It was worth every penny they had spent, and every blow they had earned from the cops to cram into the stadium. The man they had come to cheer did not disappoint. And that is what counted most on a day when India put it across Australia, thanks mainly to Sachin Tendulkar.
There were others too who contributed towards India’s thumping 118-run win but Tendulkar stood out. V.V.S. Laxman chipped in handsomely, Harbhajan Singh continued his mesmerising spell over the Aussies and even Ajit Agarkar got a few wickets. But none could match Tendulkar‘s brilliance.
The batting giant scaled one more grand summit in compiling his 28th One-day century. If Sunil Gavaskar was the first batsman to cross the 10,000-mark in Test cricket, Tendulkar achieved the feat in One-day internationals. It took Tendulkar 266 matches and a long, eventful journey which began 12 years ago with a tour to Pakistan.
Everything else paled as Tendulkar took charge, sweeping the opposition off its feet. It may not have been his most attractive effort but it was quite a memorable demonstration of the man’s commitment. He was fercely determined and nothing was going to affect his concentration once he had made up his mind to make a mark on this match.
“A hundred is a hundred but this was one of the better ones. I have no words to express but it feels very good,” said Tendulkar. “It came at the right time and the team won and that is what matters in the end,” he commented even as skipper Sourav Ganguly described it as a “tremendous achievement,” and added “I am not surprised to see it happen.”
Australia caved in meekly after electing to field. The rotation policy was set aside and Glenn McGrath was drafted in by the Australians to boost the attack. But nothing worked in their favour and the Aussies were reduced to being passive spectators as Tendulkar inspired the team to put in an all-round show.
With the series tied 1-1, the match was expected to produce some fireworks, what with the rival camps encouraging acrimony on the field. It was thus no wonder when one witnessed the ugly sight of one captain indulging in a verbal assault against his counterpart and leaving a sour taste to the well-crafted victory.
As Steve Waugh succumbed to a frustrated heave and began his walk, he stopped and turned in his track, obviously disturbed by the taunt which flew from Ganguly, the bowler. Waugh could do little than resume his brisk walk to the dressing room but the sight did little to redeem the reputation of the Indian skipper, who had been jeered by the spectators after failing with the bat earlier.
“I’ve hardly had a lean patch in five years. I’ve been working hard to get out of it. But to me it is more important that the team is winning,” Ganguly said.
A tiff at the toss
The confusion over the toss this morning might have increased the friction between Ganguly and Steve Waugh. The Indian skipper thought he had won the toss even as the Australian contested. Match Referee Cammie Smith had to intervene and rule in favour of Steve Waugh.
Against the backdrop of all this, came the refreshing act by Tendulkar. He locked himself in a zone which is known only to batsmen of his calibre. He played the ball on merit, and paced his innings as only he would to carve an innings which spoke of the man’s hunger for runs. And his quest to set high standards for himself.
This innings in particular was developed on a sound footing after he walked out with Rahul Dravid as his new opening partner, an arrangement prompted by Ganguly’s miserable form. Not that Dravid made much difference but the Indian vice-captain played some rousing strokes before an impetuous stroke led to his downfall.
Even though they created a scare a few times with their erratic running between the wickets, the pair of Tendulkar and Laxman swung the match India’s way with a partnership which effectively decided the course of the contest. In putting on 199 runs, a record for any wicket for India against Australia, the two raised early visions of India’s domination.
Laxman was happy to play the supporting role even though Tendulkar encouraged his partner not to shed is natural game. A few well-timed strokes from Laxman indicated the batsman’s form and the company of Tendulkar allowed him the freedom to indulge in aggression too. But Laxman ran himself out for the second time in succession, leaving the stage to Tendulkar.
The Indian innings could not maintain the tempo set by Tendulkar and Laxman and the latter half wasted the advantage earned by these two. Tendulkar had marked his bowlers and did not lose his focus. He did not allow his 10,000th run to affect his resolve but he did not hide his emotions on reaching the century arms raised in respect of his late father and a little nod in the direction of the dressing room to confirm he was not going to relent.
Aussies left hapless
We know the range of Tendulkar‘s strokes and the ease with which he places them, times them, and paces them. But this day he employed a few interesting shots to baffle the bowlers and leave a mentally-strong man like Steve Waugh helpless. A few uncharacteristic edges did irritate the Indian master but he recovered his composure to play an outstanding knock in keeping with his stature.
The sweep was a productive shot to counter the line adopted by Andrew Symonds and Michael Bevan while he was too willing to grab the chance to hit Glenn McGrath and Damien Fleming through the line. Some of his shots, particularly the ones hit on the rise, flew with lightening speed. He was severe on McGrath and smashed the Aussie around, a straight drive being the pick.
Tendulkar and Laxman’s innings apart, and a cameo by Hemang Badani which ended in a silly run out, there was little to talk about the Indian batting but the decline of Shane Warne stood out glaringly. He made no impression on the batsmen.
“I tried to hang around,” Tendulkar said on his approach and praised Laxman for his outstanding knock. “I think Laxman showed tremendous character. He has been shaping well and let’s us enjoy his batting,” Tendulkar observed.
Adam Gilchrist did his best to make a match of it with some stunning blows but the Australian middle order succumbed to the pressure. “It was a gettable target but losing five wickets in six overs put us back. It is something we need to look into. We could have batted better,” said the Australian skipper.
Australia did not get the start it desired. After Damien Martyn snicked Srinath, the Australians struggled right through. They were unable to read Harbhajan Singh and Agarkar too made the most of the situation by bowling a tidy line. The best phase of the Australian innings was Gilchrist slamming Zaheer Khan for 22 runs in one over before Harbhajan scalped him with a drifter. The highly-rated Aussie batting line-up offered little resistance and the end came earlier than expected.
The Australians could not have complained on any account. At least not the umpiring by Ms. K. Hariharan and Vijay Chopra, who were consistent in their rulings. To be fair to the Aussies, they accepted the defeat gracefully.
The Indian coach John Wright was delighted but had very little to comment except “I think the boys executed the basics correctly.”
Sarandeep replaces Joshi
Sunil Joshi was the lone exclusion from the team for the remaining One-day matches against Australia at Vizag and Goa. He has been replaced by Punjab off-spinner Sarandeep Singh.
Making the announcement here on Saturday, the Board Secretary, Mr. J.Y. Lele said the same team would travel to Sharjah, with Reetinder Singh Sodhi as the 15th member, provided the Government clears the trip to the Gulf.
The team: Sourav Ganguly (Capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman, Hemang Badani, Dinesh Mongia, Vijay Dahiya, Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, Javagal Srinath, Harbhajan Singh.
(The article was first published in The Hindu on April 1, 2001)
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