Enjoying his stint

AP

The Australian public has seen Sachin Tendulkar grow up from a boy in 1991-92 to a man and a legend. The love affair continues, writes S. Dinakar.

March 1: These are busy times for Australia. The hosts lose the final league game to the Sri Lankans at the MCG and are on the flight to Sydney the next morning for the first finals. The Indians have a longer period of rest after their last league match in Hobart. Without taking any credit away from Dhoni’s men, it must be acknowledged that the Aussies have a tougher schedule at the business end of the competition. Ricky Ponting says this much at the media conference. It has been a long, hard summer for the Aussies. Does the host have enough gas left in the tank to take it past the finish line?

March 2: There are smiles all around. The respect for the man is spontaneous. The Indian media is in full strength, so is the Australian contingent. Finally, Sachin Tendulkar is addressing the press. Every word that he speaks is listened to. The maestro has just carved out a match-winning unbeaten hundred in the first final. He is in happy spirits, even if a strained groin still bothers him. Tendulkar realises the significance of the moment — this is India’s first ODI win over Australia at the SCG, this is his first ODI hundred in Australia and it has been achieved in the finals. Tendulkar does have a great sense of occasion. The little big man is enjoying his stint with the young bunch. And he can still play. When he reached the three-figure-mark, thousands of flash bulbs from cameras had further illuminated the arena. Tendulkar and the SCG, it’s a symbiotic relationship. Meanwhile, it is time to say goodbye to the sprawling SCG and the Don Bradman enclosure where the media box is located. Pictures of the game’s biggest legend stare at you from all sides. A day earlier, Tendulkar had held one of Sir Don’s favourite bats at the Don Bradman museum. In several senses, Tendulkar was Bradman’s favourite son. This is among the reasons why he is held is such great esteem down under. Tendulkar says feeling Sir Don’s willow is a moment he will remember forever. The Aussie scribes have a headline. The Australian public has seen Tendulkar grow up from a boy in 1991-92 to a man and a legend. The love affair continues.

March 3: The focus is on the ’Gabba. What will be the nature of the pitch in the second finals? The predominant feeling is — the ’Gabba will be lively. During the last visit to Queensland — the Sunshine State — we witnessed dark clouds and rain. Now the sun is out and Brisbane sparkles. The bistros are packed, and the tourists pour in. In the Brisbane river, we can see speed boats darting across the water. At night, the lights from the houses up the hills appear to be shining just a little brighter. What does the next day hold for India... or Australia.

March 4: The floodlights shine on India at the ’Gabba. It has been a long night of several twists but the Indians come out gleaming. Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his young men celebrate a historic triumph. Harbhajan Singh waltzes in joy as never before. It is also time to say goodbye to the friends in the media. A genial Aussie journalist congratulates yours truly for being the only print journalist from Australia, India or Sri Lanka, to cover all 14 matches of this gruelling competition. It has been physically draining but a thoroughly enjoyable experience. While crossing the road back to the hotel, a stranger walks across before saying — “You guys have won here mate.” Well, it has been a special Indian summer in Australia.