Sachin Tendulkar: Sialkot sowed the seeds for my first Test century at Manchester

Thirty years ago, on this day, Sachin Tendulkar scored his first Test century, a majestic 119 not out against England at Old Trafford.

Sachin Tendulkar is applauded by England’s players as he walks back after securing a draw for India.   -  Getty Images

Test-saving centuries have seemingly become extinct now but Sachin Tendulkar carved out one such innings exactly 30 years ago in Manchester, the seeds of which were sown during one afternoon in Sialkot.

It was on August 14, 1990, that Tendulkar scored the first of his 100 international centuries, a majestic 119 not out on a fifth day track to save the game for India. “I scored that 100 on August 14 and next day was our Independence Day, so it was special. The headline was different and that hundred at least kept the series alive till next Test at the Oval,” Tendulkar told PTI on the eve of the 30th anniversary of his first century.

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So what exactly was the feeling, apart from the pure joy of achieving the milestone? “The art of saving a Test match was a new experience for me,” Tendulkar said. He said he knew he could save a game when he batted with a “bloodied nose” and a blood-soaked jersey after being hit by Waqar Younis.

“In Sialkot where I got hit and scored 57, we saved that Test match, too, from 38 for 4. Waqar’s bouncer and playing through pain defined me. After those kind of hits you are either stronger or you are nowhere to be seen.”

‘Quickest bowlers’

As scary as it may seem now, Tendulkar, in the first innings of that Manchester Test, was hit on the back of the head by one of the fastest pacers in the world back then, Devon Malcolm. “Devon and Waqar, during that phase, were easily the two quickest bowlers in the world bowling at 90 mph. Yes, I didn’t call the phsyio as I didn’t want to show them that I [was] in pain. My pain threshold was fairly high. Its O.K. to get hit. So what? You don’t show your pain to the bowler,” Tendulkar said.

Coach Ramakant Acherkar prepared him for all sorts of pain by making him play on the same pitch for 25 days straight at the Shivaji Park Gymkhana. “I was used to getting hit on my body from my days in Shivaji Park as Achrekar sir would make us play on that and it would have enormous wear and tear. The same pitch we played a match on one day and next day we were back for nets. So balls would just jump off length and hit my nose. In fact, I would just throw the ball up and take it on my body to absorb the pain.”

Partnership with Prabhakar

The shots that he remembers are the exquisite backfoot cover drives off Chris Lewis deliveries that darted in. “Lewis bowled sharp inswing and throughout my career, backfoot cover drive had been my favourite shot. The bowler who was the best by far in that series was Angus Fraser. He had a beautiful late outswing, high-arm action, so ball would bounce and move so late that you had to play at it. It was a case of showing patience and credit to Manoj [Prabhakar] that we had a 160-run stand,” he said.

Did he feel in the last hour that the team had been able to save the match?

“No way, till the last over. We came together when we were six down (183 for 6) but me and Manoj together said ‘yeh hum kar sakte hain, match bacha lenge’ (We can do it, we can save the match). Also England had attacking field as they could only win from that position,” Tendulkar said.

And any special anecdote that he still remembers?

“Well I was 17 and the Man of the Match was presented with a bottle of champagne. Neither did I drink [nor had I] reached the legal age for drinking. My senior team-mates would tell me ‘what would you do with it’?,” he laughed.

But there is another thing that Tendulkar fondly remembers. “Sanjay Manjrekar presented me a white shirt which was a gift for scoring a hundred. I was really touched,” he concluded.

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