Another World Cup arrives and inevitably the mind wanders; pausing at happy milestones, speeding past forgettable moments, allowing a surge of exhilaration to reappear as events come alive again.... Often the anticipation of an event is more fun than its actual occurrence!
With Sachin Tendulkar, there are many World Cup moments—the audacity of his assault on Australia in 1996 at Mumbai, the tragedy of his return from the 1999 World Cup and the emotion behind the century that followed at Bristol, the dismissal to Dilhara Fernando that effectively sealed India’s exit in 2007 at Port of Spain.... But nothing quite tingles the senses like that innings at Centurion and nothing quite revives the senses like that shot he played. No, not the upper cut for six off Shoaib Akhtar; that was dramatic as indeed was the ball that got him later. The shot I remember came very early that evening and told a tale.
Normally, Tendulkar always started at the non-striker’s end, Sourav Ganguly took first strike and it seemed both parties were quite happy with that arrangement. But now Ganguly had dropped to number three and a young Virender Sehwag was opening with Tendulkar. And taking the first ball. But as they walked out that day, the master and the pupil, something else happened.
Blue thunder: During a T20 match between Rajasthan Royals & Mumbai Indians
After that World Cup, Tendulkar agreed to be a guest on Harsha Online, my programme for ESPN Star Sports, and said that as they were walking out needing to get a daunting 274 to win, it flashed through his mind that the great Wasim Akram might have a trick or two up his sleeve. And so he told his young partner, “I’ll take the first ball today.” Off the third ball of Akram’s first over, Tendulkar leant back marginally and caressed the ball to the cover boundary. He plays many great strokes, the straight drive is especially beautiful, but nothing quite compares with the majesty of the backfoot cover drive. And it was a majestic shot, the kind that causes you to say “wah”. I don’t know how many times I have seen him play it but I still feel uplifted when I see it. When Tendulkar is done with the game, and I no longer write about it, it is one of the moments I will remember.
On that programme, Tendulkar said that as soon as he played that shot, he thought it was going to be his day. It was. In the next over, Shoaib Akhtar’s first, the fourth, fifth and sixth balls went six, four, four and Tendulkar was away. He made 98 from 75 balls and not a person who watched it can dare say he doesn’t remember it. India still needed to win the game but it was down to 97 from 134 balls and Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh finished it off.
Towards the tail end of that innings, Tendulkar was struggling. It might have been cramps and surely a runner was needed. But he continued to hobble, waving all requests away. I asked him about it and his reply revealed how differently extraordinary men think. Whoever ran for him, Tendulkar said, would have to be at least two yards quicker than him because he would have to assess whether or not a single was on. He would have to see how hard, or softly, the ball had been struck, where the fielder was and then think of the possibility of a single. But, said Tendulkar, since he was batting, he already knew all that and so had an advantage. His single, he said, began before he hit the ball.
I must have looked quizzical, even disbelieving, because he elaborated. He knew, he said, where the fielder was and adjusted his stroke accordingly and so the single was conceived before the ball was played and executed with soft hands. And then, he added for effect, giving an example from the sport that I suspect he secretly wishes he was part of, Michael Schumacher’s race doesn’t begin with the fifth light, that is merely a signal to move. His race begins as soon as the first light comes on.
It was an extraordinary story about one of the great one-day batting performances of all time. And he told it like it was a simple narrative. He wasn’t boasting, merely stating things—unaware, I suspect, that it wasn’t quite as obvious to someone else. That to me is the essence of Tendulkar, the ability to conceive an innings and execute it as daringly. Some might have the vision but not quite the ability, some others might possess the skill but not quite the genius to be able to trump situations. Tendulkar has both; vision and skill, talent and hunger. And most critically, ability and work ethic residing in the same person.
We saw all that at Centurion on March 1, 2003.
The writer is a TV commentator
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT