| Sachin Tendulkar in Peshawar on Sunday
Peshawar: A shade over 16 years ago, Sachin Tendulkar helped himself to three sixes and a four off one Abdul Qadir over at the Arbab Niaz Stadium here. He was still finding his feet in international cricket, while the leggie was in the December of his career.
With the elements interfering, that ODI got reduced to an exhibition match ' the Pathans would have gone berserk if nobody took the field ' but the Sachin-triggered explosion continues to be talked about.
Quite remarkable, as the locals have often been perilously close to explosions of the more dangerous kind. Afghanistan, after all, isn’t many miles away.
Sachin couldn’t recall much (incidentally, the effort wasn’t enough to stop Pakistan from winning by four runs), but Qadir recently told The Telegraph he’d challenged the 16-year-old to hit him out of the park as that would have “boosted his confidence” and he would “attract” even wider Media attention.
A bigger challenge awaits Sachin when the newest five-match ODI series gets underway at the same venue: He hasn’t got a fifty since the unbeaten 70 against Sri Lanka in Mohali, more than three months ago, and failed in the just-ended Test series.
However, if the body-language is a strong enough pointer, Sachin is intent on embarrassing the Doubting Thomases. It should serve Team India very well. Indeed, captain Rahul Dravid is confident that the maestro will bounce back over the fortnight.
Asked whether the negative post-Test series reaction back home would affect Sachin (and Sourav Ganguly, who isn’t around), Dravid replied: “No... Apart from technique and skill, players have to cope with off-field pressures... Sachin and Sourav have done so for years and are experts...”
At a time when the chips are down, Sourav is likely to draw some comfort from being bracketed with Sachin. That, too, by his successor in the hottest seat. While Dravid was instrumental in Sourav’s comeback, in the Karachi Test, he kept a distance when his name was discussed for the ODI squad.
Dravid, by the way, made the point that the reaction (“particularly in the subcontinent”) is always in the extreme. “Whether you win or lose, it’s extreme... With time, though, one comes to accept it...”
For the statistically inclined, Pakistan have a 12-6 advantage in ODIs at home. As for the last series, in India, Inzamam-ul Haq’s men won 4-2 after having lost the first two matches.