwi bowlers with risk-free shots, making batting look ever so simple. Why don’t batsmen just bat like this all the time? Why do they feel the need to hit them over the top and out of the park?
If they batted like Sachin had so far, almost every batsman would be a legend. But then again, the simplest things are often the hardest ones.
If Sachin could marry anyone apart from Anjali, it would be a personification of the leg-side – that’s how much he loves the area. He had only just played some beautiful sweep shots to get runs off Chris Harris. It looked so easy, but it is was as delicate a shot as it got.
The way he got down and embraced the ball with his bat was as elegant as the making of a Chinese porcelain vase.
And now he is batting on 49 as Nathan Astle runs up to bowl at him.
As if Sachin’s fondness for the leg-side wasn’t enough warning, Astle gets his line wrong and bowls it at his thighs. And the Little Master does what he does best, glancing it down to fine leg for a boundary.
It’s the first over
The pitch looks like a belter. If Sachin settles down at the crease, there will be chaos for the Kiwis.
Chris Cairns takes the ball to bowl the first over of the game. The first four balls are decent. Oh, well, not the fifth one, though, as he gifts Sachin a full-length delivery on the pads. And he leaps on it like a child jumping to catch his/her favourite toy.
He plays a straight-drive with such zeal that if one could convert that shot into a smell, it would be petrichor. He is just in and plays a shot like that. I guess we are in for a ride today.
Cricket might be a considered a sport, but Sachin Tendulkar made it an art. And where there is art, there is God. And where there is God, there is Sachin.
sarva-karmaan parityaja sachin-ekam sharanam-vraja
sachin tvaam sarva-paapebhyo mokshayishyaami maa shucah.