By: Keyur Seta
The recently concluded first test match between India and Australia at Chennai will mostly be remembered for Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s unbelievable knock of 224. But taking nothing away from Dhoni, this feature focuses on India’s batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar’s 81 in the first innings that rescued India from a ghastly situation.
However, since last 24 years, Sachin’s greatness has been described millions of times in so many ways that there are no words or adjectives left in the dictionary to write anything new about it. So I won’t go into how wonderfully he played under pressure (like always) because that has been reported everywhere and we all have seen it. Instead, I will focus on the background of the innings which goes back to the start of January this year.
Sachin wasn’t having a good run in test cricket during the latter part of 2012. Somehow he was not able to stay long at the crease and was getting bowled most of the times. Apart from the man himself, it was also heartbreaking for us, the fans. Naturally, his bad run also gave a free ticket to these silly news channel anchors to force him to retire. Such a thing can happen only in India where those who mustn’t have held a bat in their lives can dictate terms to the best batsmen ever!
Any international player with such experience would have labeled this period as a bad patch without accepting that something is wrong with his game. At the most, he would have practiced in the nets for long hours or taken guidance from his coach.
But Sachin is not ‘any international player’. Despite bagging the most number of batting achievements ever, he was humble enough to accept some error in his play. And instead of just resorting to basic techniques to improve his game, he went back to play domestic cricket for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy. Despite having played at the biggest international platforms, there he was playing in the Ranji Trophy Quarterfinal against Baroda at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium with the same determination.
Much to his and his admirers’ delight and relief, the Master Blaster went on to score a hundred and drove his team out of trouble. This might appear as just a domestic level century but Sachin and his admirers, who had gathered to watch him despite India-Pakistan one dayer being played elsewhere, knew the worth of the innings. A couple of over-enthusiastic fans also ran to the field and, much to everyone’s disbelief, touched their God’s feet! I and my friends were hugely lucky to witness the scene in front of our eyes.
This was followed by a half century in the semifinal against Services. More than the innings what was more impressive was that a player of Sachin’s caliber went to play at a venue which was as poor as a school playground! He was looking great in the final against Saurashtra as well but was run out by fellow batsman Wasim Jaffer. But instead of giving an angry look to Jaffer, Sachin gave him words of encouragement! Who would have done that considering the innings was so important for him and the team? This time, we witnessed the kindest side of a champion, again in front of our eyes. The pep talk helped Jaffer who made a valuable contribution to Mumbai’s 40th Ranji triumph.
This isn’t all though. Sachin slammed another ton in the Irani Trophy match next week, once again witnessed by us. Sadly, other batsmen threw their wickets which left him stranded on 140. What was noteworthy here was Sachin’s disappointment to see Mumbai falling short of Rest Of India’s total although he scored a hundred. This proves that even a domestic match means so much to him despite tasting World Cup glory and some memorable test victories!
In this way, he had a series of good scores before the first test against Australia. This helped him and India immensely for the Master Blaster was able to dig the team out of a hole after being 11 for 2!
The reason I find this story fascinating is because Sachin could have opted to rest instead of going back to domestic cricket since there wasn’t a chance of him being dropped from the Indian squad. But his actions clearly showed his love for the game and his concern towards his own form despite being at the top of the world for more than 20 years! And his concern didn’t deter him to accept his bad run in front of the world and improve his form by going a level below.
What makes Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar so great is not only his supreme talent but also his humble, down to earth nature which can be seen from the example above. It is this lovable human quality that is responsible for him winning hearts not just in India but world over and being an inspiration not just for upcoming cricketers but for people from all walks of life… including me!