The last season saw a few firsts for Sachin. Being booed at his home ground in Mumbai, being ‘rested’ for the ODI series against Bangladesh and being asked by top cricketing experts to hang up his boots. Last year, speculations were rife that Sachin would be retiring from the one day format, but this innings I am sure would have silenced his critics. The year 2007 had been a mixed one for Sachin. After a disappointing World Cup in West Indies, he was struck by a string of nervous nineties in both the one day format and the tests but 2008 has brought an end to those nervous nineties.
Sachin’s love affair with the Sydney Cricket Ground continued as he made his 38th test hundred and his 8th against Australia. He has a whopping average of 326 at SCG. As a young eighteen year old, he had struck his first ton here. His double hundred last time around was arguably his best knock ever. One in which we saw Sachin leaving almost everything outside the off stump and scoring heavily on the On side. Yesterday’s innings was a long awaited one. A billion plus Indians would have heaved a sigh of relief as Sachin caressed the ball through the off side to reach this record landmark.
In this innings, we saw a more mature Tendulkar, ready to put the bad ball away but treating the good ones with utmost respect. He played his trademark drives through extra cover and powerful square cuts through the square region. Perhaps a first in tests, we saw him scooping over the gully and the slips. He scored most of his boundaries in the third man region taking advantage of the fact that it was left vacant. He was particularly aggressive against Hogg hitting him for a straight six over Long on early in the morning. Hogg had earlier dismissed Sachin in India and had asked for his autograph on the ball. The little master had conveniently written on the ball, “It wont happen again Hoggie”
Apart from the resilience and the determination,that the master blaster showed in this innings, another heartening thing was the way he treated the tail Enders. Showing full faith in their batting abilities, he was ready to take a single even on the first ball off the over. This did wonders to their confidence as the last three wickets added 186 to the Indian total and helped India to get an invaluable first innings lead of 69. Harbhajan Singh in particular delivered lusty blows to score 63 falling just 3 short of his highest test score. Ganguly had earlier played an aggressive knock of 67 before falling to Hogg yet again. Dhoni and Yuvraj meanwhile have barely troubled the scorers in this series. The bounce of the pitch did Dhoni while Yuvraj was caught plumb in front of the stumps playing across the line. Lee finished with figures 5 for 119 and was undoubtedly the best Aussie bowler.
Australian Prime minister Kevin Rudd made his way into the commentary box and was happy to see Indians fighting back. He went on to congratulate Sachin on his brilliant knock. Australian PM, a great sports lover. But how often would we have an Indian PM commenting on Cricket on TV? Not likely in the near future.
The day definitely belonged to Sachin Tendulkar. A flawless ton, his 5th in Australia and 22nd away from home. An innings for all his fans to cherish. An innings that showed that the master blaster is still hungry and craving for more. And an innings which would bring to rest all the criticism that he faced. Tendulkar himself said, “It was a sigh of relief when I drove the ball through the covers on 98”. He remained unbeaten on 154* as India posted a mammoth first innings total of 532. These lines would symbolize what we all expect of Sachin in the future as retirement for now is a long way away.
‘Stopping by the Woods on a snowy evening’ by Robert Frost.
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”